COPPER-2: Close Orbiting Propellant Plume and Elemental Recognition 2




COPPER-2 was the third spacecraft developed by students in the Space Systems Research Laboratory (SSRL). COPPER-2 was a reflight opportunity given by the launch provider with the stipulation of a 6-month build and test schedule. COPPER-2 sought to achieve the same goals as the original COPPER in testing the effectiveness of an infrared microbolometer array as an instrument for Earth observation and space situational awareness. Furthermore, COPPER-2 sought to test the operation of the ARES artificial reasoning software developed by Keith Bennett to characterize space situational awareness data.


The primary objectives of COPPER-2 was to complete the original COPPER objectives and determine the viability of 80% of spacecraft subsytems being student-built.

2016 Update: Launch Provider has been sold, pending sales paperwork to determine the status of the launch, COPPER-2 experiences a power system failure when integrated and waiting on the shelf, de-integration and repair solve the problem

2017 Update: Flight Software teams unable to communicate or program the integrated spacecraft on the shelf. New Launch Provider cancelled and replaced all university missions on the Launch Vehicle (Minotaur-C). COPPER-2 was cancelled and scrapped for later missions.


COPPER 2 was a 3U CubeSat designed to operate in Low Earth Orbit. It worked to flight-test a neural network for automated event detection and response. The neural network was trained to detect interesting and unexpected science events (in images and on-board telemetry), and the spacecraft was able to record these events. 

The FLIR Tau 320 Microbolometer Array, was a custom-built interface board (giving a greater control over the imager and allowing to store 14-bit images at 30 frames per second) as a test for the Rascal (SLU 04) mission. 

The payload consisted of two imagers: the FLIR Quark LWIR, and a commercial visible-light imager (Raspberry Pi Cam v2). 

Due to budget constraints, many of COPPER-2 subsystems were developed in-house, providing invaluable experience to those on development teams, however, this lead to schedule overrun and longer testing and integration times. In the Summer of 2017, the launch provider scrapped the launch and COPPER-2 program was cancelled.