Engineers from the US-based University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) are set to create a ‘digital twin’ of a CubeSat to ensure its successful functionality during its year-long mission to study equatorial plasma bubbles.

To be developed with a $185,000 grant from Nasa, the project will support the joint Nasa-Brazil Scintillation Prediction Observations Research Task (SPORT) mission.

Data from the mission is expected to help researchers unlock the mystery of plasma bubbles and mitigate their effects on Earth.

“With this type of space mission, we only have one shot.”

Due to be launched by 2020, the mission is being funded by Nasa’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC.

UAH assistant professor and project lead Dr Bryan Mesmer said: “With this type of space mission, we only have one shot.

“So the idea is to test the system in the simulated world to give us a high probability that it will work once it is in orbit.”

UAH engineers have already started using a system-modelling language software called Cameo Enterprise Architecture to create the digital twin of the SPORT mission.

Development of the twin will be based on the models previously created for a Nasa CubeSat called Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) Scout by graduate research assistant Garima Bhatia.

Once created, the twin will be paired with SPORT to undergo ‘value modelling’ to identify various ways to improve the mission.