Mission Overview

IPEX was a CubeSat mission funded by NASA’s Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO). The purpose of the mission was to validate onboard instrument processing and autonomous payload operations that could be used in the future on the proposed NASA HYperSPectral Infra-Red Instrument (HyspIRI) mission.

Relevance to Astrobiology

Earth is the only known example of a planet inhabited by life. Studying the Earth and its habitability through time can help astrobiologists determine what makes a planet habitable and how to identify habitable planets in our solar system and beyond.

NASA Astrobiology Involvement

Researchers supported by the NASA Astrobiology Program were involved in the IPEX mission and helped to develop and test methods for automatic cloud recognition onboard the spacecraft. Clouds obscure more than half of the Earth’s surface at any given time and can interfere with data collected by missions in Earth orbit. Spacecraft that are able to automatically recognize clouds and select cloud-free areas in which to make observations could greatly improve Earth science remote sensing data.

The Astrobiologists

Researchers supported in part by the former Astrobiology Science and Technology Instrument Development (ASTID) element of the NASA Astrobiology Program tested a method for automatic cloud recognition onboard IBEX.