FIREBIRD logo showing a large pheonix circling the Earth

Mission Overview

The FIREBIRD II mission was a continuation of the FIREBIRD mission which launched two additional 1.5U CubeSats in January 2015 (FIREBIRD 3 and FIREBIRD 4). These two CubeSats were originally the Engineering Design Unit and flight spare for the FIREBIRD mission, but were refurbished for the flight.

Spacecraft Overview

The FIREBIRD II spacecraft feature two major changes from the original FIREBIRD spacecraft: 

  • The Electrical Power System was replaced with a new in-house design 
  • The FIREBIRD IMM Solar Cell Experiment (FISCE) was added.


Both Flight Unit 3 (FU3) and Flight Unit 4 (FU4) were launched on January 31, 2015 with the ELaNa X (SMAP) mission. All subsystems were working well and SSEL operators recorded and downlinked hundreds of microbursts in the mission's unexpectedly long lifespan.

In early 2020, FU3's battery deteriorated to the point where it could no longer fully support flight operations. SSEL stopped commanding the unit shortly thereafter. FU3 continued to beacon for the rest of its life, but was no longer able to run its instrument.

FU4 was still operating near full capability in late 2022, but began to show signs of declining reliability in its main processor. Commanding of the unit was paused indefinitely in early 2023 as SSEL began preparations on the ground station for the REAL mission.

At the beginning of August 2023, open-source ground station network, SatNogs, reported that both FU3 and FU4 had re-entered. After the completion of ground station upgrades, SSEL confirmed the re-entry of both units in December 2023.


FIREBIRD Flight Units 3 and 4 shown with antennas deployed.

Science Data Products

Records of the science data products up to 2019 can be found in the database hosted by the Department of Physics.