Aerospace & Defense

Firefly Satellite to Study Lightning's Mysterious Relationship to Gamma Ray Bursts

All over Earth, lightning occurs some 50 times a second - yet the details of what initiates this common occurrence and what effects it has on the atmosphere remains a mystery. Lightning may be linked to incredibly powerful and energetic bursts called terrestrial gamma ray flashes, or TGFs. A satellite called Firefly, which is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), will launch into space to study lightning and these gamma ray flashes from above. The NSF CubeSat program performs high-quality, highly targeted science on a smaller budget than is typical of more comprehensive satellite projects. The CubeSat Firefly, by focusing its science goals, will carry out its mission in a much smaller package - about the size of a loaf of bread, actually - and at a considerably lower cost.