RAAD: A CubeSat-based soft gamma-ray detector for the study of terrestrial gamma-ray flashes and other short timescale phenomena

Mallory S.E. Roberts, Francesco Arneodo, Adriano Di Giovanni, Ahlam Al Qasim, Aisha Al Mannaei, Noora Almarri, Lolowa Alkindi, Fatema Alkhouri, Philip Panicker, Sohmyung Ha, Laura Manenti, Gianmarco Bruno, Rodrigo Torres, Valerio Conicella, Prashanth Marpu, Thu Vu, Heyam Al Blooshi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


We present RAAD (Rapid Acquisition Atmospheric Detector), a detector designed to study Terrestrial Gamma ray Flashes (TGFs) and other fast hard X-ray and soft gamma-ray phenomena. TGFs are bursts of radiation from thunderstorms which occur on sub-microsecond timescales. Most detectors used to study TGFs have been limited by deadtime and timing precision, and sometimes poor calibration at lower energies. We will present calibration and space qualification tests of a detector aimed at the 20 keV - 2500 keV range with ∼ 100 ns time response and good spectral resolution. This uses 2 X 2 arrays of two different scintillation crystals, Cerium Bromide and Lanthanum BromoChloride, both of which have very fast decay times. We couple them to both standard photomultiplier tubes (PMTs) and silicon photomultipliers (SiPMs) along with custom electronics designed to provide very fast sampling with very low power consumption per channel. Each crystal array fits into < 1U of a cubesat, and provides ∼20 cm2of effective area to photons < 200 keV and ∼10 cm2 at 600 keV. The RAAD concept is the winner of the Mini-satellite competition held by the UAE Space Agency in 2018, largely developed with undergraduates at NYUAD, and is expected to be fully developed and launched by 2020. Two detectors, one with PMTs and one with SiPMs will be deployed on a 3U CubeSat, providing head to head performance tests for both crystal types and light sensor types. This will serve as a proof of concept showing how such detectors could be deployed in a network of CubeSats to study TGFs and other phenomena.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSensors, Systems, and Next-Generation Satellites XXIII
EditorsSteven P. Neeck, Philippe Martimort, Toshiyoshi Kimura
ISBN (Electronic)9781510630055
StatePublished - 2019
EventSensors, Systems, and Next-Generation Satellites XXIII 2019 - Strasbourg, France
Duration: Sep 9 2019Sep 12 2019

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X
ISSN (Electronic)1996-756X


ConferenceSensors, Systems, and Next-Generation Satellites XXIII 2019


  • CubeSat
  • RAADSat
  • cerium bromide
  • gamma-ray
  • terrestrial gamma-ray flashes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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