Brian T. Kay

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Applied Physics


Department of Engineering Physics

First Advisor

R. W. James, PhD


Collaborations utilizing small spacecraft in near earth orbit between the U. S. Coast Guard Academy (CGA), Naval Research Lab (NRL), the U. S. Naval Academy (USNA), and the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) have initiated scientific and engineering space-based experiments. Sourced opportunities like the VaSpace ThinSat missions have provided a platform for payload, sensor, and experiment development that would have otherwise been resource prohibitive. We have constructed an impedance probe payload derived from the existing ‘Space PlasmA Diagnostic suitE’ (SPADE) mission operating from NASA’s International Space Station. Currently both space and laboratory plasmas are investigated with AC impedance measurements using a radio frequency antenna. Plasma electron density data collected from the ThinSat will however use an innovative surface-mounted dipole antenna to gather the required sheath-plasma and plasma resonance information. Results from this experiment will provide the framework for a CGA CubeSat with an impedance probe payload set to launch in late 2021. Impedance probe optimization, data collection obstacles, solutions, and procedures will be reported.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number



* This thesis is also labelled AFIT-ENP-MS-21-M-124 on some records.