NASA Teams to Advance Small Spacecraft Technologies

14 August 2012 Teams have been named to advance radio communications, formation flying and docking systems for NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program. Each selected mission will use nanosatellites that conform to the CubeSat standard — 4-in., 3-lb, cube-shaped units, each…

14 August 2012

Teams have been named to advance radio communications, formation flying and docking systems for NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program.

Each selected mission will use nanosatellites that conform to the CubeSat standard — 4-in., 3-lb, cube-shaped units, each with a 1-quart volume. The cubes can be joined to create multiple-unit spacecraft and can be accommodated as secondary payloads or ride shares on a number of space launch vehicles.

The missions and teams selected for flight demonstration are:

“Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray Antenna (ISARA) for High Bandwidth CubeSat,” Richard Hodges, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., partnering with Pumpkin Inc. of San Francisco. ISARA will demonstrate a radio communication system that boosts the amount of data that the small satellite can transmit by using the back of its solar array as a reflector for the antenna. This $5.5 million, three-unit CubeSat is expected to launch in two years.

“Integrated Optical Communications and Proximity Sensors for Cubesats,” Siegfried Janson, Aerospace Corp., El Segundo, Calif. This pair of 1.5-unit CubeSats will demonstrate a laser communication system for sending large amounts of information from a satellite to Earth and also present low-cost radar and optical sensors for helping small spacecraft maneuver near each other. The mission is expected to take two years and $3.6 million to develop and operate.

“Proximity Operations Nano-Satellite Flight Demonstration,” Charles MacGillivray, Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems LLC, Orange, Calif. Two three-unit CubeSats will demonstrate rendezvous and mechanical docking of small spacecraft in orbit. The project is expected to take three years and approximately $13.5 million in funding to develop, launch and operate. Partners on the project include Applied Defense Solutions Inc. of Columbia, Md., 406 Aerospace LLC of Bozeman, Mont., and California Polytechnic State University of San Luis Obispo.

“NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program is structured to advance the capabilities and technologies associated with small, low-cost space missions to enhance NASA’s ability to conduct more with less,” said Michael Gazarik, director of NASA’s Space Technology Program. “These flights validate new space technologies and capabilities prior to infusion into NASA science and exploration applications and missions.”

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