FidoNet Echomail Archive

<<< Previous Index Next >>>

From: Roger Nelson
To: All
Date: 2017-03-22 10:21:02

Hello All!

NASA Embraces Small Satellites

The earliest satellites of the Space Age were small. Sputnik, for instance,
weighed just 184.3 lbs. America's first satellite, Explorer 1, was even
smaller at only about 30 lbs.

Over time, satellites grew to accommodate more sensors with greater
capabilities, but thanks to miniaturization and new technology
capabilities, small is back in vogue.

NASA is one of many government agencies, universities, and commercial
organizations embracing small satellite designs, from tiny CubeSats to
micro-satellites.  A basic CubeSat has 4 inch sides and weighs just a few

A CubeSat can be put into place a number of different ways. It can be a
hitchhiker, flying to space onboard a rocket whose main purpose is to
launch a full-sized satellite. Or it can be put into orbit from the
International Space Station. Astronauts recently used this technique when
they deployed the Miniature X-Ray Solar Spectrometer (MinXSS), a CubeSat
that studies solar flares.

In 2018, NASA plans to launch the CubeSat to study Solar Particles (CuSP).
It will hitch a ride out of Earth orbit during an uncrewed test flight of
NASA's Space Launch System.

CuSP could serve as a small "space weather buoy."

Eric Christian, CuSP's lead scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
in Greenbelt, Maryland says, "Right now, with our current fleet of
large satellites, it's like we're trying to understand weather for the
entire Pacific Ocean with just a handful of weather stations. We need to
collect data from more locations."

For certain areas of science, having a larger number of less expensive
missions will provide a powerful opportunity to really understand a given
environment. Christian says, "If you had, say, 20 CubeSats in
different orbits, you could really start to understand the space
environment in three dimensions."

NASA scientists are taking this approach of using a constellation of
sensors to probe the details of a large area with a number of recently
launched and upcoming missions.

The Cyclone Global Navigation Satallite System, or CYGNSS, launched in
December 2016. CYGNSS uses eight micro-satellites to measure ocean surface
winds in and near the eyes of tropical cyclones, typhoons, and hurricanes
to learn about their rapid intensification. These micro-satellites each
weigh about 65 lbs, larger than a CubeSat but still very small compared to
traditional satellite designs.

Additionally, the first four selections from the In-Space Validation of
Earth Science Technologies (InVEST) program recently began launching. The
goal of the InVEST program is to validate new technologies in space prior
to use in a science mission.

RAVAN, the first of the InVEST CubeSats, was launched in November 2016 to
demonstrate a new way to measure radiation reflected by Earth. The next
three InVEST missions to launch, HARP, IceCube, and MiRaTA, will
demonstrate technologies that may pave the way for future satellites to
measure clouds and aerosols suspended in Earth's atmosphere, probe the role
of icy clouds in climate change, and collect atmospheric temperature, water
vapor, and cloud ice data through remote sensing, respectively.

NASA's Science Mission Directorate is looking to develop scientific
CubeSats that cut across all NASA Science through the SMD CubeSat
Initiative Program.

Andrea Martin, communications specialist for NASA's Earth Science
Technology Office, believes this is just the beginning. She says,
"CubeSats could be flown in formation, known as constellations, with
quick revisit times to better capture the dynamic processes of Earth.
Multiple CubeSats can also take complementary measurements unachievable by
a single larger mission." She envisions big things ahead for these
little satellites.

For more news about CubeSats and other cutting edge technologies both big
and small, stay tuned to


--- timEd/386 1.10.y2k+ W10 (1607)
 * Origin: NCS BBS - Houma, LoUiSiAna - (1:3828/7)
SEEN-BY: 120/544 138/146 140/1 153/7715 154/10 203/0 221/0 1 6 360 227/51
SEEN-BY: 230/0 240/5832 249/303 261/38 266/404 512 275/100 280/464 5003 288/34
SEEN-BY: 320/219 342/17 77 423/81 120 633/267 640/384 712/620 848 770/1
SEEN-BY: 2320/100 3634/12 24 3828/7
@PATH: 3828/7 140/1 221/0 1 203/0 280/464 712/848 633/267

<<< Previous Index Next >>>