NASA has selected 34 small satellites from 19 states and the District of Columbia to fly as auxiliary payloads aboard missions planned to launch in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Launch opportunities are leveraged from existing launch services for government payloads as well as via dedicated CubeSat launches from the new Venture Class Launch Services contracts. The proposed CubeSats come from educational institutions, universities, non-profit organizations and NASA centers.
CubeSats are a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites. The cube-shaped satellites measure about four inches on each side, have a volume of about one quart and weigh less than three pounds each.
The selections are part of the eighth round of the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative. The selected spacecraft are eligible for placement on a launch manifest after final negotiations, depending on the availability of a flight opportunity. After launch, the satellites will conduct technology demonstrations, scientific investigations and/or provide educational benefits. The organizations sponsoring satellites are:
- Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California
- NASA’s Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator will flight qualify and characterize a novel micro-electrospray thruster provided by Busek Space Propulsion and Systems utilizing a Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems CubeSat bus. Glenn Research Center is a partner on this project.
- TechEdSat-6 will demonstrate an Exo-Brake system to provide a targeted nanosatellite de-orbit using fully propellant-less techniques.
- TechEdSat-7 will further develop the Exo-Brake system, as well as demonstrate a CubeSat Identity Tag (CUBIT), a DARPA RF-ID system for future identification of functioning and non-functioning nanosatellites.
- TechEdsat-8 will also further develop and demonstrate the Exo-Brake system through full recovery of a payload.
- Arizona State University, Tempe – The Phoenix CubeSat will demonstrate the effectiveness of nanosatellite platforms for studying spatial and temporal changes in the heat properties of urban environments by conducting a thermal imaging of the city of Phoenix and several others in the U.S.
- Auburn University, Alabama – TRYAD will study terrestrial gamma ray flashes (TGFs) with a pair of CubeSats in low-Earth orbit (LEO). The multipoint observations will constrain TGF beams, which will allow students to distinguish between TGF models and thunderstorm electric fields.
- Boston University, Massachusetts – CuPID is a cusp plasma imaging detector observatory designed to measure soft X-rays in an attempt to answer fundamental questions related to plasma physics and space weather.
- Georgia Tech Research Corporation, Atlanta – The CubeSat will use a miniaturized LiDAR imaging camera to demonstrate cm-level altimetry precision over tens of kilometers by deploying an inflatable that will serve as the imaging target.
- George Washington University, DC – GW-Sat will test a micro-propulsion device called the micro-cathode arc thruster (μCAT) that uses a solid metallic propellant, such as titanium, to produce small controllable impulse bits as the CubeSat’s 3-axis stabilization system.
- Iowa State University, Ames – CySat-1 will serve as a technology demonstration to prepare an asteroid surveying payload and 3U satellite platform for operation in an asteroid environment, and enable students to design a small satellite system and mission from concept to flight.
- Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla – M3Sat is a technology demonstration mission that validates operation and performance of a multi-mode micro-propulsion system.
- Montana State University, Bozeman – RadSat will demonstrate a novel radiation tolerant computer technology, maturing the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) to a nine.
- Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois – SpaceICE will run freeze-casting experiments that will collect temperature and video data to measure solidification velocity, dendrite and wall width, and particle concentration.
- Northwest Nazarene University, Nampa, Idaho – NNUSat-2 will test a system for deploying small, wireless sensor tags from the spacecraft that harvest RF energy and communicate with the spacecraft using a backscatter radio.
- Old Dominion Research Foundation, Norfolk, Virginia – The Virginia CubeSat Constellation will demonstrate that traditional and software-defined small, low-power radios can be used for assessing relative satellite separation distances in constellation missions.
- Portland State University, Oregon – OreSat will study the contributions of high-altitude cirrus clouds to global climate change and raise the TRL of a suite of technologies: the DxWiFi radio communication system, gallium arsenide solar cells, and an open source CubeSat bus.
- Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana – UNITE will make a series of global measurements in the lower ionosphere, take space weather measurements, assess drag, and take temperature measurements to compare against thermal models.
- Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, California – EdgeCube is designed to measurement the red edge, the region of rapid change in leaf reflectance from changes in vegetation chlorophyll absorption and mesophyll scattering due to seasons or stress.
- Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Virginia – TJREVERB uses a full duplex UHF/VHF uplink transceiver provided by AMSAT, and will assist students in learning the components of a working satellite, evaluating multiple communication methods, developing communication methodologies, and managing workflow.
- University High School, Irvine, California – IRVINE02 will fly an electric propulsion system that will allow students to acquire technical skills in tracking and communicating with the satellite.
- University of Alaska, Fairbanks – ARC2 will demonstrate a CubeSat bus architecture and fly an improved Launch Environment Data Logger to measure the vibrational and thermal environment inside the launch vehicle from ignition to orbit.
- University of Arkansas, Fayetteville – ARKSat-1 is a technology demonstration mission that will take LEO-to-Earth atmospheric composition measurements using an on-board xenon flash bulb as the calibrated source for ground tracking and demonstrate CubeSat deorbiting using a solid-state inflation balloon.
- University of Buffalo, New York – BRIAN will fly a software defined radio payload in order to characterize and develop a temporal and spatial map of the background radio noise on commonly used CubeSat bands.
- University of Florida, Gainesville – SwampSat-II will test a boom and antenna spooling and deployment mechanism to support a matched very low frequency (VLF) antenna receiver pair and experimentally quantify VLF electromagnetic wave propagation through the lower ionosphere.
- University of Georgia, Athens – SpecOcean will develop and operate the first moderate resolution coastal ecosystem and ocean color CubeSat to monitor coastal wetlands status, estuarine water quality, and near-coastal ocean productivity.
- University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign –
- CAPSat will investigate three navigation and control technology demonstrations utilizing strain-actuated deployable panels, an active thermal system for small spacecraft, and single-photon avalanche detectors.
- SASSI2 will utilize optical instrumentation in conjunction with temperature and pressure measurements to improve models of thermochemical non-equilibrium and electronic excitation occurring in high enthalpy flows.
- University of Iowa – HaloSat will map the distribution of hot gas in the Milky Way and determine whether it fills an extended halo or the halo is compact with no contribution to the total mass of the galaxy.
- University of Massachusetts, Lowell – SPACE HAUC is a hands-on student training mission that will also demonstrate X-band beam steering from a CubeSat platform.
- University of Minnesota – SOCRATES will advance a Gamma Ray Incidence Detector (GRID) sensor from TRL 5 to 7. The sensor is being developed to make accurate positioning, navigation and timing measurements for CubeSats.
- University of Southern Alabama, Mobile – JAGSAT will use a time domain impedance probe to conduct spatially resolved measurements of plasma density irregularities in the ionosphere.
- University of Washington, Seattle – HuskySat-I will demonstrate onboard plasma propulsion and high gain telemetry for LEO that would be a precursor for an attempt at a larger CubeSat designed for orbital insertion at the Moon.
- Washington State University, Pullman – CougSat will educate undergraduate students and establish a long term cubesat development program for future students, who will benefit from the institutional knowledge and resources obtained.
- Weiss School, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida – WeissSat-1 will validate a novel lab-on-a-chip system that will demonstrate a live/dead fluorescent dye staining approach and microfluidics to assess the viability of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria that have been thawed after being entrapped in water ice.
To date, the CubeSat Launch Initiative has selected 152 CubeSats from 38 states and has launched 46 CubeSat missions as part of the NASA Launch Services Program’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellite (ELaNa) Missions. This past year, ELaNa IX deployed three CubeSats from the International Space Station, including the first CubeSat built by an elementary school, St. Thomas More Cathedral School of Arlington, Virginia. This year, NASA made the CSLI’s very first selections from Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia.
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