NASA Selects Tyvak for Series of CubeSat Pathfinder Demo Missions

Pathfinder technology demonstrator CubeSat (Credit: NASA)
Pathfinder technology demonstrator CubeSat (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program has selected Tyvak Nanosatellite Systems of Irvine, California to provide a series of small spacecraft for its Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator (PTD) missions. Using government-furnished technology payloads for a series of flight demonstrations, the small spacecraft has the potential to lower mission costs and technical risks for future missions.

Tyvak will build a six-unit (6U) CubeSat — measuring about 4 inches by 8 inches by 12 inches and weighing about 25 pounds — with the option for up to four additional small spacecraft. The CubeSats will be equipped with solar arrays that provide at least 45 watts average power while in-orbit and allocate at least one-third of its volume for a technology payload.

“The increasing capabilities and resulting significant expansion in applications of small spacecraft represent a paradigm shift for NASA and the larger space community,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. “We are excited that Tyvak will help us demonstrate technologies and capabilities to advance missions in science, exploration and space operations.”

The future missions enabled by this procurement are expected to demonstrate novel small spacecraft technologies that result from public-private partnerships. These industry-developed space technologies, which foster the development of commercial space capabilities while benefiting future NASA missions, include new propulsion systems, advanced control systems for precision pointing, and communications systems for increased data transmission that can greatly expand the utility and scope of small spacecraft missions.

In a series of planned demonstrations, newly developed technologies will be integrated into similarly designed 6U CubeSats procured from Tyvak and then tested in space. By using mature subsystems that require little or no new development alongside the experimental technologies, these missions will be cost-effective with rapid delivery and reasonably low technical risk.

“The Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator team is excited to begin working with Tyvak to deliver a small satellite bus that will be adaptable for use on a series of low-cost missions for NASA,” said John Marmie, project manager at Ames. “The satellites will be used to demonstrate and characterize novel small satellite payloads in low-Earth orbit.”

The PTD project is led by the Small Spacecraft Technology Program and managed by NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, in collaboration with NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, on behalf of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington.

The Small Spacecraft Technology Program develops and matures technologies to enhance and expand the capabilities of small spacecraft with a particular focus on communications, spacecraft, pointing, power, and autonomous operations.

For more information about the Small Spacecraft Technology Program, visit: