NASA Selects CubeSat, SmallSat Mission Concept Studies


WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has selected ten studies under the Planetary Science Deep Space SmallSat Studies (PSDS3) program, to develop mission concepts using small satellites to investigate Venus, Earth’s moon, asteroids, Mars and the outer planets.

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NASA Selects 10 CubeSat-Related Projects for SBIR Phase 2 Funding

Pathfinder technology demonstrator CubeSat (Credit: NASA)

NASA has selected 10 CubeSat-related projects for funding under its most recent round of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) projects. The space agency will enter into negotiations with the proposers for Phase II contracts worth up to $750,000 apiece over two years.

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Tethers Unlimited Selected for 3 SBIR Phase II Awards

NASA has selected Tethers Unlimited for negotiations on three Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II contracts worth up to $750,000 apiece over two years.

The three projects include:

  • ERASMUS: Food Contact Safe Plastics Recycler and 3D Printer System;
  • Modular Advanced Networked Telerobotic Interface System (MANTIS); and,
  • OpenSWIFT-SDR for STRS.

ERASMUS would allow astronauts to recycle waste plastics and 3D print new items that would be safe for food and medical use.

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A Look at Payloads Launched in 2016

Built by Lockheed Martin, the WorldView-4 satellite will expand DigitalGlobe’s industry-leading constellation of high-accuracy, high-resolution satellites, and double the availability of 30 cm resolution imagery for commercial and government customers around the globe. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

Excerpt from

The Annual Compendium of
Commercial Space Transportation: 2017

Federal Aviation Administration
Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST)

January 2017

State of the Payload Industry

Space industry companies and organizations worldwide, sometimes the same as launch vehicle manufacturers but also those specifically dedicated to spacecraft manufacturing, produce these spacecraft. Commercially launched payloads are typically used for the following mission types:

  • Commercial communications satellites;
  • Commercial remote sensing or Earth observation satellites;
  • Commercial crew and cargo missions, including on-orbit vehicles and platforms;
  • Technology test and demonstration missions, usually new types of payloads undergoing test or used to test new launch vehicle technology; and
  • Other commercially launched payloads, usually satellites launched for various purposes by governments of countries not having indigenous orbital launch capability.

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CubeSats: Shaping Possibilities in Space

CubeSats STMSat-1, CADRE and MinXSS are deployed from the International Space Station during Expedition 47. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — For more than a decade, CubeSats, or small satellites, have paved the way to low-Earth orbit for commercial companies, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations. These small satellites offer opportunities to conduct scientific investigations and technology demonstrations in space in such a way that is cost-effective, timely and relatively easy to accomplish.

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Next Generation Batteries Could Provide Power to Microsatellites, CubeSats

Daniel Perez, Ph.D., a graduate student from the University of Miami, displays a piece of the prototype structure for a new solid-state battery in the Prototype Laboratory at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The size of the battery is so small that it could be a prime candidate for use in microsatellites, including CubeSats. Researchers at Kennedy are collaborating with experts at the University of Miami. The university partnership is funded through the Small Spacecraft Technology Program, in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. (Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

By Linda Herridge
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

Sometimes good things come in very small packages. Just ask Dr. Luke Roberson, senior principal investigator for Flight Research within the Exploration Research and Technology Directorate at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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RSC Energia Plans to Launch CubeSats From Progress Cargo Ships

Rocket and Space Corporation (RSC) Energia (a part of Roscosmos) has plans to involve the leading Russian scientific centers and universities into a project to launch small Cubesat satellites using cargo transportation spacecraft Progress MS.

The project calls for installation of special containers for insertion of small spacecraft into their target orbit on the outer surface of a cargo spacecraft. These might be commercial, educational or applied satellites with the size of up to 6U. Cargo spacecraft Progress MS are launched on a regular basis three times a year within the framework of logistics support for the International Space Station (ISS).

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Japanese Smallsat Launcher Fails in Maiden Flight

The world’s smallest launch vehicle failed in its maiden launch from a Japanese spaceport on Sunday.

JAXA’s SS-520-4 booster took off from the >Uchinoura Space Center at 8:33 a.m. local time carrying the TRICOM-1 CubeSat. The space agency said although the rocket’s first stage fired normally, the second stage failed to ignite. The booster and its payload fell into the ocean.

The SS-520-4 is an upgraded version of a Japanese sounding rocket that is designed to launch micro-satellites. The three-stage booster stands only 9.5 meters (31.3 ft) tall and has a diameter of .52 meters (1.7 ft).

The TRICOM-1 spacecraft was developed by the University of Tokyo. The 3-kg (6.6 lb) CubeSat included store-and-forward communications equipment and Earth observation cameras.

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.

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NASA’s Exploration Year in Review

BEAM module (Credit: NASA TV)
BEAM module (Credit: NASA TV)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2016, NASA drove advances in technology, science, aeronautics and space exploration that enhanced the world’s knowledge, innovation, and stewardship of Earth.

“This past year marked record-breaking progress in our exploration objectives,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We advanced the capabilities we’ll need to travel farther into the solar system while increasing observations of our home and the universe, learning more about how to continuously live and work in space, and, of course, inspiring the next generation of leaders to take up our Journey to Mars and make their own discoveries.”
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Chinese Rocket Places Remote Sensing Satellites in Wrong Orbits

SuperView-1 satellite (Credti:
SuperView-1 satellite (Credit: Beijing Space View Technology Co.)

China’s launch of two commercial remote sensing satellites went awry on Wednesday, leaving the spacecraft in the wrong orbit.

The pair of SuperView-1 satellites lifted off aboard a Long March 2D from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center bound for an orbit of 500 km.

Space-Track.org data show four objects in elliptical orbits with apogees of 524 km (325.6 miles) and perigees ranging from 212 to 216 km (131.7 to 134.2 miles). One of the other objects was a 2U amateur radio CubeSat.

Unless the perigees of the SuperView-1 satellites can be raised using on-board propellant, it might only be months before they re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up.

The satellites are part of a constellation of remote sensing spacecraft being launched by the Beijing Space View Technology Co., Ltd.  The company plans to launch two more SuperView-1 spacecraft in 2017 and additional ones through 2022.

It was second launch mishap this year for China’s space program. In August, a Long March 3C booster failed to orbit the Gaofen-10 remote sensing satellite after launch from the Taiyuan spaceport.

Japanese Cargo Vehicle Arrives at ISS with NanoRacks Payloads

HTV-6 cargo ship approaches the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)
HTV-6 cargo ship approaches the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON, December 13, 2016 (NanoRacks PR) – The Japanese Space Agency JAXA’s H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) cargo spacecraft successfully berthed to the International Space Station (ISS) on its sixth mission on Tuesday, December 13. The berthing occurred after a four-day flight to the station following the spacecraft’s launch Friday evening local time on an H-IIB rocket from the Yoshinobu Launch Complex at the Tanegashima Space Center. The cargo ship arrived with eight NanoRacks customer payloads on board.

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A Box of ‘Black Magic’ to Study Earth from Space

RainCube, due to fly in 2017, forced JPL’s engineers to get creative in order to squeeze an antenna into a CubeSat. (Credits: Tyvak/Jonathan Sauder/NASA/JPL-Caltech)
RainCube, due to fly in 2017, forced JPL’s engineers to get creative in order to squeeze an antenna into a CubeSat. (Credits: Tyvak/Jonathan Sauder/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Black magic.

That’s what radiofrequency engineers call the mysterious forces guiding communications over the air. These forces involve complex physics and are difficult enough to master on Earth. They only get more baffling when you’re beaming signals into space.

Until now, the shape of choice for casting this “magic” has been the parabolic dish. The bigger the antenna dish, the better it is at “catching” or transmitting signals from far away.

But CubeSats are changing that. These spacecraft are meant to be light, cheap and extremely small: most aren’t much bigger than a cereal box. Suddenly, antenna designers have to pack their “black magic” into a device where there’s no room for a dish — let alone much else.

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NanoRacks Completes Above Space Station Cygnus CubeSat Deployment

The Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter is seen moments after being released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Credit: NASA TV)
The Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter is seen moments after being released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NanoRacks PR) – On November 25, 2016 NanoRacks successfully deployed four Spire LEMUR-2 CubeSats from Orbital-ATK’s Cygnus Cargo Vehicle from a 500-kilometer orbit, flying high above the International Space Station (ISS) in the first mission of its kind.

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Cygnus Departs Space Station, Begins Experiments

The Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter is seen moments after being released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Credit: NASA TV)
The Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter is seen moments after being released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Credit: NASA TV)

DULLES, Va., 21 November 2016 (Orbital ATK PR) – Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today announced that its Cygnus™ spacecraft successfully unberthed from the International Space Station, starting the second phase of its mission before it reenters Earth’s atmosphere. Orbiting on its own, free of the ISS, the “S.S. Alan Poindexter” Cygnus will conduct two secondary mission objectives as part of its flight program: the Saffire-II payload experiment and the deployment of CubeSats to enhance weather forecasting capabilities. This is the second time Orbital ATK will use a Cygnus spacecraft as a platform for conducting science experiments in space.

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