NASA Opens New CubeSat Opportunities for Low-Cost Space Exploration

Space enthusiasts have a chance to contribute to NASA’s exploration goals within the next round of the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative. Applicants have to submit their proposals by e-mail not later than 4:30 p.m. EST, Nov. 24.
The CubeSat Launch Initiative gives access to space for CubeSats created by NASA centers, accredited learning institutions and non-profit organizations, providing CubeSat creators access to a low-cost pathway to lead research in the fields of exploration, science, education, technology development, or actions consistent with NASA’s Strategic Plan. NASA does not offer funding for the development of the little satellites.


Credit: NASA

NASA schedules to select the payloads by Feb. 19, 2016, but selection does not promise a launch occasion. Selected experiments will fly as secondary payloads on agency rocket launches or be deployed from the International Space Station launching in 2016 and running through 2019. As yet, NASA has selected 105 CubeSats from 30 countries. Thirty-seven CubeSats have been launched, and 16 more are programmed to go into cosmos in the next 12 months.
The agency has reached progress on a goal established through the White House Maker Faire last year to launch a small satellite from at least one applicant in each state over the next 5 years. For this round, NASA is concentrating on gaining participation in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 20 states not earlier selected for the CubeSat Launch Initiative. These states are: Arkansas, Georgia, Delaware, Maine, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Oregon, Wyoming and Washington.

PhoneSat 2.5, developed at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California and launched in March 2014, uses commercially available smartphone technology to collect data on the long-term performance of consumer technologies used in spacecraft.


Credit: NASA

CubeSats are in a class of research spacecraft named nanosatellites. The base CubeSat sizes are 10x10x11 cm (about 4x4x4 inches), which equivalents one Cube, or 1U. CubeSats sustained by this launch effort contain volumes of 1U, 2U, 3U and 6U. CubeSats of 1U, 2U and 3U size characteristically have a mass of 1.33 kilograms (about 3 pounds) per 1U. A 6U CubeSat normally has a mass of 12 to 14 kilograms (26.5 to 30.9 pounds). The CubeSat’s final mass varies on the selected deployment technique.

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