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NASA Announces University CubeSat Space Mission Candidates


NASA has announced the selection of more than a dozen research CubeSats to fly in space on future launch opportunities. The CubeSats — each measuring about 4 inches on a side and weighing less than 3 pounds — will enable technology demonstrations, educational research, and science missions. The 14 CubeSats selected will fly as auxiliary payloads on 2016, 2017, and 2018 launches, and it’s anticipated that at least some of them will utilize Amateur Radio frequencies. One of the CubeSats NASA picked is the second generation of a mission that fell short of its goal last year.


“As part of the White House Maker Initiative, NASA is seeking to leverage the growing community of space-enthusiasts to create a nation that contributes to NASA’s space exploration goals,” the space agency said in a media release. “The selections are part of the fifth round of the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative.”

The organizations sponsoring satellites are:

  • Arizona State University: Asteroid Origins Satellite, a science laboratory that will be the world’s first CubeSat centrifuge.
  • California State University: A satellite to test an innovative low-temperature capable energy storage system in space developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
  • Capitol Technology University: The Coordinated Applied Capitol Technology University Satellite (CACTUS-1), a technological demonstration of a cost-saving communications and commanding innovation by licensing conventional Internet satellite providers for low-Earth orbit use. It also will include an orbital debris detector, the first to be flown in low-Earth orbit.
  • Colorado State University: The Temporal Experiment for Storms and Tropical Systems – Demonstrator (TEMPEST-D) provides risk mitigation for the TEMPEST mission that will provide the first temporal observations of cloud and precipitation processes on a global scale.
  • Cornell University: KickSat-2, designed to demonstrate the deployment and operation of prototype Sprite “ChipSats.” The Sprites failed to deploy on the initial KickSat mission last spring.
  • Montana State University: RadSat will demonstrate a new radiation-tolerant computer system in a low-Earth orbit.
  • NASA’s Glenn Research Center: The Advanced eLectrical Bus (ALBus) CubeSat is a technology demonstration of efficient battery charging in an orbital environment, 100 W distribution to a target electrical load, flexible power system distribution interfaces, adaptation of power system control, and successful deployment of solar arrays and antennas using resettable shape-memory alloy mechanisms.
  • NASA’s Independent Verification &Validation Program: In partnership with the University of West Virginia, the Simulation-to-Flight 1 (STF-1) mission will demonstrate the utility of the NASA Operational Simulator technologies across the CubeSat development cycle, from concept planning to mission operations.
  • Southwest Research Institute: A CubeSat to study Solar Particles over the Earth’s Poles (CuSPP), a space weather mission that will study the sources and acceleration mechanisms of solar and interplanetary particles near-Earth orbit.
  • University of Central Florida: Two CubeSats — The CubeSat Particle Aggregation and Collision Experiment (Cu-PACE) will perform a long-duration microgravity experiments. SurfSat will measure plasma-induced surface charging and electrostatic discharge measurements.
  • University of Michigan: Two CubeSats — The Miniature Tether Electrodynamics Experiment (MiTEE) will use CubeSat capabilities to deploy a picosatellite body from a 3U CubeSat to demonstrate and assess an ultra-small satellite electrodynamic tether in space. The Tandem Beacon Experiment (TBEx) will consist of a tandem pair of CubeSats, each carrying tri-frequency radio beacons, in near identical, low-inclination orbits and a cluster of diagnostic sensors on five islands in the Central Pacific sector.
  • University of North Dakota: The Open Prototype for Educational NanoSats (OPEN) aims to reduce mission risk and cost for universities, researchers and other spacecraft developers through the creation of an open-hardware/open-source software framework for CubeSat development.

To date, 36 CubeSats have launched through the initiative as part of the agency’s Launch Services Program’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellite (ELaNa) Program. This year, four separate ELaNa missions will carry seven CubeSats. -- Thanks to AMSAT News Service



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