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  • richardmitnick 1:18 pm on January 7, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: APEX CubeSat, APEX will also make a landing on one of the asteroids, , , , , Cubesats, Didymos asteroids, , Hera is set to be humankind’s first mission to a binary asteroid system, Hera mission, Juventas CubeSat, Juventas will measure the gravity field as well as the internal structure of the smaller of the two Didymos asteroids   

    From European Space Agency: “CubeSats joining Hera mission to asteroid system” 

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    From European Space Agency

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    Hera at Didymos

    7 January 2019

    When ESA’s planned Hera mission journeys to its target binary asteroid system, it will not be alone. The spacecraft will carry two tiny CubeSats for deployment around – and eventual landing on – the Didymos asteroids. Each companion spacecraft will be small enough to fit inside a briefcase, as compared to the desk-sized Hera.

    CubeSats are nanosatellites based on standardised 10 cm-sized units. Hera has room to deliver two ‘six-unit’ CubeSat missions to the Didymos asteroid system – a 780 m-diameter mountain-sized main body is orbited by a 160 m moon, informally called ‘Didymoon’, about the same size as the Great Pyramid of Giza.

    The Hera mission received proposals for CubeSats from across Europe, and an evaluation board has now made the final selection.

    “We’re very happy to have these high-quality CubeSat missions join us to perform additional bonus science alongside their Hera mothership,” explains Hera manager Ian Carnelli.

    “Carrying added instruments and venturing much closer to our target bodies, they will give different perspectives and complementary investigations on this exotic binary asteroid. They will also give us valuable experience of close proximity operations relayed by the Hera mothercraft in extreme low-gravity conditions. This will be very valuable to many future missions.”

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    APEX CubeSat

    Paolo Martino, Hera spacecraft lead engineer adds: “The idea of building CubeSats for deep space is relatively new, but was recently validated by NASA’s InSight landing on Mars last November, when a pair of accompanying CubeSats succeeded in relaying the lander’s radio signals back to Earth – as well as returning imagery of the Red Planet.”

    The first CubeSat companion is called the Asteroid Prospection Explorer (or ‘APEX’), and was developed by a Swedish/Finnish/Czech/German consortium. It will perform detailed spectral measurements of both asteroids’ surfaces – measuring the sunlight reflected by Didymos and breaking down its various colours to discover how these asteroids have interacted with the space environment, pinpointing any differences in composition between the two. In addition, APEX will make magnetic readings that will give insight into their interior structure of these bodies.

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    Juventas CubeSat

    Guided by a navigation camera and a ‘laser radar’ (lidar) instrument, APEX will also make a landing on one of the asteroids, gathering valuable data in the process using inertial sensors, and going on to perform close-up observations of the asteroid’s surface material.

    The other CubeSat is called Juventas, developed by Danish company GomSpace and GMV in Romania, and will measure the gravity field as well as the internal structure of the smaller of the two Didymos asteroids.

    In close orbit around Didymoon, Juventas will line up with Hera to perform satellite-to-satellite radio-science experiments and carry out a low-frequency radar survey of the asteroid interior, similar to performing a detailed ‘X-ray scan’ of Didymoon to unveil its interior. The adventure will end with a landing, using the dynamics of any likely bouncing to capture details of the asteroid’s surface material – followed by several days of surface operations.

    Hera is set to be humankind’s first mission to a binary asteroid system. As well as testing technologies in deep space and gathering crucial science data, Hera is designed to be Europe’s contribution to an international planetary defence effort: it would survey the crater and measure orbital deviation of Didymoon caused by the earlier collision of a NASA probe, called DART. This unique experiment will validate the asteroid deflection technique referred to as kinetic impactor, enabling humankind to protect our planet from asteroid impacts.

    Next, the two CubeSats will have their designs refined and interfaces with their mothership finalised, in line with continuing design work on the Hera mission itself, which will be presented to ESA’s Space19+ meeting towards the end of this year, where Europe’s space ministers will take a final decision on flying the mission.

    See the full article here .


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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 2:26 pm on January 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Cubesats,   

    From MIT News: “Tiny satellites could be “guide stars” for huge next-generation telescopes” 

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    MIT Widget

    From MIT News

    January 4, 2019
    Jennifer Chu

    1
    In the coming decades, massive segmented space telescopes may be launched to peer even closer in on far-out exoplanets and their atmospheres. To keep these mega-scopes stable, MIT researchers say that small satellites can follow along, and act as “guide stars,” by pointing a laser back at a telescope to calibrate the system, to produce better, more accurate images of distant worlds. Image: Christine Daniloff, MIT

    Researchers design CubeSats with lasers to provide steady reference light for telescopes investigating distant planets.

    There are more than 3,900 confirmed planets beyond our solar system. Most of them have been detected because of their “transits” — instances when a planet crosses its star, momentarily blocking its light. These dips in starlight can tell astronomers a bit about a planet’s size and its distance from its star.

    Planet transit. NASA/Ames

    But knowing more about the planet, including whether it harbors oxygen, water, and other signs of life, requires far more powerful tools. Ideally, these would be much bigger telescopes in space, with light-gathering mirrors as wide as those of the largest ground observatories. NASA engineers are now developing designs for such next-generation space telescopes, including “segmented” telescopes with multiple small mirrors that could be assembled or unfurled to form one very large telescope once launched into space.

    NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope is an example of a segmented primary mirror, with a diameter of 6.5 meters and 18 hexagonal segments. Next-generation space telescopes are expected to be as large as 15 meters, with over 100 mirror segments.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    One challenge for segmented space telescopes is how to keep the mirror segments stable and pointing collectively toward an exoplanetary system. Such telescopes would be equipped with coronagraphs — instruments that are sensitive enough to discern between the light given off by a star and the considerably weaker light emitted by an orbiting planet. But the slightest shift in any of the telescope’s parts could throw off a coronagraph’s measurements and disrupt measurements of oxygen, water, or other planetary features.

    Now MIT engineers propose that a second, shoebox-sized spacecraft equipped with a simple laser could fly at a distance from the large space telescope and act as a “guide star,” providing a steady, bright light near the target system that the telescope could use as a reference point in space to keep itself stable.

    In a paper published today in The Astronomical Journal, the researchers show that the design of such a laser guide star would be feasible with today’s existing technology. The researchers say that using the laser light from the second spacecraft to stabilize the system relaxes the demand for precision in a large segmented telescope, saving time and money, and allowing for more flexible telescope designs.

    “This paper suggests that in the future, we might be able to build a telescope that’s a little floppier, a little less intrinsically stable, but could use a bright source as a reference to maintain its stability,” says Ewan Douglas, a postdoc in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a lead author on the paper.

    The paper also includes Kerri Cahoy, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, along with graduate students James Clark and Weston Marlow at MIT, and Jared Males, Olivier Guyon, and Jennifer Lumbres from the University of Arizona.

    In the crosshairs

    For over a century, astronomers have been using actual stars as “guides” to stabilize ground-based telescopes.

    “If imperfections in the telescope motor or gears were causing your telescope to track slightly faster or slower, you could watch your guide star on a crosshairs by eye, and slowly keep it centered while you took a long exposure,” Douglas says.

    In the 1990s, scientists started using lasers on the ground as artificial guide stars by exciting sodium in the upper atmosphere, pointing the lasers into the sky to create a point of light some 40 miles from the ground. Astronomers could then stabilize a telescope using this light source, which could be generated anywhere the astronomer wanted to point the telescope.

    ESO VLT 4 lasers on Yepun

    Glistening against the awesome backdrop of the night sky above ESO_s Paranal Observatory, four laser beams project out into the darkness from Unit Telescope 4 UT4 of the VLT.

    “Now we’re extending that idea, but rather than pointing a laser from the ground into space, we’re shining it from space, onto a telescope in space,” Douglas says. Ground telescopes need guide stars to counter atmospheric effects, but space telescopes for exoplanet imaging have to counter minute changes in the system temperature and any disturbances due to motion.

    The space-based laser guide star idea arose out of a project that was funded by NASA. The agency has been considering designs for large, segmented telescopes in space and tasked the researchers with finding ways of bringing down the cost of the massive observatories.

    “The reason this is pertinent now is that NASA has to decide in the next couple years whether these large space telescopes will be our priority in the next few decades,” Douglas says. “That decision-making is happening now, just like the decision-making for the Hubble Space Telescope happened in the 1960s, but it didn’t launch until the 1990s.’”

    Star fleet

    Cahoy’s lab has been developing laser communications for use in CubeSats, which are shoebox-sized satellites that can be built and launched into space at a fraction of the cost of conventional spacecraft.

    For this new study, the researchers looked at whether a laser, integrated into a CubeSat or slightly larger SmallSat, could be used to maintain the stability of a large, segmented space telescope modeled after NASA’s LUVOIR (for Large UV Optical Infrared Surveyor), a conceptual design that includes multiple mirrors that would be assembled in space.

    NASA Large UV Optical Infrared Surveyor (LUVOIR)

    Researchers have estimated that such a telescope would have to remain perfectly still, within 10 picometers — about a quarter the diameter of a hydrogen atom — in order for an onboard coronagraph to take accurate measurements of a planet’s light, apart from its star.

    “Any disturbance on the spacecraft, like a slight change in the angle of the sun, or a piece of electronics turning on and off and changing the amount of heat dissipated across the spacecraft, will cause slight expansion or contraction of the structure,” Douglas says. “If you get disturbances bigger than around 10 picometers, you start seeing a change in the pattern of starlight inside the telescope, and the changes mean that you can’t perfectly subtract the starlight to see the planet’s reflected light.”

    The team came up with a general design for a laser guide star that would be far enough away from a telescope to be seen as a fixed star — about tens of thousands of miles away — and that would point back and send its light toward the telescope’s mirrors, each of which would reflect the laser light toward an onboard camera. That camera would measure the phase of this reflected light over time. Any change of 10 picometers or more would signal a compromise to the telescope’s stability that, onboard actuators could then quickly correct.

    To see if such a laser guide star design would be feasible with today’s laser technology, Douglas and Cahoy worked with colleagues at the University of Arizona to come up with different brightness sources, to figure out, for instance, how bright a laser would have to be to provide a certain amount of information about a telescope’s position, or to provide stability using models of segment stability from large space telescopes. They then drew up a set of existing laser transmitters and calculated how stable, strong, and far away each laser would have to be from the telescope to act as a reliable guide star.

    In general, they found laser guide star designs are feasible with existing technologies, and that the system could fit entirely within a SmallSat about the size of a cubic foot. Douglas says that a single guide star could conceivably follow a telescope’s “gaze,” traveling from one star to the next as the telescope switches its observation targets. However, this would require the smaller spacecraft to journey hundreds of thousands of miles paired with the telescope at a distance, as the telescope repositions itself to look at different stars.

    Instead, Douglas says a small fleet of guide stars could be deployed, affordably, and spaced across the sky, to help stabilize a telescope as it surveys multiple exoplanetary systems. Cahoy points out that the recent success of NASA’s MARCO CubeSats, which supported the Mars Insight lander as a communications relay, demonstrates that CubeSats with propulsion systems can work in interplanetary space, for longer durations and at large distances.

    NASA/Mars InSight Lander

    Marco Cubesats in support of NASA Mars Insight Lander for radio relay

    Depiction of NASA JPL MarCo cubesat

    “Now we’re analyzing existing propulsion systems and figuring out the optimal way to do this, and how many spacecraft we’d want leapfrogging each other in space,” Douglas says. “Ultimately, we think this is a way to bring down the cost of these large, segmented space telescopes.”

    This research was funded in part by a NASA Early Stage Innovation Award.

    See the full article here .


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    The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

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  • richardmitnick 5:36 am on August 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Cubesats, JPL Cubesat MarCO Mars Cube One   

    From Science Magazine: “Tiny spacecraft are breaking out of Earth’s orbit” 

    AAAS
    From Science Magazine

    Aug. 23, 2018
    Eric Hand

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    The Mars Cube One mission—the first interplanetary CubeSats—will coast past the Red Planet this fall.
    NASA/JPL-CALTECH

    JPL Cubesat MarCO Mars Cube One

    Cheap, small satellites have swarmed into Earth orbit over the past decade, cutting the cost of studying our home planet from space. Now, these spacecraft, some no bigger than a briefcase, are becoming capable enough to venture into deep space—or at least the inner solar system. Two are halfway to Mars, more than a dozen planetary probes are in development, and scientists are coming up with ever more daring ideas for doing cheap, high-risk interplanetary science.

    “Planetary is definitely getting excited,” Lori Glaze, head of NASA’s planetary science division, said last week at a symposium on small deep-space probes at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Earlier this year, NASA began to accept proposals for a line of small planetary missions, with costs capped at $55 million. Glaze says 12 teams have submitted proposals, and the agency plans to select several finalists in February 2019. Europe, too, has plans for small planetary probes, also known as CubeSats for the cube-shaped modules from which they are built. “We see now the potential for interplanetary CubeSats,” says Roger Walker, the European Space Agency’s technology CubeSat manager in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

    Small satellites can be assembled from low-cost components and released by the dozen from a single rocket. But systems key to interplanetary flight, including propulsion, communication, and navigation, have traditionally been too bulky to fit into a small package.

    A mission called Mars Cube One (MarCO), twin craft launched in May along with the Mars InSight lander, is breaking that size barrier.

    NASAMars Insight Lander

    Built from six standard, 10-centimeter cubes, they are meant to provide a communication relay for InSight as it descends to the surface. But Glaze says the craft, which passed the halfway point in their journey last week, are already pioneers. “These CubeSats have flown farther than any ever before,” she says. “They’ve already demonstrated the ability to do a comm relay.” An unfurled radio antenna panel, three times the size of the CubeSats themselves, transmits a trickle of data directly to Earth using the CubeSats’ limited solar power.

    MarCO also showcases a miniature guidance, navigation, and control system developed by Blue Canyon Technologies in Boulder, Colorado. The technology has helped make CubeSats attractive for space science, says Dan Hegel, Blue Canyon’s director for advanced development. “CubeSats were tumbling around, not doing much,” he says. “There was no motivation before to try and shrink your instrument.” The company shrank reaction wheels, gyroscopes, and star trackers into a system that sells for less than $150,000 and fits in half a cube.

    Propulsion is a lingering concern. The small craft may need to change course, or slow down to orbit a planet, moon, or asteroid. Although MarCO’s propulsion system occupies half of the craft, it holds only enough fuel to make small trajectory adjustments en route to Mars, and it squirts pressurized gas like a fire extinguisher, an inefficient approach. As a result, the CubeSats will helplessly coast past the Red Planet after completing their mission.

    CubeSats in Earth orbit have tested solar sails, thin mirrored foils that deliver a gentle push from the pressure of sunlight. Other developers are betting on solar electric propulsion systems. A device built by ExoTerra Resource in Littleton, Colorado, uses electricity from solar panels to bombard a xenon gas “fuel” with a beam of electrons, creating a charged plasma. An electric field shoots the plasma out the back, generating a feeble thrust. No bigger than a hockey puck, the device, called a Hall thruster, uses fuel much more efficiently than conventional rockets do, ExoTerra President Michael VanWoerkom says. “If you’re willing to wait longer to get there, you can package a lot of propellant into a very small space,” he says.

    A big test of propulsion technologies will come at the end of 2019, when NASA’s heavy lift rocket, the Space Launch System, is due for its maiden voyage. It will carry 13 CubeSats, many of them focused on moon science. “Almost all are using different propulsion technologies,” says Goddard’s Barbara Cohen, principal investigator for one of the missions, Lunar Flashlight, an effort to confirm the presence of ice in permanently shadowed regions of polar craters by shining lasers into them.

    Better propulsion could help solve another problem facing planetary small satellites: a lack of rocket rides. CubeSats often piggyback on larger mission launches, but rideshares beyond low-Earth orbit are rare. Solar electric propulsion systems could help craft released into low-Earth orbits make an escape. A small satellite equipped with a Hall thruster could spiral out from Earth to the moon in a few months, VanWoerkom says. Reaching Mars would take a few years.

    Scientists are starting to have big dreams for their small packages. Tilak Hewagama, a planetary scientist at the University of Maryland in College Park, wants to send a small satellite to intercept a comet on its first arrival in the solar system. Most comets have swung around the sun many times, and their once-pristine surfaces have grown weathered. But nearly every year, astronomers discover a few that are swooping in for the first time. By then, it is too late to develop a spacecraft to study them, Hewagama says. But a small satellite already parked in a stable orbit could maneuver in time to witness the comet’s passage up close—a risky plan that Hewagama says NASA wouldn’t be willing to pursue for a larger, more expensive craft.

    Timothy Stubbs, a planetary scientist at Goddard, wants to use two 30-kilogram satellites to explore the origin of curious bright swirls on the surface of the moon. One idea is that weak magnetic fields in moon rocks—implanted by comet impacts or a long-extinct magnetic dynamo—might be repelling the solar wind particles that weather and darken the surrounding soil. But understanding the interactions between the particles and the fields requires skimming the moon in a close, unstable orbit that would require large amounts of fuel to maintain. Stubbs’s solution: Orbit two small satellites in tandem, linked by a thin Kevlar tether 25 kilometers long, so that a satellite in a higher orbit can stabilize its mate a mere 2 kilometers above the surface.

    Both teams plan to submit proposals to the new NASA funding program—if they can whittle costs down to fit the $55 million cap. Small satellites may be cheap, but developing a deep-space mission traditionally requires a big team and lots of testing to pare down risk. Symposium organizer Geronimo Villanueva, a Goddard planetary scientist, says NASA officials are working on changing the rules for small satellites headed for deep space so that higher risk levels are acceptable. “We need to change the way we do business,” he says.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 12:44 pm on August 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Cubesats, , Farther together   

    From European Space Agency: “Farther, together” 

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    From European Space Agency

    1
    Farther, together

    This image of three miniature satellites or CubeSats freshly launched into space is a striking reminder of human cooperation at the heart of space exploration.

    Bhutan’s first ever satellite along with others from Malaysia and the Philippines were released into their respective orbits from the International Space Station on 10 August.

    While the launch was a first for Bhutan, it was just another day on the International Space Station that was built and is maintained by thousands of people across the globe.

    Launched in 1998, the Space Station is the culmination of years of international planning and partnership between the United States, Canada, Japan, Russia, and participating European countries.

    In its 20 years of operation it has hosted many international flight crews, launched global operations and conducted research from the world-wide scientific community.

    It is not only a technological achievement but a successful testament to partnership across borders.

    ESA is continuing along these lines of partnership and cooperation in its new European vision for space exploration.

    In addition to committing its support for the Space Station, the agency is partnering with the commercial sector to make the Space Station more accessible to all with programmes such as the International Commercial Experiments Service, or ICE Cubes.

    The agency is also setting its sights beyond low-Earth orbit, with ambitious plans for the Moon, a deep space gateway and a Mars landing.

    For the Moon, ESA is preparing for a robotic landing in partnership with Russia as early as 2022. The mission will look for water ice.

    Returning humans to the Moon is underway in collaboration with NASA on the Orion vehicle, with a European service module at its core, that will build bridges to Moon and Mars by sending humans further into space than ever before.

    Like the International Space Station, this new age of exploration will be achieved not in competition, but through international cooperation.

    ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst put it best when posted this image on social media, writing “If you want to go far, go together.”

    We’re already on it.

    See the full article here .


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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 12:34 pm on April 20, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Cubesats, MarCO - Mars Cube One,   

    From JPL-Caltech: NASA Engineers Dream Big with Small Spacecraft 

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    April 19, 2018

    Andrew Good
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-393-2433
    andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov

    The MarCO and InSight projects are managed for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, by JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

    MarCOs Cruise in Deep Space
    1
    An artist’s rendering of the twin Mars Cube One (MarCO) spacecraft as they fly through deep space. The MarCOs will be the first CubeSats — a kind of modular, mini-satellite — attempting to fly to another planet. They’re designed to fly along behind NASA’s InSight lander on its cruise to Mars. If they make the journey, they will test a relay of data about InSight’s entry, descent and landing back to Earth. Though InSight’s mission will not depend on the success of the MarCOs, they will be a test of how CubeSats can be used in deep space.

    MarCO Being Tested in Sunlight
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    Engineer Joel Steinkraus uses sunlight to test the solar arrays on one of the Mars Cube One (MarCO) spacecraft at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The MarCOs will be the first CubeSats — a kind of modular, mini-satellite — flown into deep space. They’re designed to fly along behind NASA’s InSight lander on its cruise to Mars. If they make the journey to Mars, they will test a relay of data about InSight’s entry, descent and landing back to Earth. Though InSight’s mission will not depend on the success of the MarCOs, they will be a test of how CubeSats can be used in deep space.

    Preparing MarCO
    3
    Joel Steinkraus, MarCO lead mechanical engineer from JPL, makes an adjustment on the CubeSat prior to integration in a deployment box as seen inside the cleanroom lab at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Monday, March 12, 2018.

    MarCO and Dispenser
    4
    One of the MarCO CubeSats inside a cleanroom at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, before being placed into its deployment box. The deployment box will eject the briefcase-sized CubeSat into space after launch. It and its twin will accompany the InSight Mars lander when it lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in May.

    Many of NASA’s most iconic spacecraft towered over the engineers who built them: think Voyagers 1 and 2, Cassini or Galileo — all large machines that could measure up to a school bus.

    NASA/Voyager 1

    NASA/Voyager 2

    NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens Spacecraft

    NASA/Galileo 1989-2003

    But in the past two decades, mini-satellites called CubeSats have made space accessible to a new generation. These briefcase-sized boxes are more focused in their abilities and have a fraction of the mass — and cost — of some past titans of space.


    NASA’s Mars Cube One, or MarCO, is heading to deep space to test a first-of-its-kind technology demonstration: near-real-time communication between Earth and Mars using CubeSats.

    In May, engineers will be watching closely as NASA launches its first pair of CubeSats designed for deep space. The twin spacecraft are called Mars Cube One, or MarCO, and were built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

    Both MarCO spacecraft will be hitching a ride on the same rocket launching InSight, NASA’s next robotic lander headed for Mars.

    NASA Mars Insight Lander

    The MarCOs are intended to follow InSight on its cruise through space; if they survive the journey, each is equipped with a folding high-gain antenna to relay data about InSight as it enters the Martian atmosphere and lands.

    The MarCOs won’t produce any science of their own, and aren’t required for InSight to send its data back home (the lander will rely on NASA’s Mars orbiters for that, in addition to communicating directly with antennas on Earth). But the twins will be a crucial first test of CubeSat technology beyond Earth orbit, demonstrating how they could be used to further explore the solar system.

    “These are our scouts,” said Andy Klesh of JPL, MarCO’s chief engineer. “CubeSats haven’t had to survive the intense radiation of a trip to deep space before, or use propulsion to point their way towards Mars. We hope to blaze that trail.”

    The official names of these two scouts are “MarCO-A” and “MarCO-B.” But to the team that built them, they’re “Wall-E” and “Eva” — nicknames based on Pixar characters. Both MarCOs use a compressed gas commonly found in fire extinguishers to push themselves through space, the same way Wall-E did in his 2008 film.

    Survival is far from guaranteed. As the saying goes: space is hard. The first challenge will be switching on. The MarCO batteries were last checked in March by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems of Irvine, California, which inserted each CubeSat into a special dispenser that will propel it into space. Those batteries will be used to deploy each CubeSat’s solar arrays, with the hope that enough power will be left over to turn on their radios. If power is too low, the MarCO team may hear silence until each spacecraft is more fully charged.

    If both MarCOs make the journey, they’ll test a method of communications relay that could act as a “black box” for future Mars landings, helping engineers understand the difficult process of getting spacecraft to safely touch down on the Red Planet. Mars landings are notoriously hard to stick.

    The MarCOs could also prove that CubeSats are ready to go beyond Earth. CubeSats were first developed to teach university students about satellites. Today, they’re a major commercial technology, providing data on everything from shipping routes to environmental changes.

    NASA scientists are eager to explore the solar system using CubeSats. JPL even has its own CubeSat clean room, where several flight projects have been built, including the MarCOs. For young engineers, the thrill is building something that could potentially reach Mars in just a matter of years rather than a decade.

    5
    JPL’s Integrated CubeSat Development Laboratory is 1,250 square feet of pristine tabletops and freshly scrubbed air dedicated to the manufacture and testing of CubeSat spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    “We’re a small team, so everyone gets experience working on multiple parts of the spacecraft,” Klesh said. “You learn everything about building, testing and flying along the way. We’re inventing every day at this point.”

    The MarCOs were built by JPL, which manages InSight and MarCO for NASA. They were funded by both JPL and NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. A number of commercial suppliers provided unique technologies for the MarCOs. A full list, along with more information about the spacecraft, can be found here.

    See the full article here .

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    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 11:12 am on April 19, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Cubesats, , GomX-4 cubesat pair   

    From European Space Agency: “ESA’s GomX-4B CubeSat relaying data across space from Danish twin” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    18 April 2018

    1
    GomX-4B

    ESA’s latest mission has completed its in-orbit commissioning. The cereal-box-sized GomX-4B performed a transfer of data across hundreds of kilometres of space from its Danish twin.

    On 2 February, the two GomX-4 CubeSats piggybacked to space into a 500 km altitude near-polar orbit after launch on a Long March 2D rocket from Jiuquan, in China’s Gobi Desert.

    Both of the nanosatellites were built by GomSpace in Denmark. GomX-4A, financed by the Danish Ministry of Defence, is focused on monitoring and imaging Denmark’s Arctic territory. The ESA-backed GomX-4B is testing a micro-propulsion system as well as an inter-satellite radio link with its counterpart. It also carries other technology payloads, including a hyperspectral imager.

    CubeSats are small satellites based around standard 10cm cubic units, but these two ‘six-unit’ CubeSats still required weeks of in-orbit testing once they reached space, just like full-sized missions.

    3
    CubeSats GomX-4A and B transfer data between themselves and down to their ground station in Aalborg, Denmark, during a live press conference by manufacturer GomSpace on 12 April 2018.

    GomX-4A carries no thrusters but the agile GomX-4B used its micro-thrusters to shift its orbit relative to its twin. The satellites drifted up to 2000 km apart along their orbit, then GomX-4B performed a series of manoeuvres to reduce the separation distance back to 300 km. This allowed the pair to begin testing their radio link across various distances up to 750 km away. Later in the mission, this distance will be increased up to 4500 km for extended range tests.

    Demonstrating transfer of data between the satellites is extremely valuable. First, it increases opportunities to get images and data down to the ground from the two satellites. But it also points to future possibilities – when an inter-linked constellation of nanosatellites could cover much more territory than any single satellite, and return data to users on the ground much faster, often making it more useful.

    GomSpace showed the satellites in action for the first time during a live press conference from their Aalborg headquarters on 12 April. The retrieval process from GomX-4A to GomX-4B – and vice versa – down to Earth went according to schedule, confirming the satellite pair can share both data and images and send them home.

    4
    GomX-4 pair. ESA’s biggest small satellite yet: the GomX-4B six-unit CubeSat will demonstrate miniaturised technologies, preparing the way for future operational nanosatellite constellations. GomX-4B is double the size of ESA’s first technology CubeSat, GomX-3, which was released from the International Space Station in 2015. The contract with Danish CubeSat specialist GomSpace is supported through the In-Orbit Demonstration element of ESA’s General Support Technology Programme, focused on readying new products for space and the marketplace. GomX-4B will be launched and flown together with GomX-4A on 2 February 2018, designed by GomSpace for the Danish Ministry of Defence under a separate contract.
    The two CubeSats will stay linked through a new version of the software-defined radio demonstrated on GomX-3, while their separation on their shared orbit will be controlled up to a maximum 4500 km. Such intersatellite links will allow future CubeSat constellations to relay data quickly to users on the ground. The same radio system will also be used for rapid payload data downloads to Earth.

    “By having the two CubeSats operating together we’ve gained a lot of extra opportunities for in-orbit testing,” explains Roger Walker, who oversees ESA’s technology CubeSats.

    “We’re very pleased with the results of the commissioning phase, which shows that both GomX-4 CubeSats are working well, individually and together. GomX-4B’s six technology payloads are also working well. We’re now really looking forward to the next six months of the planned mission. The team will be running a series of demanding experiments with the payloads to test their performance in space.”

    5
    Ground antenna for CubeSats. Antenna on the roof of the GomSpace headquarters in Aalborg, Denmark, used to link and downlink data from the GomX-4 pair of CubeSats.

    GomX-4B’s HyperScout imager, manufactured by cosine Research in the Netherlands, made its own first-light image during the commissioning process.

    In addition, a miniaturised star tracker, developed by Innovative Solutions In Space in the Netherlands, also produced its first image of stars. Star trackers help spacecraft to see where they are in space, and the miniature version will undergo further testing and work with the satellite’s attitude control system to improve its pointing accuracy.

    “The GomX-4B satellite is our most advanced nanosatellite design to date,” comments Niels Buus, heading GomSpace.

    “We are pleased ESA is participating in a project which, for the first time, shows how to exploit the benefits of nanosatellite tandem formation. The platform and technology have a lot to offer to our customers and we therefore expect a lot of commercial benefit moving forward. This is definitely a next-generation nanosatellite.”

    The GomX-4B satellite and many of the payloads were funded through the ‘Fly’ element of ESA’s General Support Technology Programme dedicated to small in-orbit technology demonstration missions.

    See the full article here .

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 2:51 pm on February 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , BurstCube, , , Cubesats, , ,   

    From Goddard: “NASA Technology to Help Locate Electromagnetic Counterparts of Gravitational Waves” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    Feb. 6, 2018
    By Lori Keesey
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    1
    Principal Investigator Jeremy Perkins and his co-investigator, Georgia de Nolfo, recently won funding to build a new CubeSat mission, called BurstCube. Respectively, Perkins and de Nolfo hold a crystal, or scintillator, and silicon photomultiplier array technology that will be used to detect and localize gamma-ray bursts for gravitational-wave science. The photomultiplier array shown here specifically was developed for another CubeSat mission called TRYAD, which will investigate gamma-ray bursts in high-altitude lightning clouds.
    Credits: NASA/W. Hrybyk

    A compact detector technology applicable to all types of cross-disciplinary scientific investigations has found a home on a new CubeSat mission designed to find the electromagnetic counterparts of events that generate gravitational waves.

    NASA scientist Georgia de Nolfo and her collaborator, astrophysicist Jeremy Perkins, recently received funding from the agency’s Astrophysics Research and Analysis Program to develop a CubeSat mission called BurstCube. This mission, which will carry the compact sensor technology that de Nolfo developed, will detect and localize gamma-ray bursts caused by the collapse of massive stars and mergers of orbiting neutron stars. It also will detect solar flares and other high-energy transients once it’s deployed into low-Earth orbit in the early 2020s.

    The cataclysmic deaths of massive stars and mergers of neutron stars are of special interest to scientists because they produce gravitational waves — literally, ripples in the fabric of space-time that radiate out in all directions, much like what happens when a stone is thrown into a pond.

    Since the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, or LIGO, confirmed their existence a couple years ago, LIGO and the European Virgo detectors have detected other events, including the first-ever detection of gravitational waves from the merger of two neutron stars announced in October 2017.

    Less than two seconds after LIGO detected the waves washing over Earth’s space-time, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope detected a weak burst of high-energy light — the first burst to be unambiguously connected to a gravitational-wave source.

    These detections have opened a new window on the universe, giving scientists a more complete view of these events that complements knowledge obtained through traditional observational techniques, which rely on detecting electromagnetic radiation — light — in all its forms.

    Complementary Capability

    Perkins and de Nolfo, both scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, see BurstCube as a companion to Fermi in this search for gravitational-wave sources. Though not as capable as the much larger Gamma-ray Burst Monitor, or GBM, on Fermi, BurstCube will increase coverage of the sky. Fermi-GBM observes the entire sky not blocked by the Earth. “But what happens if an event occurs and Fermi is on the other side of Earth, which is blocking its view,” Perkins said. “Fermi won’t see the burst.”

    BurstCube, which is expected to launch around the time additional ground-based LIGO-type observatories begin operations, will assist in detecting these fleeting, hard-to-capture high-energy photons and help determine where they originated. In addition to quickly reporting their locations to the ground so that other telescopes can find the event in other wavelengths and home in on its host galaxy, BurstCube’s other job is to study the sources themselves.

    Miniaturized Technology

    BurstCube will use the same detector technology as Fermi’s GBM; however, with important differences.

    Under the concept de Nolfo has advanced through Goddard’s Internal Research and Development program funding, the team will position four blocks of cesium-iodide crystals, operating as scintillators, in different orientations within the spacecraft. When an incoming gamma ray strikes one of the crystals, it will absorb the energy and luminesce, converting that energy into optical light.

    Four arrays of silicon photomultipliers and their associated read-out devices each sit behind the four crystals. The photomultipliers convert the light into an electrical pulse and then amplify this signal by creating an avalanche of electrons. This multiplying effect makes the detector far more sensitive to this faint and fleeting gamma rays.

    Unlike the photomultipliers on Fermi’s GBM, which are bulky and resemble old-fashioned television tubes, de Nolfo’s devices are made of silicon, a semiconductor material. “Compared with more conventional photomultiplier tubes, silicon photomultipliers significantly reduce mass, volume, power and cost,” Perkins said. “The combination of the crystals and new readout devices makes it possible to consider a compact, low-power instrument that is readily deployable on a CubeSat platform.”

    In another success for Goddard technology, the BurstCube team also has baselined the Dellingr 6U CubeSat bus that a small team of center scientists and engineers developed to show that CubeSat platforms could be more reliable and capable of gathering highly robust scientific data.

    “This is high-demand technology,” de Nolfo said. “There are applications everywhere.”

    For other Goddard technology news, go to https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/winter_2018_final_lowrez.pdf

    See the full article here.

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    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.


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  • richardmitnick 8:37 am on February 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Cubesats, , GomX-4B   

    From ESA: “The size of a cereal box: ESA’s first satellite of 2018” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    2 February 2018

    1
    GomX-4 pair
    Released 13/10/2016
    Copyright GomSpace
    ESA’s biggest small satellite yet: the GomX-4B six-unit CubeSat will demonstrate miniaturised technologies, preparing the way for future operational nanosatellite constellations.
    GomX-4B is double the size of ESA’s first technology CubeSat, GomX-3, which was released from the International Space Station in 2015.
    The contract with Danish CubeSat specialist GomSpace is supported through the In-Orbit Demonstration element of ESA’s General Support Technology Programme, focused on readying new products for space and the marketplace.
    GomX-4B will be launched and flown together with GomX-4A on 2 February 2018, designed by GomSpace for the Danish Ministry of Defence under a separate contract.
    The two CubeSats will stay linked through a new version of the software-defined radio demonstrated on GomX-3, while their separation on their shared orbit will be controlled up to a maximum 4500 km.
    Such intersatellite links will allow future CubeSat constellations to relay data quickly to users on the ground. The same radio system will also be used for rapid payload data downloads to Earth.

    ESA’s first mission of the year was launched today: GomX-4B is the Agency’s most advanced technology-tester yet, featuring a hyperspectral camera and tiny thrusters to manoeuvre thousands of kilometres from its near-twin to try out their radio link.

    These CubeSats are built around standard 10×10 cm units by GomSpace in Denmark. As ‘six-unit’ CubeSats they are as big as cereal boxes – but double the size of their predecessor GomX-3, released from the International Space Station in 2015.

    “ESA is harnessing CubeSats as a fast, cheap method of testing promising European technologies in orbit,” comments Roger Walker, heading ESA’s technology CubeSat efforts.

    “Unlike GomX-3, GomX-4B will change its orbit using cold-gas thrusters, opening up the prospect of rapidly deploying future constellations and maintaining their separations, and flying nanosatellites in formations to perform new types of measurements from space.”

    The pair was launched at 07:51 GMT (08:51 CET) from Jiuquan, China, piggybacking on a Long March 2D rocket carrying a Chinese satellite to detect electromagnetic disturbances that might offer early warnings of earthquakes.

    The focus of Denmark’s GomX-4A on imaging includes monitoring Arctic territory. It carries no thrusters but the agile GomX-4B will fly behind it, allowing the pair to test their radio link across various distances up to 4500 km.

    “While these two CubeSats are closely related, they have different goals – but by flying them together we all gain extra opportunities demonstrations in space,” adds Roger.

    Some four hours after launch, they flew over their mission control centre – GomSpace’s premises in Aalborg, Denmark – at which point their early operations could begin.

    “Just as in the case of a full-size mission, the two must be switched on and checked ahead of full operations.”

    GomX-4B’s work can then begin for ESA. It will also monitor the performance of off-the-shelf computer parts in the harsh space environment, and test a new startracker for Dutch CubeSat manufacturer ISIS.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 10:11 am on January 31, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Cubesats, Planet Labs   

    From NASA Spaceflight: “Planet Labs targets a search engine of the world” 

    NASA Spaceflight

    NASA Spaceflight

    January 29, 2018
    Michael Baylor

    1
    No image caption or credit.

    With over 200 Earth observation satellites, Planet Labs now operates the largest satellite constellation in history. The San Francisco based startup’s first goal – called Mission 1 – was to image Earth’s entire landmass once per day. That milestone was reached in late 2017. Now, the company wants to turn their data into a search engine of the world via its next mission.

    Planet Labs was founded in 2010 by three former NASA engineers: Will Marshall, Robbie Schingler, and Chris Boshuizen. The goal of the company was to make “global change visible, accessible, and actionable.”

    In April 2013, Planet launched its first two satellites named Dove 1 and Dove 2. Dove 1 launched aboard the inaugural flight of Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket, and Dove 2 launched on a Soyuz 2.1a rocket.

    2
    Illustration of the Dove-1 nanosatellite (image credit: Cosmogia)

    Ridesharing with other payloads has been a common strategy for Planet. To date, the company has flown only once on a dedicated mission. This represents a shift from the traditional method used by major satellite operators.

    For decades, operators have built large and expensive satellites – requiring launch contracts worth tens of millions. Planet, on the other hand, launches small and far less expensive payloads into orbit. Due to their small size, the satellites can fly as secondary payloads, significantly lowering costs.

    Additionally, Planet’s approach also reduces risk. Due to the expensive nature of traditional satellites, a failed mission can be catastrophic. However, Planet’s satellites are cheap and easy to manufacture – making it far less difficult to recover from a failure.

    On October 28th, 2014 an Orbital ATK Antares rocket exploded just seconds after liftoff. The rocket was carrying a Cygnus spacecraft full of cargo to resupply the International Space Station. Also onboard was a batch of 26 Dove satellites for Planet. No company in history had ever lost 26 satellites on a single mission.

    Following the mishap, Planet CEO Will Marshall explained how Planet places “more satellites in orbit than we require…so that if satellites fail in orbit we ensure continuity. Our eggs were not all in one basket.”

    Not long after, a SpaceX Falcon 9 failed mid-flight. It was carrying a Dragon spacecraft – also headed for the ISS. Eight Dove satellites were part of Dragon’s cargo.

    In total, an unprecedented 34 satellites had been lost in less than a year.

    Another advantage of Planet’s strategy is that they can leverage their more affordable model by regularly refreshing their hardware. The company has numerous launches booked each year, with new batches containing upgraded electronics. As a result, Planet maintains the latest technological advances in its satellites. Meanwhile, many traditional satellites are left with years-old hardware.

    3
    Dove satellites. NASA.

    Looking into the future, Planet’s strategy of launching satellites will be aided by advances in the small satellite launch industry. Companies such as Rocket Lab, Vector Space Systems, Virgin Orbit, and Stratolaunch have systems under development designed to specifically place small payloads into orbit.

    For Planet, this means that it could fly as a primary payload, while also avoiding the traditional costs of a dedicated launch. Flying on a dedicated launch allows for several advantages including greater schedule certainty and delivery to a more specific orbit.

    Rocket Lab has already secured several launch contracts from Planet for flights on its Electron launch vehicle. While the Electron rocket is yet to begin regular commercial launches, it took a big step in that direction with a successful “Still Testing” launch on January 21st, 2018. The launch included a Dove satellite for Planet named “Dove Pioneer.”

    Planet’s constellation is composed of three types of satellites: Dove, RapidEye, and SkySat.

    4
    Planet Labs fleet.

    Doves are 3U CubeSats which weigh 4-5 kilograms and are the size of a loaf of bread. Doves are typically launched in batches called “Flocks.” Each Dove contains an optical imagery system called a PlanetScope. PlanetScope is capable of capturing images with approximately three meter resolution. Today, there are nearly 180 Doves in orbit.

    Planet also has five RapidEye satellites in its constellation. RapidEye are capable of taking images with five meter resolution. The 150 kilogram satellites were added to the constellation when Planet acquired BlackBridge in 2015. Because the RapidEye satellites have been in orbit since 2009, by acquiring BlackBridge’s assets, Planet significantly increased the historical data available to its customers.

    Finally, Planet has 13 SkySats in orbit. The satellites were built by Terra Bella, which Planet acquired from Google last year. At the time of the purchase, there were 7 SkySats in orbit. Last October, Planet launched an additional six on a Minotaur C rocket. The 100 kilogram SkySats are capable of sub-meter resolution – making them the most powerful in the constellation. Customers can request to have these high-resolution satellites target their locations of interest.

    Planet’s constellation orbits Earth in either a sun-synchronous or polar orbit. This means that the satellites can be arranged in a line, rather than having to spread out across the entire planet. Due to the Earth’s rotation, the next satellite in the line will see a slightly different portion of Earth’s surface than the one before it. As Planet’s CEO Will Marshall explains, “It ends up being like a line scanner for the planet.”

    6
    A visual of the satellites scanning the earth by Planet Labs.

    Planet achieved a major milestone in November 2017. For the first time, the satellites were capturing Earth’s entire landmass once per day. The milestone, which Planet calls “Mission 1,” has created an unprecedented amount of data for customers to utilize.

    The satellites are currently capturing over 1.4 million images a day. After the images are taken, they are stored on the satellite until it passes over a ground station.

    The imagery is being used in a wide variety of fields including agriculture, disaster relief, infrastructure, and deforestation.

    Additionally, a large portion of the data is available to the public. Users can visit Planet.com/explorer and explore some of the most up to date satellite imagery available.

    Planet’s next mission is to harness machine learning, as doing so will drastically improve the usefulness of its imagery.

    7
    SkySat fleet as envisioned by Planet Labs.

    Marshall explains that machine learning will enable Planet to perform “object recognition on its imagery to enable users to query what is on the Earth (how many houses are there in Pakistan?) and [to] build customized information feeds (e.g. count the number of ships in the top 10 ports vs. time).”

    He goes on to add, “In short, Planet will index physical change on Earth the same way Google indexed the internet. Imagine the possibilities.”

    This new mission will be a key focus for the Planet as it looks to continue its momentum into 2018.

    Apart from software, there are also hardware improvements in store.

    Most notably, two high resolution SkySat satellites will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 from Vandenberg Air Force Base as part of Spaceflight Industries’ SSO-A mission. The launch – targeted for no earlier than this summer – will also include another Flock of Dove satellites.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    NASASpaceFlight.com, now in its eighth year of operations, is already the leading online news resource for everyone interested in space flight specific news, supplying our readership with the latest news, around the clock, with editors covering all the leading space faring nations.

    Breaking more exclusive space flight related news stories than any other site in its field, NASASpaceFlight.com is dedicated to expanding the public’s awareness and respect for the space flight industry, which in turn is reflected in the many thousands of space industry visitors to the site, ranging from NASA to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Space Alliance and commercial space flight arena.

    With a monthly readership of 500,000 visitors and growing, the site’s expansion has already seen articles being referenced and linked by major news networks such as MSNBC, CBS, The New York Times, Popular Science, but to name a few.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:30 pm on January 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Cubesats, , Lunar Meteoroid Impact Orbiter, Lunar Volatile and Mineralogy Mapping Orbiter   

    From ESA: “CubeSats for hunting secrets in lunar darkness” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    23 January 2018
    No writer credit

    Imagine sending a spacecraft the size of an airline cabin bag to the Moon – what would you have it do? ESA issued that challenge to European teams last year, and two winners have now been chosen.

    The Lunar Meteoroid Impact Orbiter, or Lumio for short, would circle over the far side of the Moon to detect bright impact flashes during the lunar night, mapping meteoroid bombardments as they occur.

    1
    Lunar Meteoroid Impact Orbiter.

    The other, the Lunar Volatile and Mineralogy Mapping Orbiter, or VMMO, would focus on a permanently shadowed crater near the lunar south pole, searching out deposits of water ice and other volatiles of interest to future colonists, while also measuring lunar radiation.

    “It was a difficult process to select these final winners, because the high quality of all the concept studies we received – and especially our four semi-finalists,” explains Roger Walker, ESA’s technology CubeSat manager.

    European companies, universities and research centres teamed up to design lunar missions to fit within the low-cost CubeSat standard – built up from 10 cm- cubes.

    Roger adds: “The idea behind our lunar CubeSat competition was challenging – up until now CubeSats have operated solely within Earth orbit. However, opportunities should open up to piggyback to the Moon in the coming decade, with circumlunar flights of the NASA–ESA Orion spacecraft and planned commercial flights.”

    The two winners were chosen after final presentations within ESA’s advanced multimedia centre used to design all Agency missions. They now have the chance to work with ESA specialists on mission development during February and March.

    The impact-tracking Lumio is a single 12-unit CubeSat, conceived by a consortium including Politecnico di Milano; TU Delft, EPFL, S[&]T Norway, Leonardo-Finnmeccanica and the University of Arizona.

    Orbiting a special point in space, Lumio’s sophisticated optical camera would detect impacts on the Moon’s far side. Such near-side flashes are mapped by telescopes on Earth during the night, but the Moon’s other face is a blind spot.

    Away from the stray light of the terrestrial environment, very faint flashes should be detectable, improving our understanding of past and present meteoroid patterns across the Solar System. Such an observation system could also develop into a system offering early warning to future settlers.

    VMMO, developed by MPB Communications Inc, Surrey Space Centre, University of Winnipeg and Lens R&D, also adopts a 12-unit CubeSat design. Its miniaturised laser would probe its primary target of Shackleton Crater, adjacent to the South Pole, for measuring the abundance of water ice. The region inside the crater is in permanent darkness, allowing water molecules to condense and freeze there in the very cold conditions.

    Scanning a 10 m-wide path, VMMO would take around 260 days to build a high-resolution map of water ice inside the 20 km-diameter crater. Its laser would also beam high-bandwidth data back to Earth through an optical communications experiment.

    VMMO would also map lunar resources such as minerals as it overflew sunlit regions, as well as monitoring the distribution of ice and other volatiles across darkened areas to gain understanding of how condensates migrate across the surface during the two-week lunar night.

    A secondary radiation-detecting payload would build up a detailed model of the radiation environment for the benefit of follow-on mission hardware – as well as human explorers.

    “This competition – run through ESA’s SysNova Challenge scheme – has helped to bring together lunar and CubeSat specialists,” adds ESA’s Ian Carnelli. “This means Europe’s space sector should be more able to take advantages of such flight opportunities as they arise in future.”

    The runner-up missions were the radiation-analysing MoonCARE and the far-side radio astronomy CLE.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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