NASA's latest cubesat candidates include a solar sail test

They will launch as small payloads for launches scheduled in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

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Mariella Moon
March 17th, 2019
In this article: CubeSat, NASA, space, tomorrow

NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative is still going strong nine years after it was first announced. In fact, the agency has just revealed the 16 small satellite projects hitching a ride on bigger missions from 2020 to 2022. The selected CubeSats, which include ones designed to deploy an inflatable antenna and another that's meant to test solar sails, come from various educational institutions and research organizations from 10 different states.

The 16 chosen projects are:

  • Star-Planet Activity Research CubeSat (SPARCS) from Arizona State University. It will monitor the solar flares and activities of red dwarfs to assess the habitability of their planets.
  • BeaverCube from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was designed so that high school students can learn to design CubeSats and study the Earth's climate by measuring cloud properties, as well as monitoring the temperature and color of the ocean.
  • SigNals of Opportunity P-band Investigation (SNoOPI) from Purdue University. It will measure snow and soil moisture for food security and water resources management.
  • Daily Atmospheric Ionospheric Limb Imager Mission (DAILI) from The Aerospace Corporation. This one will study wave propagation and transport processes in the lower thermosphere.
  • CatSat from the University of Arizona. This project will deploy a one-meter inflatable antenna that can transmit HD video in real time.
  • Compact Total Irradiance Monitor Flight Demonstration (CTIM FD) from the University of Colorado at Boulder. The instrument will measure solar irradiance and figure out how it changes our climate.
  • CubeSat Inner Radiation Belt Experiment (CIRBE) from the University of Colorado at Boulder. This mission was designed to determine the source, intensity and other details of the electrons in the inner Van Allen radiation belts.
  • Drag De-Orbit Device CubeSat (D3) from the University of Florida, Gainesville. This is a demo mission to validate a new Low-Earth Orbit drag modulating device for future spacecraft.
  • Hyperspectral Thermal Imager (HyTI) from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. It will show how various resolutions of image data can be used to monitor water resources.
  • Polar Radiant Energy in the Far Infrared Experiment (PREFIRE) from University of Wisconsin-Madison. This mission is composed of two satellites that will monitor far-infrared radiation and determine its role in Arctic warming, sea ice loss, ice sheet melt and sea level rise.
  • CapSat-1 from Weiss School Florida. It's an educational mission meant to gather data for the establishment of a STEM program in the institution.
  • Bouchet Low-Earth Alpha/Beta Space Telescope (BLAST) from Yale University. It will map the distribution of galactic cosmic radiation across the night sky, which could tell us more about the origin of the universe.
  • Advanced Composite Solar Sail System (ACS3) from NASA Ames Research Center. It will demonstrate deployable composite boom and solar sail technologies for future deep-space missions.
  • BurstCube from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. It's expected to provide more information and gather info on the end stages of stellar evolution.
  • Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit Satellite to Study Radiation Belt Dynamics (GTOSat) from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. It will gather data to boost our understanding of acceleration and of the loss of relativistic electrons in the Earth's outer radiation belt.
  • Plasma Enhancement in The Ionosphere-Thermosphere Satellite (petitSat) from NASA Ames Research Center. It will keep an eye on large plasma enhancements that can interfere with radio waves used for communication and navigation.

These projects will fly aboard not just flights headed to the ISS, as well as missions led by NASA, but also aboard launches led by other government agencies and even commercial organizations.

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