A series of new CubeSats is now in space, conducting a variety of scientific research and technology demonstrations, following the launch of Sunday Rocket Lab's first mission for NASA under a VCLS (Venture Class Launch Services) contract.
An electron rocket lifted at 1:33 pm on EST (7:33 p.m. NZDT) from the company's launch complex on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, which marks the first time CubeSats has launched for NASA on a rocket designed especially for small payloads.
"With the VCLS effort, NASA has successfully advanced the commercial launch options for less payload, providing viable dedicated small launch options as an alternative to the rideshare strategy," said Jim Norman, Head of Launch Services at NASA's Washington headquarters. "This first mission opens the door for future launch options."
At the time of the VCLS Award 2015, launching opportunities for small satellites and science missions were limited to riddaring – flying only when space was available on other missions. Managed by NASA's launch program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, VCLS Awards are designed to promote a commercial market where SmallSats and CubeSats could be placed on track to get the best scientific return.
This assignment includes 10 training-based launches of nanosatellites (ELaNa) -19, selected by NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative. The initiative is designed to improve technology development and student participation. These payroll will provide information and demonstrations in the following areas:
- CubeSat Compact Radiation Belt Explorer (CeRE) – High energy particle measurement in the Earth's radiation band
- Simulation-to-Flight 1 (STF-1) – Software that Condenses to Support CubeSat Deployments
- Advanced electric bus (ALBus) – Advances in solar collectors and batteries with high capacity
- CubeSat Management of Multisystem Precision Time Transfer (CHOMPTT) – Navigation Plans for Exo-Planetary Implementation
- CubeSail – Distribution and control of a solar sail blade
- NMTSat – Magnetic field, high altitude plasma density
- Rsat – Manipulation of robot arms
- Ionospheric Scintillation Explorer (ISX) – Plasma fluctuations in the upper atmosphere
- Shields-1 – radiation protection
- DaVinci – High School to Grade School STEM education
"Low cost-cutting services to enable expanded science from smaller satellites is now a reality. NASA's Earth Venture program and our entire integrated Earth observation portfolio will benefit greatly from the ability to launch small satellites in optimal lanes, whenever and where we want them," says Dr. Michael Freilich, Director of Geoscience at NASA's headquarters in Washington. "Our partnership with LSP on the VCLS effort will help both NASA and the commercial launch sector."
CubeSats are small satellites built in standard units of 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm, or in configurations of two, three or six units. These small satellites play a valuable role in the Agency's investigation, technology, education and scientific research, including planetary exploration, Earth observation and basic Earth and Space Sciences. They are a cornerstone of the development of advanced NASA technologies such as laser communication, satellite to satellite communication and autonomous motion.
NASA will continue to offer CubeSats an opportunity to take a lead on primary missions to provide mission goals and expect to announce the next round of CubeSats for future launches in February 2019.