Cube Satellites- Are They the Future Generation of Space Exploration?
By admin November 29, 2018

NASA’s InSight lander arrived on Mars earlier this week after close to a seven-month journey through space. In the months ahead, InSight will begin its study of the planet, listening for tremors and collecting data that will be pieced together in a map of the interior of the red planet, which could help scientists better understand how Mars and other rocky planets are formed. These lessons could easily shed light on Earth’s origins as well.

Twin satellites, collectively named Mars Cube One (MarCO) launched aboard with InSight on a mission demonstrating the communication and navigation capabilities for satellites in the CubeSat category. A CubeSat is a type of miniaturized satellite for space research comprised of multiples of 10x10x10 cubic units and generally built with off-the-shelf-components. They are commonly put in orbit by deployers on the International Space Station and originated as an attempt to provide affordable access to space for the university science community and have since expanded into a plethora of other non-profit and commercial civilian projects. CubeSat projects to date have encompassed orbital telescopes, tests for radio transmissions, and music via sonification.

Since the average cost for standard satellites runs in the millions of dollars from development to launch, the $50,000 cost of a CubeSat is a marginal difference in price and feasibility. With MarCo’s successful trip to Mars, Earth orbit is no longer a limitation for these small satellites.

MarCo’s primary mission is to demonstrate the ability to relay status information from the InSight lander to Earth. In order to be able to accomplish this, the CubeSats transmit signals to a Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter which then forwards the information to Earth. The transmissions are able to provide scientists with information on InSight’s status faster than previously available due to orbital limitations.

The MarCO mission does not just mean good news for those looking to gain greater insight into Mars. With the Moon back in the spotlight for exploratory missions and a growing interest in close space targets like Venus, opportunities for a wealth of new data are becoming more available in the future from CubeSat projects. When money and time were once major inhibitors to ambitious space science projects, CubeSats are able bridge that gap and allow for more exploratory journeys to take root.


Read more in:

NASA’s InSight Mission Has Touched Down on Mars to Study the Red Planet’s Deep Secrets

How a Small CubeSat Became the Unlikely Hero of the InSight Landing

CubeSat buddies, like those sent to track Mars InSight landing, can be used in future missions

Thanks for sharing !

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