NASA Announces 12th Round of Candidates for CubeSat Space Missions

ELaNa 31 CubeSats, SPOC and Bobcat-1, deploy from the International Space Station on Nov. 5, 2020. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 14 small research satellites from nine states – including a first-time selected state, Nebraska – to fly as auxiliary payloads aboard rockets launching between 2022 and 2025. The selected CubeSats were proposed by educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and NASA centers in response to NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) call for proposals issued in October 2020.

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Picking up the PACE: Accelerating Development of Deep Space Technologies

Raven Aerostar’s high-altitude balloon is inflated the morning of its March 12, 2021 flight to test NASA’s V-R3x technology in Baltic, SD – an effort made possible by the Agency’s new PACE initiative. (Credits: Raven Aerostar)

By Elizabeth DiVito
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center

A spacecraft is the sum of many parts – propulsion systems, radiation protection, communications systems, to name a few – and every mission has different technological needs and challenges. Before a technology innovation makes its way into deep space, however, its effectiveness can be tested a little closer to Earth through suborbital and orbital flights. These flight tests expose a technology to the challenging characteristics of spaceflight that ground testing cannot simulate, such as powerful forces of acceleration and the absence of gravity. While it offers critical benefits, this journey through several iterations of collecting flight data and fine-tuning a technology can sometimes take years and often stretches a research team’s bottom line.

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Spaceflight Inc. Awarded NASA LLITED Launch Contract

Sherpa variants (Credit: Spaceflight Inc.)

SEATTLE (Spaceflight PR) — Spaceflight Inc., the global launch services provider, announced today it has been awarded a launch service contract for the integration and launch of NASA’s LLITED mission, two 1.5U spacecraft. Spaceflight Inc. will transport the NASA Low-Latitude Ionosphere/Thermosphere Enhancements in Density (LLITED) CubeSats to low Earth orbit on its Sherpa-LTC orbital transfer vehicle (OTV) at the end of the year aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9. For this mission, the Sherpa-LTC, which uses chemical propulsion from Benchmark Space Systems, will make its initial spacecraft deployments and then ignite and maneuver to another orbital destination to deploy the NASA CubeSats.

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NASA Advancing Global Navigation Satellite System Capabilities

Deployment of Bobcat-1 from the International Space Station. (Credit: Nanoracks)

by Danny Baird
​NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation program office

NASA is developing capabilities that will allow missions at high altitudes to take advantage of signals from Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) constellations — like GPS commonly used in the U.S. These signals — used on Earth for navigation and critical timing applications — could provide NASA’s Artemis missions to the Moon with reliable timing and navigation data. NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program is developing the technologies that will support this goal.

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NASA’s ELaNa 20 Mission First to Fly on Virgin Orbit Launch

Virgin Orbit teammates complete a dry run of the payload encapsulation process in Aug. 2020 inside their “Nebula” payload processing facility ahead of the company’s Launch Demo 2 mission. (Credits: Virgin Orbit/Greg Robinson)

By Danielle Sempsrott 
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

MOJAVE, Calif. — Ten NASA-sponsored CubeSats are preparing to fly on the agency’s next Educational Launch of Nanosatellites  (ELaNa) mission, making this the first payload carried by Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket.

With the small satellites safely secured inside the payload fairing, and the fairing mated to the rocket, Virgin Orbit is gearing up for ELaNa 20, the Launch Demo 2 flight from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

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NASA Awards Venture Class Launch Contracts to Astra, Relativity Space & Firefly

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) has awarded multiple Venture Class Launch Services Demonstration 2 (VCLS Demo 2) contracts to launch small satellites (SmallSats) to space, including CubeSats, microsats or nanosatellites. The three companies selected to provide these commercial launch capabilities, and the value of their firm fixed-price contracts, are:

  • Astra Space Inc. of Alameda, California: $3.9 million
  • Relativity Space Inc. of Long Beach, California: $3.0 million
  • Firefly Black LLC of Cedar Park, Texas: $9.8 million
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NASA Releases Latest CubeSat Launch Initiative Announcement of Opportunity

ASTERIA was deployed from the International Space Station on November 20, 2017. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Accredited education institutions, nonprofit organizations and NASA Centers can join the adventure and challenges of space while helping the agency achieve its exploration goals through the next round of the NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI). Applicants must submit proposals by 4:30 p.m. EST, December 16, 2020.

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NASA Invites Competitors to Shoot for the Moon and Beyond

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is inviting additional teams to compete in the Cube Quest Challenge. You can still participate in the in-space phase of the challenge and be eligible to win part of a $4.5 million prize purse.

The Cube Quest Challenge, NASA’s first in-space competition, incentivizes teams to design, build and deliver small satellites capable of advanced operations near and beyond the Moon. To compete, new teams meeting the eligibility criteria must obtain a ride to deep space for their CubeSats – either through commercial launch opportunities or programs like NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative.

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Rocket Lab Launches 12th Electron Rocket

Electron lifts off from the Mahia Peninsula on its 12th flight on June 13, 2020. (Credit; Rocket Lab webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Rocket Lab launched an Electron rocket carrying five small satellites from Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand on Saturday.

The booster’s kick stage with the spacecraft aboard successfully separated from the second stage. The kick stage is now deploying the satellites into their planned orbits.

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TriSept Completes CubeSat Integration for NASA ELANA 32 Andesite Mission

NASA to fulfill Boston University study of the earth’s magnetic field, as TriSept leads integration of 6U CubeSat payload in dispenser bound for launch on a Rocket Lab Electron.

CHANTILLY, Virginia, March 9, 2020 (TriSept PR) – TriSept Corporation, a leading provider of launch integration, management and brokerage services for commercial and government missions, today announced it has completed the integration activity for NASA’s ELaNa 32 ANDESITE mission, a rideshare set to launch Boston University’s groundbreaking scientific study of the earth’s magnetic field on a Rocket Lab Electron from New Zealand later this month.

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NASA Announces Next Round of Candidates for CubeSat Space Missions

Space Test Program Satellite-4 (STPSat-4) reaches its final orbit after deploying from the International Space Station, Jan. 28, 2020. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 18 small research satellites from 11 states to fly as auxiliary payloads aboard rockets launching in 2021, 2022 and 2023. The selected CubeSats were proposed by educational institutions, nonprofit organizations and NASA centers in response to NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) call for proposals issued in August 2019.

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CubeSat Launch Initiative Celebrates its 100th CubeSat Mission Deployment

An artistic rendering of HARP’s wide field of view of aerosols below. (Credits: NASA/SDL/UMBC)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Today the Hyper-Angular Rainbow Polarimeter (HARP) CubeSat made history by becoming the 100th CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) selected mission deployed into space. This mission marks nearly 12 years of the CSLI providing CubeSat developers rideshare opportunities to space via Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) missions.

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Mexican Students Launch a Small Satellite to the International Space Station

Jose Cortez of NASA Ames (left) and Joel Contreras of UPAEP (right), conduct final integration of AzTechSat-1 into the Nanoracks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD) in preparation for launch to the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The first satellite built by students in Mexico for launch from the International Space Station is smaller than a shoebox but represents a big step for its builders.

The project is part of NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative, which offers universities, high schools and non-profit organizations the opportunity to fly small satellites. Innovative technology partnerships keep down the cost, providing students a way to obtain hands-on experience developing flight hardware.

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NASA Struggles with Shortage of Skilled Workers

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA is already hampered by a shortfall of skilled workers, a problem that will be exacerbated as the space agency gears up to return astronauts to the moon by 2024 in the Artemis program.

That is the conclusion of a new report from NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). The review identified attracting and retaining a highly-skilled workforce as one of the space agency’s seven biggest management and performance challenges. [Full Report]

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Seven Student-Made CubeSats Launched Aboard Antares on Saturday

Monday, Nov. 42:45 a.m. – Coverage of Cygnus capture with the space station’s robotic arm 6:30 a.m. – Cygnus installation operations coverage

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — On Saturday, seven small research satellites, or CubeSats, developed by students from eight universities across the nation were launched on Saturday on a Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops, Virginia.

All seven CubeSats were selected through NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) and are a part of the 25th Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission. CSLI enables the launch of CubeSat projects designed, built and operated by students, teachers and faculty, as well as NASA Centers and nonprofit organizations.

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