Move over CubeSats! A New Type of Small Satellite is Preparing to Fly

Credit: The Aerospace Corporation

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The CubeSat format has dominated the small satellite industry for many years. Their small size – a 1U Cubesat measures a mere 10 x 10 x 10 cm (3.94 x 3.94 x 3.94 in) – has made spacecraft cheaper and easier to build. The ability to combine these units into larger spacecraft has given satellite makers a variety of options. CubeSats can be launched in large numbers on rideshare missions or as secondary payloads to larger satellites.

However, CubeSats do have limitations in terms of mass, power and other key aspects. Engineers at The Aerospace Corporation believe it’s time for small satellites to go in another direction. Instead of a cube, they are modeling their new spacecraft on a compact disc. They hope their design, known as DiskSat, will become a new standard for small satellites.

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Artemis I Carries the Future of NASA with It

The Space Launch System rocket fairing with ESA and NASA logos on the launchpad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. The new ESA logo and NASA’s ‘worm’ logo will be along for the ride on the first full mission of the powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Of the six launches known to be scheduled to close out August, there’s only one – Artemis I — that truly matters in any real sense. The others will be duly recorded but little remembered in what could be the busiest launch year in human history.

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The Upcoming Week in Launches: Artemis I and Some Other Ones

Artemis I rocket rolls out to the launch pad for a wet dress rehearsal on June 6, 2022. (Credit: NASA)

The Wikipedia orbital launch page lists six launches to close out August. The big one, of course, is NASA’s Artemis I mission next Monday. The others, not so momentous but still worth listing.

Disclaimer: This schedule is subject to change without notice. Parabolic Arc takes no responsibility for delays, changes, additions or what have you. And, as always, no wagering.

Tuesday, August 23

Launch Vehicle: Long March 11
Launch Site: Xichang Satellite Launch Center
Launch Company: China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)
Payload: TBA

Wednesday, August 24

Launch Vehicle: Long March 2D 
Launch Site: Taiyuan Xichang Satellite Launch Center
Launch Company: CASC
Payload: TBA

Saturday, August 27

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Launch Site: Vandenberg Space Force Base
Launch Company: SpaceX
Payloads: 46 Starlink broadband satellites
Webcast: www.spacex.com

Sunday, August 28

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
Launch Company: SpaceX
Payloads: 53 Starlink broadband satellites
Webcast: www.spacex.com

Monday, August 29

Launch Vehicle: Space Launch System Block 1
Launch Site: Kennedy LC-39B
Launch Window: 8:33-10:33 a.m. EDT (12:33-14:33 UTC)
Launching Agency: NASA
Payloads: Orion spacecraft and 10 secondary payloads
Webcast: www.nasa.gov

Artemis I Secondary Payloads

SatelliteOrganizationOrbitPurpose
ArgoMoonItalian Space AgencyHeliocentricSpacecraft will demonstrate capacity of CubeSats to conduct precise maneuvers in deep space by providing detailed images of the SLS’s Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage 
BioSentinelNASAHeliocentricSpacecraft will use budding yeast to detect, measure, and compare the impact of deep space radiation on DNA repair
CuSP NASAHeliocentricSpace weather measurements
EQUULEUSUniversity of TokyoEarth-moon L26U CubeSat will measure the distribution of plasma around Earth
LunaH-MapNASASelenocentricLunar polar orbiter will search for evidence of frozen water deposits
Lunar IceCubeNASASelenocentricLunar orbiter will search for frozen water deposits
LunIRLockheed Martin SpaceHeliocentricDemonstration technology to collect surface spectroscopy and thermography
Near-Earth Asteroid ScoutNASAHeliocentricTechnology demonstration of solar sail to rendezvous with asteroid
OMOTENASHIJapan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)SelenocentricSmallest vehicle to attempt lunar lander
Team MilesFluid and Reason, LLCHeliocentricTechnology demonstration of plasma thrusters

Late August       

Launch Vehicle: Kuaizhou 1A
Launch Site: Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center
Launch Company: ExPace
Payloads: Centispace-1 S3 and Centispace-1 S4 navigation satellites

NASA to Send Science Experiments on the Artemis I Mission to the Moon and Back

NASA Mission Update

When Artemis I launches to the Moon and back there will be A LOT of science hitching a ride! From CubeSats designed to hunt for water deposits on the lunar surface to experiments on how life responds to space – and so much more.

The Artemis I mission consists of the Space Launch System rocket that will send the uncrewed Orion spacecraft around the Moon and back to Earth to check out spacecraft systems before crew fly aboard on Artemis II. The Artemis I mission is one more step toward taking the next giant leap: sending the first astronauts to Mars. Get all the info on this historic mission: https://nasa.gov/specials/artemis-i  

Producers: Jessica Wilde, Sami Aziz, Scott Bednar
Videographer: Frank Michaux
Credit: NASA

Terran Orbital Delivers LunIR to Cape Canaveral for Artemis 1 Launch

Artemis 1 will launch from Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

LunIR is a 6U satellite that will fly by the Moon and collect surface thermography as a secondary payload on Artemis 1 (Image Credit: Terran Orbital Corporation)

BOCA RATON, Fla. (Terran Orbital Corporation PR) — Terran Orbital Corporation (NYSE: LLAP), a global leader in satellite solutions, primarily serving the United States and Allied aerospace and defense industries, has delivered LunIR to Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. LunIR is a 6U satellite that will fly by the Moon and collect surface thermography as a secondary payload on Artemis 1 – a test mission for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). Offering more payload mass, volume capability, and energy, SLS, the world’s most powerful rocket to date, can carry more payload to deep space than any other vehicle. SLS also houses the Orion capsule – NASA’s spacecraft that will take humans deep into space. After the flyby, LunIR will conduct technology demonstrations related to deep-space operations.

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D-Orbit Announces Multi-Year Launch and Deployment Contract with Swiss Satellite Internet of Things (IoT) Network Operator Astrocast

The agreement covers the launch and deployment of 20 satellites, which are part of Astrocast’s growing constellation for the Internet of Things, over a three-year time span.

FINO Mornasco, Italy, August 9, 2022 (D-Orbit PR) — D-Orbit, a space logistics company, announced today the signing of a multiple launch and deployment contract with Astrocast, a leading Swiss IoT-focused nanosatellite company.

According to the agreement, D-Orbit will launch twenty of Astrocast’s satellites aboard ION Satellite Carrier, D-Orbit’s versatile and cost-effective orbital transfer vehicle (OTV) designed to precisely deploy satellites and perform technology demonstrations of third-party payloads in orbit. The satellites, which will join Astrocast’s constellation of satellites for the Internet of things (IoT), will be delivered to space over a period of three years, through multiple missions.

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IQ Spacecom and Addvalue to Cooperation on Developing InCommand, the New On-demand TM/TC Service

Signing of Memorandum of Understanding by IQ spacecom and Addvalue. (Credit: IQ spacecom/Addvalue)

IQ Technologies for Earth and Space GmbH (IQ spacecom) and Addvalue Solutions Pte Ltd (Addvalue) have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the development and marketing of the recently announced Inmarsat ELERA based InCommand service.

BERLIN, Germany, Aug. 10, 2022 (Addvalue/IQ Technologies PR) — Addvalue is a Singapore-based company with extensive experience in providing communications solutions for terrestrial and aerospace applications, including the state-of-the-art Inter-satellite Data Relay (IDRS™) service for LEO satellites based on Inmarsat’s ELERA network. With its “always-on” and “schedule-free” connectivity, IDRS™ has demonstrated multi-year in-space reliability providing LEO satellite operators the ability to securely manage and task their LEO satellites in real time.

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NASA Seeks New Launch Vehicle for TROPICS CubeSats

TROPICS mission CubeSat (Credit: Blue Canyon Technologies)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA is looking for a new way to launch the four remaining CubeSats in its Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) constellation in the wake of Astra’s decision to abandon its failure plagued Rocket 3.3.

The first pair of TROPICS satellites were destroyed on June 12 when the second stage of a Rocket 3.3 failed. Astra announced last week it was abandoning the booster in favor of the larger Rocket 4 and would not launch again in 2022.

Astra said it was in discussions with NASA about using Rocket 4 to launch the remaining TROPICS spacecraft. On Monday, NASA Earth Science program manager Sachidananda Babu said the space agency is seeking alternatives during a NASA town hall meeting at the Small Satellite 2022 conference in Logan, Utah.

Rocket 4 is designed to launch up to 600 kg into Earth orbit. The TROPICS CubeSats weight only 5.3 kg each. The satellites will be launched into an orbit that few other spacecraft use, meaning Astra could have a difficult time finding other satellites to launch along with them.

TROPICS constellation is designed to provide data on tropical cyclones. NASA has said that four satellites could accomplish the mission.

Astra had two successful launches with Rocket 3.3 and five failures. Another booster was destroyed on the launch pad during pre-flight preparations.

77 Launches Conducted During First Half of 2022 as Access to Orbit Expanded

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites while the Dragon that will carry Crew-4 to the International space Station awaits its turn. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a busy first half of 2022 that saw 77 orbital launches with 74 successes and three failures through the 182nd day of the year on July 1. At a rate of one launch every 2 days 8 hours 44 minutes, the world is on track to exceed the 146 launches conducted in 2021.

A number of significant missions were launched during a period that saw more than 1,000 satellite launched. SpaceX flew the first fully commercial crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Boeing conducted an orbital flight test of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, China prepared to complete assembly of its space station, South Korea launched its first domestically manufactured rocket, and Rocket Lab sent a NASA mission to the moon.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

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Terran Orbital Successfully Completes Next Step In Demonstrating Space-To-Ground Optical Link On NASA’s Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator 3 Satellite

PTD-3’s TeraByte InfraRed Delivery (TBIRD) payload will demonstrate optical communications downlink at a groundbreaking 200 gigabits per second (Image Credit: Terran Orbital Corporation)

BOCA RATON, Fla. (Terran Orbital PR) — Terran Orbital Corporation (NYSE: LLAP), a global leader in satellite solutions, primarily serving the United States and Allied aerospace and defense industries, today announced the first signal acquisition of the Terabyte Infrared Delivery (TBIRD) Lasercom Optical Link on NASA’s Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator 3 (PTD-3) satellite. Acquisition of the Lasercom Optical Link means that the spacecraft and the optical ground terminal have successfully exchanged laser communication signals — bringing PTD-3 one step closer to full payload commissioning.

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NASA-Supported Advanced Laser Communications CubeSat Readies for Launch

Jackson Barcheck, lead technician with Blue Canyon Technologies (far left), and Jake Cornish, senior mission manager at Nanoracks (middle left), insert the 3U CLICK A CubeSat into its dispenser in April 2022. Nanoracks engineers, Aniello Zabatta (middle right) and Adriana Aiello (far right), observe at the Nanoracks facility in Houston. (Credits: NASA / Robert Markowitz)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — A small CubeSat carrying laser communications technology is readying for launch. Engineers are preparing the NASA-supported CLICK A CubeSat for launch no earlier than July 14, 2022, aboard SpaceX’s 25th Commercial Resupply Service (CRS-25) mission to the International Space Station as part of the next ELaNa (Educational Launch of Nanosatellites) mission.

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NASA, SpaceX Launch Climate Science Research, More to Space Station

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 14, 2022, with a Cargo Dragon spacecraft aboard for SpaceX’s 25th resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA TV)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — A SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft carrying more than 5,800 pounds of science experiments, crew supplies, and other cargo is on its way to the International Space Station after launching at 8:44 p.m. EDT Thursday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The spacecraft launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy for the company’s 25th commercial resupply services mission for NASA. It is scheduled to autonomously dock at the space station about 11:20 a.m. Saturday, July 16, and remain there for about a month. Coverage of arrival will begin at 10 a.m. on NASA Television, the agency’s website, and the NASA app.

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Air Force Research Laboratory Recurve Satellite Launched on Virgin Orbit Mission

Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate’s spacecraft Recurve was launched into low Earth orbit July 2, 2022, from the Mojave Air and Space Port, Rutan Field, Mojave, California, on a Virgin Orbit U.S. Space Force Space Test Program mission. (Credit: U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory)

by Jeanne Dailey
Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFRL) — The Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate spaceflight experiment Recurve was launched July 2, 2022, from the Mojave Air and Space Port on the Virgin Orbit space system in California. The launch supported the U.S. Space Force’s STP-S28A mission and carried six additional payloads for the Department of Defense Space Test Program (STP).

Recurve is the latest in several low-cost CubeSats designed, built and operated entirely in house at the Space Vehicles Directorate located on Kirtland AFB.

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Slingshot Satellite to Showcase Advantages of Modular Payload Architecture

Slingshot satellite (Credit: The Aerospace Corporation)

The Aerospace Corporation’s Slingshot 1 mission is preparing to fast-track the development of modular and autonomous technologies on next-generation satellite systems using on-orbit experiments.

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (The Aerospace Corporation PR) — Space is rapidly evolving into a more dynamic and challenging domain, requiring more resilient and responsive architectures and processes that accelerate and streamline access to orbit while harnessing cutting-edge innovations to provide greater flexibility and adaptability for space systems. 

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Terran Orbital Successfully Completes CAPSTONE’s First TCM Burn

The NASA Artemis program satellite is charting a new path to the Moon

CAPSTONE approaches Near-Rectilinear Halo Orbit (Image Credit: Terran Orbital Corporation)

BOCA RATON, Fla. (Terran Orbital Corporation PR) — Terran Orbital Corporation (NYSE: LLAP), a global leader in satellite solutions, primarily serving the United States and Allied aerospace and defense industries, today announced the successful completion of CAPSTONE’s first TCM burn (TCM-1). As the first statistical maneuver of the mission, TCM-1 is designed to clean up expected dispersions from the launch vehicle injection – enabling CAPSTONE to continue its pathfinding lunar journey in support of NASA’s Artemis program.

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