- Parabolic Arc
- September 28, 2023
Nodes Satellites Demonstrate Technology ‘Firsts’ for Small Spacecraft
June 1, 2016 Update
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The Nodes satellites are performing perfectly and during their first week in orbit have already accomplished technology ‘firsts’ that demonstrate the value of very small, low-cost satellites as platforms for more complex science and exploration missions.
After making contact on the second day of the mission, the ground station at Santa Clara University received beacon packets from the Nodes satellites containing data on the health and status of each satellite.
Since then, the satellites have completed almost all of their planned mission objectives including three technology ‘firsts’ for small spacecraft: commanding a spacecraft not in direct contact with the ground by crosslinking commands through a space network; crosslinking science data from one Nodes satellite to the second satellite before sending it to the ground; and autonomous reconfiguration of the space communications network using the capability of Nodes to automatically select which satellite is best suited to serve as the ground relay each day.
The autonomous reconfiguration capability relies on exchanging key parameters such as the state of satellite health and the proximity of each satellite to the ground station. The crosslinking ‘firsts’ are important milestones in developing constellations of small spacecraft for future high value science and exploration missions.
Operators at Santa Clara University have received 663 data packets to date, consisting of science and state-of-health data. The remaining mission objective will be met once the Nodes spacecraft have operated for 20 days on orbit.
The Nodes satellites are gradually drifting apart and by the end of May 2016, the satellites are expected to reach a distance after which their ability to communicate with each other diminishes. The planned duration of mission operations is two weeks but the Nodes satellites are expected to remain in orbit for up to six months. Their gradual orbital decay will bring them back into the Earth’s atmosphere where they will disintegrate.
The amateur radio operators around the world are also able to participate in the Nodes mission by receiving the Nodes beacon data packets and submitting them to the project team. Members of the amateur radio community from 8 different countries (Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Portugal, Uruguay, and the United States) have already submitted data packets. Instructions for receiving and submitting Nodes data packets is provided at the online mission dashboard at: https://nodes.engr.scu.edu/