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NASA Announces Ninth Round of Candidates for CubeSat Space Missions

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
March 3, 2018
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Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 11 small research satellites from seven states and Puerto Rico to fly as auxiliary payloads aboard space missions planned to launch in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

The selections are part of the ninth round of the NASA CubeSat Launch Initiative. CubeSats are a type of spacecraft called nanosatellites, often measuring about four inches on each side and weighing less than three pounds, with a volume of about one quart. CubeSats are built using these standard dimensions as Units or “U”, and are classified as 1U, 2U, 3U, or 6U in total size.

Launch opportunities include planned spaceflight missions led by NASA, other U.S. government agencies, or commercial organizations, as well as deployments from the International Space Station. The CubeSats were proposed by educational institutions, or nonprofit organizations.

The selected spacecraft are eligible for placement on a launch manifest, depending on the availability of a flight opportunity. After launch, satellites will perform technology demonstrations, conduct scientific investigations, or provide educational benefits.

The sponsoring organizations and projects for this round are:

  • AMSAT, the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, Kensington, Maryland
    • Greater Orbit, Larger Footprint – Technology Exploration Environment (GOLF-TEE) is a technology demonstration mission to validate components of an attitude determination and control system. Ragnarok Industries developed the system for the Lunar Heimdallr 6U CubeSat, a NASA Cube Quest Challenge finalist.
    • Greater Orbit, Larger Footprint – Mission 1 (GOLF-1) is an educational mission that will host two-way amateur radio communications, analog and digital transponders, and two experiment payloads provided by students.
  • Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
    • Alpha is a technology demonstration mission to deploy a 1x1m light sail with four tiny “chipsats” called Sprites attached.
    • Pathfinder for Autonomous Navigation (PAN) is a technology demonstration to launch two 3U CubeSats that will autonomously rendezvous and dock in low-Earth orbit.
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott, Arizona – EagleSat-2 is a scientific investigation focused on detecting cosmic ray particles and studying the effects of solar radiation on various types of random access memory in a memory degradation experiment.
  • Inter American University of Puerto Rico, Bayamon – Puerto Rico CubeSat NanoRocks-2 (PR-CuNaR2) is a scientific investigation to increase understanding of the outcomes of relevant collisions among millimeter-sized particles, or “pebbles”, in a protoplanetary disk.
  • Oak Ridge Public Schools, Oak Ridge, Tennessee – RamSat is an education mission to develop and implement a middle school STEM curriculum for building a CubeSat.
  • University of California, Davis – Quad Amateur Radio Communications Satellite (QuARCS) is a technology demonstration mission to test the capabilities of the Iridium and Globalstar radio communication satellite arrays when using a transmitter at an altitude of approximately 550 km.
  • University of Cincinnati, Ohio – Low Earth Orbit Platform for Aerospace Research and Development CubeSat (LEOPARDSat-1) is an educational mission to teach in-depth space mission and systems engineering to undergraduate and high school students.
  • University High School, Irvine, California – The IRVINE03 mission is an education effort to teach, train, and inspire the next generation of STEM professionals, while creating opportunities for underrepresented groups in STEM-related fields. It will include a technology demonstration of an X-ray Cadmium Zinc Telluride (CZT) sensor and electrospray thrusters.
  • University of Kansas, Lawrence – KUbeSat-1 is a science investigation mission that will use a primary cosmic ray detector to further understand exposure in Earth’s ionosphere and its effect on crewed missions.

Additionally, during the review process the committee also prioritized 10 previously selected NASA CubeSat missions.

  • The Aerospace Corporation, Los Angeles – Low-Latitude Ionosphere/Thermosphere Enhancements in Density (LLITED) is a scientific investigation mission that will provide the first coincident measurements of Earth’s dusk-side thermosphere/ionosphere at lower altitudes, providing a detailed examination of the equatorial temperature and wind anomaly.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge – CubeSat Laser Infrared CrosslinK (CLICK) is a technology demonstration mission of two 3U full-duplex laser communication terminals capable of supporting data rates of up to 20 Mbps at separations from 25 km to 580 km.
  • NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California
    • NASA’s Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator (PTD)-2 is a technology demonstration mission to flight qualify and characterize a novel thruster provided by Tethers Unlimited, Inc., which uses electrolyzed water as fuel for a small thruster.
    • TechEdSat-10 is a 3U CubeSat that will function as a high temperature, accurate deorbit reentry nanosatellite.
    • AztechSat-1 is a technology demonstration that will use the low-Earth orbit satellite constellation Globalstar for satellite phone and low-speed data communications.
  • NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama – Scintillation Prediction Observations Research Task (SPORT) is a scientific investigation mission to understand preconditions leading to plasma bubbles near Earth’s geomagnetic equator. These are the primary source of radar reflections in the equatorial F-region ionosphere and cause strong scintillations on radio signals passing through them.
  • Ohio University, Athens – Bobcat-1 is a technology demonstration to measure time offsets between global navigation satellite systems using a CubeSat to create a precise time reference in orbit.
  • University of California, Los Angeles – Electron Losses and Fields Investigation’s Spatio-Temporal Ambiguity Resolver (ELFIN*, pronounced “elfin star”) is a scientific investigation to resolve the role of electromagnetic ion cyclotron waves for relativistic electron precipitation from the Van Allen radiation belts during geomagnetic storms and substorms. This is a key question for space weather.
  • University of Colorado, Boulder – The Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment (CUTE) is a scientific investigation to study the atmospheric properties of planets orbiting other stars.
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor – Measurement of Actuator Response and Impedance on Orbit (MARIO) is a technology demonstration flight to characterize the behavior and degradation of macro-fiber composite materials under actuation and structural health monitoring configurations.

To date, the CubeSat Launch Initiative has selected 158 CubeSats from 39 states and launched 59 CubeSat missions as part of the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) through NASA’s Launch Services Program. This year marked the agency’s first CubeSat Launch Initiative selections from Kansas and Puerto Rico.

For additional information on how to apply for a launch opportunity through the NASA CubeSat Launch Initiative, visit:

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