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SmallSat News Archive

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NASA to Demonstrate Miniature CubeSat Swarm Technology 
March 4, 2024 – Preparations are underway for a new, small spacecraft technology demonstration that will test cost-efficient swarm capabilities – the ability for multiple spacecraft to communicate and perform coordinated actions. The PY4 mission’s four CubeSats are slated to launch Monday March 4, 2:05 p.m. PST to low Earth orbit aboard SpaceX’s Transporter-10 mission from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

NASA Awards Contracts for Flight, Payload Integration Services
March 4, 2024 – NASA has selected 15 companies to provide flight and payload integration services to advance technologies and procedures for operating in space, including testing in high-altitude, reduced gravity, or other relevant environments. Examples of payloads include NASA science instruments or technology demonstrations.

Meet NASA’s Twin Spacecraft Headed to the Ends of the Earth
February 12, 2024 – Two new miniature NASA satellites will start crisscrossing Earth’s atmosphere in a few months, detecting heat lost to space. Their observations from the planet’s most bone-chilling regions will help predict how our ice, seas, and weather will change in the face of global warming.

NIAC 2024 Selections
January 4, 2024 – The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program nurtures visionary ideas that could transform future NASA missions with the creation of breakthroughs – radically better or entirely new aerospace concepts – while engaging America’s innovators and entrepreneurs as partners in the journey. NIAC projects study innovative, technically credible, advanced concepts that could one day “Change the Possible” in aerospace.

NASA Selects Universities to Support Small Spacecraft Technologies
December 8, 2023 – Eight U.S. university teams are partnering with NASA to advance technologies for small spacecraft, increasing their capability to support the agency’s science and exploration missions within the Earth, cislunar, and deep space domains. 

NASA’s 6-Pack of Mini-Satellites Ready for Their Moment in the Sun
November 30, 2023 – Most NASA missions feature one spacecraft or, occasionally, a few. The agency’s Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE) is using half a dozen.

Follow NASA’s Starling Swarm in Real Time
October 23, 2023 – NASA’s Starling CubeSats are zipping through low Earth orbit in the agency’s latest test of robotic swarm technologies for space. 

NASA Seeks Development of Universal Payload Interface
October 16, 2023 – NASA is calling on innovators to help solve some of the challenges in rapidly testing technology payloads across a wide range of commercial flight vehicles and test environments. 

NASA Selects Four Small Explorer Mission Concept Studies
September 29, 2023 – These studies aim to expand knowledge of the dynamics of the Sun and related phenomena, such as coronal mass ejections, aurora, and solar wind to better understand the Sun-Earth connection.

NASA Selects Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition Contractors
October 2, 2023 – NASA has selected seven companies to provide commercial data in support of the agency’s Earth science research.

NASA Seeks Proposals for Space Technology Flight Test Services
July 20, 2023 – NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California is seeking proposals from industry in response to its Suborbital/Hosted Orbital Flight and Payload Integration Services 4 solicitation.

NASA’s Starling Mission Sending Swarm of Satellites into Orbit
July 11, 2023 – This July, NASA is sending a team of four six-unit (6U)-sized CubeSats into orbit around Earth to see if they’re able to cooperate on their own, without real-time updates from mission control.

NASA’s Starling Prepares to Launch Small Spacecraft Swarm to Orbit
July 5, 2023 – A quartet of six-unit (6U) CubeSats will show off their moves in a sort of orbital line dance when NASA’s Starling mission tests critical swarm technologies in space.

Communications Achieved for NASA’s Four Starling CubeSats
August 9, 2023 – Mission managers have established command communications with all four of NASA’s Starling CubeSats! The spacecraft are progressing through payload and propulsion tests, the final stage of a pre-operations checklist called commissioning.

NASA Seeks Proposals for Space Technology Flight Test Services
July 20, 2023 – NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California is seeking proposals from industry in response to its Suborbital/Hosted Orbital Flight and Payload Integration Services 4 solicitation.

NASA’s Starling Mission Sending Swarm of Satellites into Orbit
July 11, 2023 – This July, NASA is sending a team of four six-unit (6U)-sized CubeSats into orbit around Earth to see if they’re able to cooperate on their own, without real-time updates from mission control.

NASA’s Starling Prepares to Launch Small Spacecraft Swarm to Orbit
July 5, 2023 – A quartet of six-unit (6U) CubeSats will show off their moves in a sort of orbital line dance when NASA’s Starling mission tests critical swarm technologies in space. The spacecraft are planned to launch no earlier than July 14 aboard Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 facility in Mahia, New Zealand.

Satellite Swarms for Science ‘Grow up’ at NASA Ames
June 13, 2023 – Teamwork makes the dream work, and at NASA that doesn’t apply only to humans. Researchers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley are developing satellite swarms, which are groups of spacecraft working together as a unit, without being managed individually by mission controllers. A swarm’s ability to perform autonomously will make new types of science and exploration possible, particularly as they venture farther into deep space.

CAPSTONE Takes Moon Shot, Successfully Tests Navigation Technology
May 18, 2023 – CAPSTONE successfully tested a navigation technology akin to Earth’s GPS for the first time in May, advancing a capability that could help future space missions more efficiently navigate at the Moon. The spacecraft also captured its first images of the Moon, showing the lunar surface near the Moon’s North Pole as CAPSTONE made a close approach to the Moon on May 3.

NASA Calls End to Lunar Flashlight After Some Tech Successes
May 12, 2023 – While the CubeSat couldn’t reach the lunar South Pole to help seek ice, it fulfilled several technology goals that will empower future missions for the benefit of humanity.

SpaceTech-REDDI-2023 Appendix S1: University Smallsat Technology Partnerships Now Open
April 25, 2023 – The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Headquarters has released a solicitation, entitled “University Smallsat Technology Partnerships (USTP),” as an appendix to the Space Technology Mission Directorate umbrella NASA Research Announcement (NRA) titled “Space Technology Research, Development, Demonstration, and Infusion 2023 (SpaceTech-REDDI-2023).”

NASA, Rocket Lab Launch First Pair of Storm Observing CubeSats
May 8, 2023 – Two NASA CubeSats designed to study tropical cyclones, including hurricanes and typhoons, are in orbit after successfully launching at 1 p.m. Monday, NZST (9 p.m. EDT Sunday).

University Nanosatellite Program Mission Concept Awards Released
March 31, 2023 – NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) has partnered with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force to select eight schools for the University Nanosatellite Program (UNP) Mission Concepts-1: 2023 Summer Series. Running from May through August, the program provides students with systems engineering training, preparing them to work in the space industry while simultaneously enhancing small satellite expertise among faculty at U.S. universities.

NASA Seeks Comment on Space Technology Commercial Flight Solicitation
February 9, 2023 – NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center invites review and comment on the draft of its Suborbital/Hosted Orbital Flight and Payload Integration Services 4 solicitation. The new solicitation will replace contracts for existing services and seeks to add new capabilities – including hosting payloads in orbit and flying NASA researchers on suborbital flights – which will expand opportunities for a wider range of commercial companies to participate.

NASA Selects Nine Technologies for Commercial Flight Tests
January 27, 2023 – NASA has selected nine space technologies for flight testing to advance innovations that address mission needs for both the agency and the commercial space industry.

NASA Selects Experimental Space Technology Concepts for Initial Study
January 9, 2023 – Imagine a future in space where pellet-beam propulsion systems speed up travel to other worlds, pipelines on the Moon transport oxygen between settlements, and Martian bricks grow on their own before being assembled into homes. Researchers will delve into these ideas and more using NASA grant funding.

NASA’s Lunar Flashlight Has Launched – Follow the Mission in Real Time
December 11, 2022 – NASA’s Eyes on the Solar System web-based visualization tool lets you “see” the SmallSat as it journeys to the Moon and seeks out water ice in the darkest craters there.
NASA’s Lunar Flashlight has communicated with mission controllers and confirmed it is healthy after launching Sunday, Dec. 11, at 2:38 a.m. EST (Saturday, Dec. 10, at 11:38 p.m. PST) from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. About 53 minutes after launch, the small satellite, or SmallSat, was released from its dispenser to begin a four-month journey to the Moon to seek out surface water ice in permanently shadowed craters at the lunar South Pole.

NASA’s Lunar Flashlight SmallSat Readies for Launch
November 28, 2022 – When NASA’s Lunar Flashlight launches no earlier than Nov. 30, the tiny satellite will begin a three-month journey, with mission navigators guiding the spacecraft far past the Moon. It will then be slowly pulled back by gravity from Earth and the Sun before settling into a wide science-gathering orbit to hunt for surface water ice inside dark regions on the Moon that haven’t seen sunlight in billions of years.

NASA Awards Foster Small Business Tech with Market Potential
November 17, 2022 – In addition to funding emerging technologies that have potential to support its missions, NASA also invests in commercially viable ideas that could bolster the aerospace market and encourage U.S. economic growth. New awards will support 12 small businesses in developing early-stage, high-risk technology concepts that could be commercialized in areas like climate resilience, low-cost solar cells, and active debris remediation.

CAPSTONE Will Soon Meet the Crux of Its Deep Space Route to the Moon
November 9, 2022 – On Nov. 13, CAPSTONE will reach the Moon and become the first spacecraft to enter into a unique, elongated orbit that will support NASA’s Artemis missions. This microwave oven-sized satellite, weighing just 55 pounds, will be the first CubeSat to fly to and operate at the Moon. The CubeSat serves as a pathfinder for Gateway, a Moon-orbiting space station that is part of NASA’s Artemis program. CAPSTONE’s mission will help reduce risk for future spacecraft, including Orion, by validating innovative navigation technologies and verifying the dynamics of a type of orbit that has never been flown before.

NASA’s Lunar Flashlight Ready to Search for the Moon’s Water Ice
October 28, 2022 – Set for a November launch, the small satellite mission will use lasers to search for water ice inside the darkest craters at the Moon’s South Pole.
The Moon’s poles offer a tantalizing opportunity for human explorers: There may be reservoirs of water ice there that could be purified as drinking water, converted into breathable oxygen, and used as fuel by astronauts. These reservoirs are inside permanently shadowed craters – regions where the Sun never rises above crater rims.

NASA RFI – Explore & Land Thrusts
October 10, 2022 – NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) has released a Request for Information (RFI) intended to obtain information and feedback from commercial industry, other government agencies, and academia on NASA’s Strategic Technology Plan. STMD utilizes the Strategic Framework to organize its technology investments to address desired outcomes. The Framework currently includes four “thrusts” – GO, LAND, LIVE, and EXPLORE – along with corresponding outcomes and capabilities. This RFI specifically addresses the EXPLORE and LAND thrusts.

CAPSTONE Team Stops Spacecraft Spin, Clearing Hurdle to Recovery
October 7, 2022 –  CAPSTONE team members successfully executed an operation to stop the spacecraft’s spin on Friday, Oct. 7, clearing a major hurdle in returning the spacecraft to normal operations.
Following a planned trajectory correction maneuver on Sept. 8, CAPSTONE suffered an issue that caused the spacecraft to spin beyond the capacity of the onboard reaction wheels to control and counter. Data from the spacecraft suggests the most likely cause was a valve-related issue in one of the spacecraft’s eight thrusters.

Around the Moon with NASA’s First Launch of SLS with Orion
August 23, 2022 – Artemis I, formerly Exploration Mission-1, will be the first integrated test of NASA’s deep space exploration systems: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I will be an uncrewed flight test that will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration, and demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond.

CAPSTONE has won Small Satellite Mission of the Year!
August 11, 2022 – Congratulations to our partners @AdvancedSpace, @RocketLab, and @TerranOrbital on this historic mission that is demonstrating new small satellite capabilities and informing our future lunar exploration!

NASA Seeks Student Experiments to Soar in Second TechRise Challenge
August 10, 2022 – NASA is calling on middle and high school students to join the second NASA TechRise Student Challenge, which invites student teams to develop, build, and launch science and technology experiments on high-altitude balloons.

First of NASA’s SunRISE SmallSats Rolls Off Production Line
August 9, 2022 – Building a 6-mile-wide (10-kilometer-wide) telescope in space may sound like science fiction. But through the combined power of six toaster-size satellites, that’s what NASA’s SunRISE will be: a huge radio telescope in orbit that will help deepen scientists’ understanding of explosive space weather events. These phenomena generate particle radiation that can jeopardize astronauts and technology in space while also negatively impacting communications and power grids on Earth.

Follow CAPSTONE’s Four-Month Journey to the Moon in Real Time
July 8, 2022 – NASA’s microwave oven-sized CubeSat dubbed CAPSTONE is flying solo, blazing an unusual yet efficient deep space route to the Moon. The CubeSat is heading toward an unique orbit intended in the future for Gateway, a lunar space station built by the agency and its commercial and international partners that will support science and human exploration under Artemis.

CAPSTONE Launches to Test New Orbit for NASA’s Artemis Moon Missions
June 28, 2022 – NASA’s CubeSat designed to test a unique lunar orbit is safely in space and on the first leg of its journey to the Moon. The spacecraft is heading toward an orbit intended in the future for Gateway, a lunar space station built by the agency and its commercial and international partners that will support NASA’s Artemis program, including astronaut missions.

NASA Sets Live Launch Coverage for CAPSTONE Mission to Moon
June 23, 2022 – NASA will air live launch coverage of the agency’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE), the first spacecraft to fly a specific unique lunar orbit ahead of future missions with crew. 

The Small Businesses Behind CAPSTONE Are Paving Our Path to the Moon
June 8, 2022 – The upcoming Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) mission will be the first spacecraft to fly a unique orbit around the Moon that will be used for Gateway, NASA’s future Moon-orbiting outpost. Gateway is an international collaboration working with commercial partners to establish a long-term human presence in deep space.

CubeSat Set to Demonstrate NASA’s Fastest Laser Link from Space
May 24, 2022 – NASA’s Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator 3 (PTD-3) mission, carrying the TeraByte InfraRed Delivery (TBIRD) system, will debut on May 25 as part of SpaceX’s Transporter-5 rideshare launch. TBIRD will showcase the high-data-rate capabilities of laser communications from a CubeSat in low-Earth orbit. At 200 gigabits per second (Gbps), TBIRD will downlink data at the highest optical rate ever achieved by NASA.

CAPSTONE Charts a New Path for NASA’s Moon-Orbiting Space Station
May 3, 2022 – It will have equilibrium. Poise. Balance. This pathfinding CubeSat will practically be able to kick back and rest in a gravitational sweet spot in space – where the pull of gravity from Earth and the Moon interact to allow for a nearly-stable orbit – allowing physics to do most of the work of keeping it in orbit around the Moon.

NASA Seeks Space and Earth Science Technologies for Flight Testing
May 2, 2022 – NASA’s 2022 TechFlights solicitation is now open! TechFlights offers funding opportunities to researchers from U.S.-based industry, academia, and private research institutions to rapidly test technologies on commercial suborbital vehicles or payloads hosted on commercial orbital platforms with awards up to $750,000 per awardee.  

Small Spacecraft Electric Propulsion Opens New Deep Space Opportunities
April 19, 2022 – The path to the Moon, Mars, and beyond will require a fleet of spacecraft in many different shapes and sizes, including everything from massive rockets that produce millions of pounds of thrust to pioneering small electric propulsion thrusters that fit in the palm of your hand.

NASA’s CAPSTONE Prepares to Enter Unique Orbit
April 6, 2022 – The pathfinder for NASA’s lunar outpost will launch in May to test an orbit around the Moon that has never been flown before. The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) is undergoing final construction – and with solar panel installation and vibration testing now complete, the small satellite will soon be shipped to its launch location in New Zealand.

10 Things to Look Forward to in Science This Year
March 1, 2022 – It is hard to beat the collective achievements of NASA’s science teams, especially over the past year. We’ve landed on Mars, flown the first helicopter beyond our world, launched and deployed the most magnificent science mission ever conceived, observed our home planet, and so much more. Learners of all ages and those looking for hope during a bleak time saw almost unmatched excitement as teams across NASA worked to realize tremendous feats of exploration. These achievements are historic and you may rightly ask:
What is in store during the next year that can match the excitement and attention given during the last 12 months?

12 Companies to Provide Venture Class Launch Services for NASA
January 26, 2022 – NASA has selected 12 companies to provide launch services for the agency’s Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) missions, providing new opportunities for science and technology payloads and fostering a growing U.S. commercial launch market.

Dissecting the Solicitations Webinar
January 20, 2022 – Join the NASA SBIR/STTR program for our next interactive learning session—Dissecting the Solicitations—designed to guide our community of small businesses and research institutions through the program’s 2022 SBIR and STTR Phase I solicitations (open January 6 – March 9, 2022). During the webinar, we’ll help potential proposers like you understand the structure of the solicitation documents, including how we organize NASA’s technology needs. We’ll also cover changes from past years, talk through lesser-known tips and common mistakes, and offer ample time for questions and answers with NASA SBIR/STTR experts.

What are NASA’s Technology Educational Satellites?
January 13, 2022 – NASA’s TechEdSat series of technology demonstrations aims to bring small payloads back to Earth or to the surface of Mars – while pushing the state of the art in a variety of CubeSat technologies and experiments.
TechEdSat is a series of collaborative projects and missions that pairs college and university students with NASA researchers to evaluate new technologies for use in small satellites, or CubeSats. Students do the hands-on work – designing, building, and testing CubeSat spacecraft systems and analyzing the results – for each flight mission, under mentorship of engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

CLICK Team Tests Optical Communications Technology Ahead of Small Spacecraft Swarm Demonstration
December 15, 2021 – Teams from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge and University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville are currently testing components of NASA’s CubeSat Laser Infrared CrosslinK (CLICK) B/C demonstration, aiming to validate that the technology can be packaged into a CubeSat and work as expected. CLICK B/C is the second of two sequential missions designed to advance optical communications capabilities for autonomous fleets of CubeSats.

NASA Awards Challenge Prizes to Startup Companies
November 12, 2021 – NASA has awarded $90,000 each to seven entrepreneurial startup companies under its Entrepreneur’s Challenge program. The awards will advance new technology concepts ranging from novel materials with properties not found in nature to innovative technologies that will enable small satellite (SmallSat) science missions. 

NASA Selects New Mission to Study Storms, Impacts on Climate Models
November 5, 2021 – NASA has selected a new Earth science mission that will study the behavior of tropical storms and thunderstorms, including their impacts on weather and climate models. The mission will be a collection of three SmallSats, flying in tight coordination, called Investigation of Convective Updrafts (INCUS), and is expected to launch in 2027 as part of NASA’s Earth Venture Program.

DART Gets Its CubeSat Companion, Its Last Major Piece
October 1, 2021 – Dangling from a crane inside one of the high bays at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, the Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging Asteroids, or LICIACube, was ready for installation on NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft. Ever so carefully, a team of American and Italian engineers maneuvered the 6U CubeSat, weighing 31 pounds (14 kilograms) and measuring roughly the length of an adult’s hand and forearm, into place.  

CAPSTONE Team Keeps CubeSat on Track During Simulated Flight
September 23, 2021 – Practice makes perfect. As a Moon-bound CubeSat prepares for launch, the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) team at Advanced Space’s operations center in Westminster, Colorado, conducted a series of mission simulations. The simulations virtually put the CubeSat through its orbital dynamics paces. 

NASA Small Business Partners Advance Lunar Technologies
September 10, 2021 – Small businesses around the country have played a critical part in NASA technologies that enable our missions. As NASA returns to the Moon via the Artemis program, in an enhanced, sustainable way; the agency has selected five U.S. small businesses to receive a total of nearly $20 million to accelerate the development of novel lunar capabilities. 

NASA Announces This Year’s CubeSat Launch Initiative Partnership Opportunity
August 9, 2021 – Educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and NASA centers can contribute to the study of Earth, its atmosphere, and beyond while helping NASA achieve its exploration goals through the next round of the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI).

CAPSTONE’s CubeSat Prepares for Lunar Flight
August 6, 2021 – Small spacecraft will play a big role in lunar exploration, including a Moon-bound CubeSat launching later this year.
The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, or CAPSTONE, mission team is making the final preparations for the spacecraft that will make CubeSat history over a series of technological and operational firsts for the small platform. 

What is the Entrepeneurs Challenge?
July 15, 2021 – Following up on the success of the 2020 NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) Entrepreneurs Challenge, NASA has once again partnered with the global aerospace hub, Starburst, to renew the Entrepreneurs Challenge (EC) for 2021!
The Entrepreneurs Challenge seeks to invite fresh ideas and new participants in supporting development of instruments and technologies with the potential to advance the agency’s science mission goals.

What is NASA’s Payload Accelerator for CubeSat Endeavors Initiative?
June 29, 2021 – New small spacecraft technologies could transform future deep space mission capabilities and bring down mission costs. NASA’s Payload Accelerator for CubeSat Endeavors, or PACE, initiative is finding ways to speed up the process of getting small spacecraft technologies ready for prime time.

Advanced Composite Solar Sail System: Using Sunlight to Power Deep Space Exploration
June 23, 2021 – NASA is developing new deployable structures and materials technologies for solar sail propulsion systems destined for future low-cost deep space missions. Just as a sailboat is powered by wind in a sail, solar sails employ the pressure of sunlight for propulsion, eliminating the need for conventional rocket propellant.

NASA Announces 12th Round of Candidates for CubeSat Space Missions
April 7, 2021 – 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.

Innovative Propulsion System Gets Ready to Help Study Moon Orbit for Artemis
March 22, 2021 – In 2021, NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, or CAPSTONE, CubeSat will launch to a never-before-used cislunar orbit near the Moon.

PI Launchpad: Developing Your First Flight Mission Proposal
NASA SMD, the University of Arizona, the University of Michigan, JPL, and the Heising-Simons Foundation are organizing a virtual workshop in June of 2021 for researchers and engineers who would like to submit a NASA space mission proposal in the next few years but don’t know where to start. We are interested in broadening the pool of potential NASA space mission PI’s. People with marginalized identities are strongly encouraged to apply. There is no cost to attend the workshop.

Picking up the PACE: Accelerating Development of Deep Space Technologies
March 17, 2021 – Payload Accelerator for CubeSat Endeavors initiative, or PACE, is designed to aggressively shorten conventional technology testing timelines. The effort links two NASA programs – Flight Opportunities and Small Spacecraft Technology – efficiently connecting payloads to both suborbital and orbital flight tests that increase the likelihood of a technology being selected for a space exploration mission. PACE also works with other NASA programs like the CubeSat Launch Initiative.

TechEdSat-7’s Flight Mission Begins
January 27, 2021 – On Jan. 17, 2021, TechEdSat-7 deployed into low-Earth orbit from Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket at an altitude of 310 miles – about 60 miles higher than the International Space Station’s orbit. This 2-unit CubeSat will test technologies over the mission’s approximately 12 months of spaceflight. TechEdSat-7 was one of nine CubeSat missions on Virgin Orbit’s Launch Demo 2 as part of NASA’s 20th Educational Launch of Nanosatellites mission.
These missions test cutting-edge technologies relevant to the overall goal of using cost-effective CubeSats to bring small payloads from orbit back to Earth or to the surface of other worlds, such as Mars.

NASA CubeSat to Demonstrate Water-Fueled Moves in Space
January 19, 2021 – A NASA CubeSat will launch into low-Earth orbit to demonstrate a new type of propulsion system. Carrying a pint of liquid water as fuel, the system will split the water into hydrogen and oxygen in space and burn them in a tiny rocket engine for thrust.

What is V-R3x?
January 21, 2021 – Learning how to communicate and navigate multiple spacecraft autonomously in space is a technology challenge that will become even more important to solve as NASA continues to operate in low-Earth orbit and beyond. The V-R3x mission uses a swarm of three small satellites to demonstrate new technologies and techniques for radio networking and navigation.

NASA Selects 4 Concepts for Small Missions to Study Universe’s Secrets
January 7, 2021 – NASA has chosen four small-scale astrophysics missions for further concept development in a new program called Pioneers. Through small satellites and scientific balloons, these selections enable new platforms for exploring cosmic phenomena such as galaxy evolution, exoplanets, high-energy neutrinos, and neutron star mergers.

NASA Approves Heliophysics Missions to Explore Sun, Earth’s Aurora
December 29, 2020 – NASA has approved two heliophysics missions to explore the Sun and the system that drives space weather near Earth. Together, NASA’s contribution to the Extreme Ultraviolet High-Throughput Spectroscopic Telescope Epsilon Mission, or EUVST, and the Electrojet Zeeman Imaging Explorer, or EZIE, will help us understand the Sun and Earth as an interconnected system.

NASA Awards Venture Class Launch Services Demonstration 2 Contract
December 11, 2020 – 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

NASA Selects Heliophysics Missions of Opportunity for Space Science Research and Technology Demonstration
December 3, 2020 – NASA has selected two SmallSat missions – a study of Earth’s outer most atmosphere and a solar sail spaceflight test mission – to share a ride to space in 2025 with the agency’s Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP).

The missions – the Global Lyman-alpha Imagers of the Dynamic Exosphere (GLIDE) and Solar Cruiser – were selected as Solar Terrestrial Probes (STP) Missions of Opportunity. GLIDE will help researchers understand the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere – the exosphere – where it touches space. Solar Cruiser demonstrate the use of solar photons for propulsion in space.

A Small Satellite With Planetary Ambitions
November 24, 2020 – CubeSat Particle Aggregation and Collision Experiment, or Q-PACE will capture video of thousands of gentle collisions between particles in microgravity to understand the earliest steps in planet formation. A NASA-sponsored team at the University of Central Florida (UCF) has built a small satellite designed to study how tiny particles collide and aggregate in microgravity. The spacecraft, called the CubeSat Particle Aggregation and Collision Experiment, or Q-PACE, has been integrated onto Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne space vehicle, and is scheduled for launch no earlier than December 8, 2020. Q-PACE is part of NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program. The mission was selected in 2015 as part of NASA’s Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx) Program.

2020 NASA Announcement of Collaboration Opportunity (ACO) Selections
November 9, 2020 – NASA has selected 17 U.S. companies for 20 partnerships to mature industry-developed space technologies for the Moon and beyond through the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s 2020 Announcement of Collaboration Opportunity (ACO). The selected proposals are relevant to technology topic areas outlined in the solicitation, including cryogenic fluid management and propulsion; advanced propulsion; sustainable power; in-situ propellant and consumable production; intelligent/resilient systems and advanced robotics; advanced materials and structures; entry, descent, and landing; and small spacecraft technologies.

NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Plan – Request for Information (RFI)
October 2, 2020 – NASA/Ames Research Center (ARC) on behalf of the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s (STMD) Small Spacecraft Technology (SST) Program is hereby soliciting information from potential sources for inputs on the desired future states / mini design reference capabilities (called “Outcomes”) and the associated “Technology Gaps” that need to be closed to achieve those “Outcomes” that are listed in NASA STMD’s Small Spacecraft Technology Plan.

NASA Selects Proposals for New Space Environment Missions
August 28, 2020 – NASA has selected five proposals for concept studies of missions to help improve understanding of the dynamics of the Sun and the constantly changing space environment with which it interacts around Earth. The information will improve understanding about the universe as well as offer key information to help protect astronauts, satellites, and communications signals – such as GPS – in space.

TechEdSat-10 Deploys from the Space Station
August 5, 2020 – On July 13, TechEdSat-10, a six-unit CubeSat deployed from the International Space Station. The mission is demonstrating increased storage and power capabilities that could enable future science and exploration using small spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit.

July 31, 2020 – A microwave oven–sized CubeSat weighing just 55 pounds will serve as the first spacecraft to test a unique, elliptical lunar orbit as part of NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE).

CubeSat Launch Initiative Deploys 109th CubeSat
July 13, 2020 – The 109th CubeSat (small satellite) selected through NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative deployed July 13 at 12:55 pm EDT.  The Technology Education Satellite 10 (TechEdSat-10) deployed from the International Space Station via the commercially developed Nanoracks CubeSat Deployer.  

NASA Invites Competitors to Shoot for the Moon and Beyond
June 15, 2020 – 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.

NASA CubeSat Mission to Gather Vital Space Weather Data
May 7, 2020 – NASA has selected a new pathfinding CubeSat mission to gather data not collected since the agency flew the Dynamics Explorer in the early 1980s.

NASA CubeSat Will Shine a Laser Light on the Moon’s Darkest Craters
April 27, 2020 – As astronauts explore the Moon during the Artemis program, they may need to make use of the resources that already exist on the lunar surface. Take water, for instance: Because it’s a heavy and therefore expensive resource to launch from Earth, our future explorers might have to seek out ice to mine. Once excavated, it can be melted and purified for drinking and used for rocket fuel. But how much water is there on the Moon, and where might we find it?

NASA Selects Mission to Study Causes of Giant Solar Particle Storms
March 30, 2020 – NASA has selected a new mission to study how the Sun generates and releases giant space weather storms – known as solar particle storms – into planetary space. Not only will such information improve understanding of how our solar system works, but it ultimately can help protect astronauts traveling to the Moon and Mars by providing better information on how the Sun’s radiation affects the space environment they must travel through.

NASA Selects Universities for Collaborative Development of Small Spacecraft Technologies
March 11, 2020 – Nine university teams will collaborate with NASA to advance small spacecraft technologies that will help pave the way for human and robotic lunar exploration. Under NASA’s Artemis program the agency plans to return humans to the Moon by 2024; small spacecraft, or “SmallSats,” will help blaze the trail.

NASA CubeSats Play Big Role in Lunar Exploration
February 25, 2020 – They might be small, but they’re also mighty. Very small and innovative spacecraft called CubeSats are poised to play a role in NASA’s Artemis program, which will return humans to the Moon by 2024.

NASA Awards Contract to Launch CubeSat to Moon from Virginia
February 14, 2020 – NASA has selected Rocket Lab of Huntington Beach, California, to provide launch services for the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) CubeSat.

NASA SBIR/STTR 2020 Solicitation Now Open!
February 6, 2020 – See Focus Area 21 Small Spacecraft Technologies for the list of relevant subtopics. Small spacecraft can accomplish commercial, science and exploration missions in unique and more affordable ways than can large conventional spacecraft.

Tiny Satellite for Studying Distant Planets Goes Quiet
January 3, 2020 – Mission operators at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have lost contact with the ASTERIA satellite, a briefcase-sized spacecraft designed to study planets outside our solar system. The last successful communication with ASTERIA, short for Arcsecond Space Telescope Enabling Research in Astrophysics, was on Dec. 5; attempts to contact it are expected to continue into March 2020.

NASA Announces New Tipping Point Partnerships for Moon and Mars Technologies
September 27, 2019 – NASA has selected 14 American companies as partners whose technologies will help enable the agency’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.

NASA Awards $15.75 Million to US Small Businesses for Continued Research, Development
September 21, 2019 – Twenty-one American small businesses will assist in research relevant to NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach as well as other needs across the agency. The technology development could also bring about Earth-based applications.

2019 Cycle II
September 19, 2019 – Innovators around the world answered NASA iTech’s call for inventive ideas that could benefit space exploration as well as solve challenges on Earth. Of the submissions to the second cycle of the competition in 2019, NASA has selected 25 semifinalists.

NASA Selects Early Career Faculty at US Universities for Space Tech Research
September 13, 2019 – University campuses are bursting with ideas for novel space technologies, and NASA takes note. Through the agency’s Space Technology Research Grants program, NASA has selected nine university-led research proposals to study early-stage technologies. The grants allow untenured, assistant professors early in their careers to lend their expertise and help identify and mature capabilities of interest to NASA.

NASA Funds CubeSat Pathfinder Mission to Unique Lunar Orbit
September 13, 2019 – NASA has awarded a $13.7 million contract to Advanced Space of Boulder, Colorado, to develop and operate a CubeSat mission to the same lunar orbit targeted for Gateway – an orbiting outpost astronauts will visit before descending to the surface of the Moon in a landing system as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

NASA Astrophysics Eyes Big Science with Small Satellites
September 12, 2019 – The nine proposed small satellite concepts have completed their six-month feasibility studies. The summaries for each concept, along with estimates of mission costs (conducted at each respective NASA Center mission study offices) are as follows:

An Inside Look at Hurricane Dorian from a Mini Satellite
September 4, 2019 – A new view of Hurricane Dorian shows the layers of the storm, as seen by an experimental NASA weather satellite that’s the size of a cereal box. TEMPEST-D reveals rain bands in four layers of the storm as Hurricane Dorian approaches Florida on Sept. 3, 2019.

TEMPEST-D CubeSat Sees Hurricane Dorian in 3D
September 4, 2019 – a weather-observing satellite the size of a cereal box — captured imagery of Hurricane Dorian off the coast of Florida at 2 a.m. EDT on Sep. 3, 2019 (11 p.m. PDT on Sept. 2, 2019).

NASA Astrophysics Eyes Big Science with Small Satellites
August 4, 2019 – NASA has selected nine proposals to study using small satellites, or SmallSats, for advanced astronomical space-based observations. The proposed SmallSat studies are a fraction of the size, weight, and cost of a typical space-bound astrophysics mission.

CubeSats Dance: One Water-Powered NASA Spacecraft Commands Another in Orbit
August 2, 2019 – On June 21, 2019, NASA demonstrated the first coordinated maneuver between two CubeSats in low-Earth orbit as part of NASA’s Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration mission.

SIMPLEx Small Satellite Concept Finalists Target Moon, Mars and Beyond
June 19, 2019 – NASA has selected three finalists among a dozen concepts for future small satellites. The finalists include a 2022 robotic mission to study two asteroid systems, twin spacecraft to study the effects of energetic particles around Mars, and a lunar orbiter to study water on the Moon. At least one of these missions is expected to move to final selection and flight.

What is KickSat-2?
June 3, 2019 – Small Satellites Just Got Even Smaller. Revolutionary technology often comes in small packages. CubeSats – shoebox-size satellites – transformed what kind of science and computing we could accomplish in orbit around Earth and other planetary bodies. Now, one particular CubeSat project will usher in the next evolution of satellites. KickSat-2 is a project to demonstrate the viability of truly tiny satellites, called ChipSats or Sprites.

NASA Demos CubeSat Laser Communications Capability
April 9, 2019 – Two NASA CubeSats teamed up on an impromptu optical, or laser, communications pointing experiment. The laser beam is seen as a brief flash of light close to the center of the focal plane, to the left of Earth’s horizon.

NASA Announces Tenth Round of Candidates for CubeSat Space Missions
March 14, 2019 – An inflatable space antenna and a solar sail material test are among 16 small research satellites from 10 states NASA has selected to fly as auxiliary payloads aboard space missions planned to launch in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

NASA Announces Opportunities to Advance ‘Tipping Point’ Space Technologies
March 4, 2019 – NASA recognizes that there is commercial interest in the development of affordable high-efficiency propulsion systems for spacecraft in the 60 kg to 200 kg range. Commercial applications of such systems include communications or Earth observation constellations with large numbers of small spacecraft. NASA is interested in enabling rapid and more affordable deep space missions with a similar class of spacecraft.

Mars Cube One Technology Demonstration
March 1, 2019 – A technology demonstration called Mars Cube One (MarCO) will be the first deep space use of miniature, modular “CubeSat” spacecraft design. The pair of briefcase-size spacecraft — MarCO-A and B — will launch on the same rocket as InSight and carry out a number of risky communication and navigation flight experiments.

Technology Educational Satellite 8 – Packed with Technology
February 5, 2019 – NASA’s Technology Educational Satellite 8 (TechEdSat-8) launched to the International Space Station Dec. 4, 2018 on the 16th Commercial Resupply Services Mission-16 (CRS-16) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The satellite was deployed from the space station on Jan. 31.

NASA Sends CubeSats to Space on First Dedicated Launch with US Partner Rocket Lab
December 17, 2018 – A series of new CubeSats now are in space, conducting a variety of scientific investigations and technology demonstrations, following launch Sunday of Rocket Lab’s first mission for NASA under a Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) contract.

19th Educational Launch of NanoSatellites (ELaNa) Mission Profiles
December 11, 2018 – Ten CubeSats on the Rocket Lab Flight 4 are launching as the 19th Educational Launch of NanoSatellites (ELaNa) mission through NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative. Rocket Lab Flight 4 will launch from Mahia, New Zealand no earlier than December 11, 2018. Profiles of each mission are listed.

Venture Class Rockets: First Class Flights for CubeSats
December 3, 2018 – For years, tiny CubeSat satellites could only fly into space as hitchhikers, riding along with larger, primary payloads. Now, thanks to Venture Class Launch Services, these small packages of big science are getting their own rides into space on dedicated rockets — and on their own terms. Rocket Lab USA of Huntington Beach, California, and Virgin Orbit of Long Beach, California, are the two companies poised to propel CubeSats from coach class to first class. Music Courtesy of Gothic Storm Music.

NASA Mission Supports Launch of CubeSats Built by Middle and High School Students
December 3, 2018 – NASA has enabled the deployment of two small research satellites, or CubeSats, developed by a middle school and high school. These CubeSat missions were selected through the CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) as the 24th installment of the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) missions. The ELaNa 24 mission embarked on the first Spaceflight Industries contracted small payload mission for NASA on a Falcon 9 rocket that lifted off Dec. 3 at 10:32 a.m. PST from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Over the past three years, more than 200 students have been involved in the design, development and construction of these CubeSats that will be deployed.

NASA Hears MarCO CubeSats Loud and Clear from Mars
November 27, 2018 – NASA’s MarCO mission was built to see whether two experimental, briefcase-sized spacecraft could survive the trip to deep space, and the two CubeSats proved more than able. After cruising along behind NASA’s InSight for seven months, they successfully relayed data back down to Earth from the lander during its descent to the Martian surface on Monday, Nov. 26.

Farewell to Mars
November 26, 2018 – MarCO-B, one of the experimental Mars Cube One (MarCO) CubeSats, took this image of Mars from about 4,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) away during its flyby of the Red Planet on Nov. 26, 2018. MarCO-B was flying by Mars with its twin, MarCO-A, to attempt to serve as communications relays for NASA’s InSight spacecraft as it landed on Mars.

How NASA Will Know When InSight Touches Down
November 26, 2018 – What’s the sound of a touchdown on Mars?
If you’re at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, it sounds like winning the Super Bowl: cheers, laughter and lots of hollering.
But in the minutes before that, NASA’s InSight team will be monitoring the Mars lander’s radio signals using a variety of spacecraft — and even radio telescopes here on Earth — to suss out what’s happening 91 million miles (146 million km) away.

NASA Reliability Initiative Works to Improve Small Satellite Mission Confidence
October 30, 2018 – A new public-private initiative is working to improve Small Satellite (SmallSat) mission confidence. Historically, using CubeSats or SmallSats for certain types of missions have largely been viewed as unviable due to the mission success rate associated with these missions.

Dellingr: The Little CubeSat That Could
October 23, 2018 – Zipping through the sky 250 miles up is a shoebox-sized bundle of detectors and electronics named Dellingr. The namesake of the mythological Norse god of the dawn, Dellingr is among a new breed of spacecraft known as a CubeSat.

NASA Seeks Partnerships with U.S. Companies to Advance Exploration Space Tech
October 2, 2018 – NASA partnerships are crucial for expanding capabilities and opportunities in space. The agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) is seeking new partnerships with U.S. companies through an Announcement of Collaboration Opportunity (ACO) solicitation.

NASA Tests Tiny Satellites to Track Global Storms
September 25, 2018 – How many times have you stepped outside into a surprise rainstorm without an umbrella and wished that weather forecasts were more accurate?

Small Satellite Demonstrates Possible Solution for ‘Space Junk’
September 20, 2018 – International Space Station serves as humanity’s orbital research platform, conducting a variety of experiments and research projects while in orbit around the planet.

NASA Team Demonstrates “Science on a Shoestring” with Greenhouse Gas-Measuring Instrument
August 14, 2018 – A novel instrument that has already proven its mettle on field campaigns will attempt to measure atmospheric greenhouse gases from an occultation-viewing, low-Earth-orbiting CubeSat mission called Mini-Carb early next year — marking the first time this type of instrument has flown in space.

NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative Connects Educators and Nonprofits with Space
August 6, 2018 – Accredited education institutions, nonprofit organizations and NASA centers can join the adventure and challenge of space while helping the agency achieve its exploration goals, through the next round of the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI). Applicants must submit proposals by 4:30 p.m. EST, Nov. 20.

NASA’s Laser Communications Small Satellite Mission Demonstrates Technology First
August 2, 2018 – For the first time, a free-flying CubeSat has successfully completed space-to-ground optical communications. The Optical Communication and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) mission, designed and built by The Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California, sent a laser signal from low-Earth orbit to a ground station at the company’s facilities.

New Mini Satellite Will Study Milky Way’s Halo
July 18, 2018 – Astronomers keep coming up short when they survey “normal” matter, the material that makes up galaxies, stars and planets. A new NASA-sponsored CubeSat mission called HaloSat, deployed from the International Space Station on July 13, will help scientists search for the universe’s missing matter by studying X-rays from hot gas surrounding our Milky Way galaxy.

Tiny Cameras Snap Pictures of Great Lake
July 3, 2018 – These two images of Lake Superior and surrounding area show the first data downlinked from the CubeSat Multispectral Observation System (CUMULOS) cameras. The image on the left, taken by a short-wavelength infrared (SWIR) camera, captures a larger area of the lake and shows strong contrast between land and water features.

NASA Tests Solar Sail for CubeSat that Will Study Near-Earth Asteroids
June 29, 2018 – NASA’s Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, a small satellite designed to study asteroids close to Earth, performed a successful deployment test June 28 of the solar sail that will launch on Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). The test was performed in an indoor clean room at the NeXolve facility in Huntsville, Alabama.

Planetary Exploration Using Small Spacecraft
May 29, 2018 – The 2019 IEEE Aerospace Conference in Big Sky, Montana, March 2 – 9, 2019 will host the following session in Track 8.

Small Packages to Test Big Space Technology Advances
May 17, 2018 – This weekend, when the next cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station lifts off from NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, it will be carrying among its supplies and experiments three cereal box-sized satellites that will be used to test and demonstrate the next generation of Earth-observing technology.

What Happens After Launch: Two NASA Educational CubeSats
May 14, 2018 – A small group of students recently got to experience a rare, spaceflight thrill: seeing if the tiny satellite, called a CubeSat, they designed and built not only survived a rocket launch to space but also successfully gathered and transmitted data once on orbit.

NASA’s First Deep-Space CubeSats Say: ‘Polo!’
May 5, 2018 – NASA has received radio signals indicating that the first-ever CubeSats headed to deep space are alive and well. The first signal was received at 12:15 p.m. PST (3:15 p.m. EST) today; the second at 1:58 p.m. PST (4:58 p.m. EST). Engineers will now be performing a series of checks before both CubeSats enter their cruise to deep space.

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