Cubesats to the planets!

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Link here. The article is a good detailed overview of the many upcoming planetary missions that are using small and relatively inexpensive cubesats as either part of their mission, or are the mission itself.

This trend also partly explains the number of new rocket companies like Rocket Lab and Firefly Space Systems that are developing small rockets aimed at launching cubesats. These companies have recognized a growing demand, and are trying to serve it. As the article notes,

Lifts are so hard to come by that the first interplanetary CubeSat — NASA’s twin INSPIRE mini-spacecraft, intended to test key technology for future missions — has been waiting for almost two years. “We still have to find a ride,” says Anthony Freeman, who manages the Innovation Foundry at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.


  • I have to wonder how many cubesats a Shuttle could have boosted. With some 23,000 kg in payload launch capability, my guess would be ‘quite a lot’.

  • Alex

    Charles Pooley (R.I.P.), a forerunner for another kind of space exploration.

    Forget his microlaunchers idea, but recognize his “The case for a New Generation of Very Small”.

  • Localfluff

    23,000 cube sats in a swarm would be a mess. A single 23,000 kg heavy large satellite would certainly be more rational. The problem with cubesats as secondary payload is that they can’t get to where they would want to be. Still fine for many applications, but dedicated launches á la Pooley’s microlauncher idea would be great. As long as small sats depend on large launchers, their potential is not fully realized. Light sails will maybe solve that problem. Hayabusa 2, not mentioned in the article, is on its way and will use a whole set of daughter probes, hopping rovers, explosives, cameras, navigation beacons you name it. It’s a whole little army.

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