Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

NASA's First Minisatellite Mission Comes to Successful End
by Staff Writers
Huntsville AL (SPX) Dec 04, 2012

Among the NASA innovations enabled by FASTSAT during its mission to test low-technology-readiness experiments were: the Miniature Imager for Neutral Ionospheric Atoms and Magnetospheric Electrons, or MINI-ME; the Plasma Impedance Spectrum Analyzer, or PISA; and FASTSAT's ability to eject a nanosatellite, NanoSail-D, from a minisatellite.

After two successful years of on-orbit operations, NASA's Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite, or FASTSAT, mission is coming to an end. FASTSAT successfully demonstrated a capability to build, deploy and operate a science and technology flight mission at lower costs than previously possible.

The satellite was designed, developed and tested over a period of 14 months at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., in partnership with the Von Braun Center for Science and Innovation and Dynetics, both of Huntsville, and the Department of Defense's Space Test Program.

FASTSAT used off-the-shelf commercial hardware provided by NASA and a group of industry partners. Weighing slightly less than 400 pounds and carrying six technology and atmospheric science experiments, FASTSAT provided an opportunity to conduct innovative research and mature the readiness of new technologies for future missions.

"FASTSAT demonstrated that an 'outside the box' solution afforded a highly synergistic concept which satisfied experiment, payload and launch schedule requirements," said Mark Boudreaux, FASTSAT project manager at the Marshall Center.

"This successful mission brings us closer to realizing a unique, small-satellite platform and the environment needed to perform low-cost research in space."

FASTSAT was launched by the DoD Space Test Program from Kodiak, Alaska, in November 2010, and completed two years on orbit. It served as an autonomous research laboratory in low-Earth orbit, containing all the necessary resources to conduct scientific and technology research operations for all onboard experiments.

"This project has validated the effectiveness of a commercial/government partnership, leveraging the resources and capabilities of Dynetics and the expertise of the Marshall Space Flight Center," said Steve Cook, Dynetics' director of Space Technologies.

Marty Kress, executive director of the Von Braun Center for Science and Innovation, agreed. "FASTSAT provided a comprehensive and cost-effective capability, which resulted in affordable and flexible access to space for a diverse set of users," he said.

"Such a minisatellite capability is an invaluable asset, making future partnerships between government, industry and academia more viable and mutually beneficial than ever before."

Among the NASA innovations enabled by FASTSAT during its mission to test low-technology-readiness experiments were: the Miniature Imager for Neutral Ionospheric Atoms and Magnetospheric Electrons, or MINI-ME; the Plasma Impedance Spectrum Analyzer, or PISA; and FASTSAT's ability to eject a nanosatellite, NanoSail-D, from a minisatellite.

MINI-ME, managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., continues to collect data on neutral atoms and electrons from Earth's magnetosphere in a variety of conditions.

The data collected from MINI-ME is helping NASA scientists and engineers design two similar instruments for a sounding rocket mission planned for early 2013. That mission, dubbed VISIONS for "visualizing ion outflow via neutral atom imaging during a substorm," will aid researchers in better understanding space weather.

"Among the MINI-ME science results are the first observations of neutral molecular outflow," said Mike Collier, principal investigator for MINI-ME. "Data from MINI-ME are helping the VISIONS investigators optimize the mission science return."

PISA, also managed by Goddard, has completed 15,000 hours of observations and gathered more than 15 gigabytes of raw data captured in a variety of locations and environments during the mission.

"FASTSAT has been a great opportunity to test the PISA instrument concept, while gathering valuable data about how the ionosphere changes over time as the sun gets closer to its 11-year peak of activity," said Doug Rowland, principal investigator for PISA.

"We've seen the ionosphere go from being 'depressed' close to launch, to a more 'inflated' state over the last two years.

"With the strong need for improved understanding of our space environment, platforms such as FASTSAT and instruments such as PISA are going to become more important, providing low-cost, flexible platforms for space environment monitoring and scientific measurements," Rowland added.

The NanoSail-D satellite was jointly designed and built by NASA engineers from the Marshall Center and NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. Key sail design support was provided by ManTech/NeXolve Corp. of Huntsville.

The NanoSail-D experiment was managed by Marshall and was jointly sponsored as a DoD Space Test Program payload by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and the Von Braun Center for Science and Innovation.

The deployment of Nanosail-D from FASTSAT was the first time NASA deployed a solar sail in low-Earth orbit. "The NanoSail-D mission produced a wealth of data that will be useful in understanding how these types of passive deorbit devices react to the upper atmosphere," said Joe Casas, FASTSAT project scientist at the Marshall Center.

"The data collected from the mission is intended to study and better understand the drag influences of Earth's upper atmosphere on satellite orbital re-entry," Casas said.

Thirteen Huntsville-area firms and the University of Alabama in Huntsville were part of the project team.


Related Links
Microsat News and Nanosat News at

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Iran capable of launching nano-satellites weighing below 10 kg: official
Tehran (XNA) Oct 19, 2012
Iran Space Agency (ISA) Director Hamid Fazeli said the Islamic republic has the capability to launch nano-satellites weighing below 10 kg into space, Tehran Times daily reported Thursday. Some of Asian countries and an Austrian university have announced readiness to set their satellites into orbit using Iranian space shuttles, Fazeli was quoted as saying. He said Iran is among a hand ... read more

Chinese astronauts may grow veg on Moon

WSU researchers use 3-D printer to make parts from moon rock

China's Chang'e-3 to land on moon next year

Moon crater yields impact clues

NASA to send new rover to Mars in 2020

Safe Driving on Mars

Ancient Mars May Have Captured Enormous Floodwaters

NASA Announces Multi-Year Mars Program With New Rover In 2020

Civil Space 2013 Symposium

SciTechTalk: Media fixes for space junkies

NASA Voyager 1 Encounters New Region in Deep Space

Voyager discovers 'magnetic highway' at edge of solar system

Mr Xi in Space

China plans manned space launch in 2013: state media

China to launch manned spacecraft

Tiangong 1 Parked And Waiting As Shenzhou 10 Mission Prep Continues

New Crew of ISS to Perform Two Spacewalks

Space Station to reposition for science

Spacewalks on agenda for new space crew

NASA, Roscosmos Assign Veteran Crew to Yearlong Space Station Mission

Sea Launch Delivers the EUTELSAT 70B Spacecraft into Orbit

S. Korea readies new bid to join global space club

Arianespace Lofts Pleiades 1B Using Soyuz Medium-lift launcher

Japan Schedules Radar Satellite Launch

Astronomers discover and 'weigh' infant solar system

Search for Life Suggests Solar Systems More Habitable than Ours

Do missing Jupiters mean massive comet belts?

Brown Dwarfs May Grow Rocky Planets

Apple's CEO to bring production back to US

Judge calls for "global peace" in Apple-Samsung war

NASA Investigates Use of 'Trailblazing' Material for New Sensors

Boeing and JVC Add More Realism to Military Training Simulation

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement