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




MICROSAT BLITZ
Small CubeSat Provides Big Space Experience
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Dec 26, 2014


Team RACE: Fifteen JPL Early Career Hires (recently graduated engineers and scientists) worked closely together to get the Radiometer Atmospheric CubeSat Experiment (RACE) ready for flight. Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Any way you slice it, space exploration -- done right -- requires an inordinate range of technical expertise. From designing the spacecraft, the mission proposal and the circuit boards to testing the flight software and putting together budgets, sending something, anything, into the cosmos depends on good people who know their job.

"Although significantly smaller in size, CubeSats contain analogous payloads and subsystems to larger satellites and require similar technical knowledge and resources to traditional flight projects," said Shannon Statham, an engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "The training and experience gained by working on CubeSats are directly applicable to larger missions."

Only three years after receiving her graduate degree in engineering, and having logged time in JPL's Environmental Test Lab, Statham was chosen to become the project manager for NASA's Radiometer Atmospheric CubeSat Experiment (RACE) mission. The position quickly provided the Georgia Institute of Technology grad all the hands-on experience she could have hoped for -- and more.

"The core team for RACE was comprised of 15 early career hires," said Statham. "We each had our designated role, but we all wore many hats and contributed to all aspects of taking the mission from proposal, to design, to testing, to launch delivery. With a very ambitious project schedule and budget, it's what we had to do to get the job done."

RACE was a CubeSat, a small satellite no bigger than a loaf of bread, designed to test components of an Earth-observing radiometer that would be used in future missions by larger, more expensive satellites. RACE was designed to "hitch a ride" aboard a rocket that was already tasked with lofting a spacecraft to the International Space Station. Once at the station, RACE would be set free to orbit Earth as its own satellite, measuring the liquid water path and water vapor that is pertinent to the water cycle and Earth's energy budget from 240 miles up.

"That is one of the beauties of CubeSats," said Statham. "They are small and compact, so placing them in the available nooks and crannies of a rocket already set to carry another payload into space can be quite cost-effective."

When compared to its larger satellite siblings, just about everything about CubeSats is diminutive. Even transporting them is low-key. While their bigger brethren usually require a specially-equipped, air-cushioned tractor trailer or perhaps a military cargo plane, RACE made its way from the lab into the world via an attache-sized box that Statham herself placed in the overhead compartment above her airliner seat.

The RACE team had hoped to show their instrument's performance could rival that of traditional big satellites, resulting in potential cost savings down the line. On the evening of October 28, 2014, Statham and several other RACE early career hires watched as an Antares rocket carrying their satellite lifted off from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Moments into the flight, one of the rocket's main engines failed, sending its space station-destined payload (including RACE) to a fiery end.

"The launch failure was a disappointment, but I think all of us know that's a risk you take," said Statham. "We saw all our hard work effectively go up in flames. But I think everyone on the team is taking this as a very positive experience in general, and we're all moving on to new and exciting endeavors at JPL."

Statham is sticking with CubeSats for the time being. She is working on a JPL concept to fly a space-based radar called "RaInCube." Others on her team have gone on to other CubeSat projects, while still others are working on more traditional space missions or in one of the research labs at JPL.

And what of RACE itself? At the time of this writing, the 13.4-inch-long (34-centimeter) spacecraft has not been recovered. But the technology that Statham and her colleagues pushed from concept, to test bed, to launch pad, lives on. The lessons learned developing the radiometer, the instrument that was the heart of the RACE mission, are being applied to a new CubeSat proposal called Temporal Experiment for Storms and Tropical Systems - Demonstrator (TEMPEST-D).

The next JPL CubeSat is scheduled to fly on January 29 of next year. Called GEO-CAPE ROIC In-Flight Performance Experiment (GRIFEX), the CubeSat will hitch a ride aboard the Soil Moisture Active-Passive (SMAP) launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. GRIFEX is a flight test of advanced technology required for future Earth observers measuring atmospheric composition from geostationary Earth orbit.

JPL has other CubeSat projects in development as well, including missions to the moon, Mars and near-Earth asteroids. JPL recently selected proposals from 10 universities to analyze CubeSat concepts that could enhance a proposed Europa Clipper mission. The concepts will be incorporated into a JPL study on how small probes could be carried as auxiliary payloads.

"These tiny spacecraft are great platforms for increasing the technology readiness of new technologies to buy down risk for larger missions in a relatively short time frame and minimal budget. They can also provide resources to larger missions with minimal impacts to cost and mass," said Statham. "The future looks bright for CubeSats."

.


Related Links
CubeSats at JPL
Microsat News and Nanosat News at SpaceMart.com






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

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




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





MICROSAT BLITZ
NASA Opens Cube Quest Challenge for Largest-Ever Prize of $5 Million
Washington DC (SPX) Nov 26, 2014
Registration now is open for NASA's Cube Quest Challenge, the agency's first in-space competition that offers the agency's largest-ever prize purse. Competitors have a shot at a share of $5 million in prize money and an opportunity to participate in space exploration and technology development, to include a chance at flying their very own CubeSat to the moon and beyond as secondary payload ... read more


MICROSAT BLITZ
'Shooting the Moon' with Satellite Laser Ranging

Moon Express testing compact lunar lander at Kennedy

UK Plans to Drill Into Moon, Explore Feasibility of Manned Base

Carnegie Mellon Unveils Lunar Rover "Andy"

MICROSAT BLITZ
Flying over Becquerel

New idea for transporting spacecraft could ease trip to Mars

NASA, Planetary Scientists Find Meteoritic Evidence of Mars Water Reservoir

Opportunity drives on in no-flash mode

MICROSAT BLITZ
SpaceX Completes First Milestone for Commercial Crew System

NASA Commercial Crew Partners Complete 23 Milestones in 2014

NASA releases video of Orion spacecraft re-entry from astronaut's perspective

XCOR Announces Further Progress on XCOR Lynx Spacecraft

MICROSAT BLITZ
China's Long March puts satellite in orbit on 200th launch

Countdown to China's new space programs begins

China develops new rocket for manned moon mission: media

Service module of China's returned lunar orbiter reaches L2 point

MICROSAT BLITZ
Bright lights: big cities at night

NASA, SpaceX Update Launch of Fifth SpaceX Resupply Mission to ISS

Fifth SpaceX Mission Lets the CATS Out on the International Space Station

Politics no problem, say US and Russian spacefarers

MICROSAT BLITZ
Thirty-five years of Ariane: how Ariane was born

Strela Rocket With Kondor-E Satellite Blasts Off From Baikonur

Soyuz Installed at Baikonur, Expected to Launch Wednesday

Russian Space Agency Pushes Back Earth Imaging Satellite Launch to Friday

MICROSAT BLITZ
Kepler Proves It Can Still Find Planets

NASA's Kepler Reborn, Makes First Exoplanet Find of New Mission

Super-Earth spotted by ground-based telescope, a first

Astronomers spot Pluto-size objects swarming about young sun

MICROSAT BLITZ
Back to future with Roman architectural concrete

Earth's most abundant mineral finally has a name

Danish radars for new British offshore patrol boats

NASA just emailed the space station a new socket wrench




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news 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 All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.