Two CubeSats Set to Launch on ELaNa 39 Mission

Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket is attached to the underside of the company's Cosmic Girl aircraft.
Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket is attached to the underside of the company’s Cosmic Girl – a Boeing 747-400 carrier aircraft – at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. LauncherOne is carrying two small satellites, or CubeSats, for NASA’s ELaNa 39 mission. Photo credit: Virgin Orbit

Two small NASA-sponsored research satellites, or CubeSats, are preparing to launch on Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket as part of the agency’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) 39 mission. The rocket, attached to the underside of the company’s Cosmic Girl aircraft, will be air launched when the 747-aircraft reaches its specified altitude over the Pacific Ocean. Takeoff is currently scheduled for June 29, 2022, from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

An up-close view of Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket.
Seen here is an up-close view of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket attached to the underside of the company’s Cosmic Girl aircraft at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. Photo credit: Virgin Orbit

Once LauncherOne is released from Cosmic Girl, the rocket’s NewtonThree first stage engine will ignite to start the launch sequence that will send the CubeSats into low-Earth orbit.

The two satellites comprising ELaNa 39 are NASA Langley Research Center’s GPX2 and the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Compact Total Irradiance Monitor-Flight Demonstration, or CTIM-FD. They were selected through NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) – a NASA effort to provide U.S. educational institutions, informal educational institutions such as museums and science centers, nonprofits with an education/outreach component, and NASA centers with low-cost access to space.

Langley’s GPX2 will use commercial-off-the-shelf differential global positioning systems to demonstrate autonomous, close-proximity operations for small satellites in orbit, such as flying in formation or docking. If successful, this could help reduce costs and greatly simplify in-orbit operations.

CTIM-FD will spend one year in orbit, measuring total solar irradiance (TSI) – data that describes the amount of incident solar radiation that reaches the Earth from the Sun. These levels impact local weather conditions as well as global climate change. The flight demonstration will show whether small satellites are as effective at measuring TSI as the larger, space-based remote sensors in use currently.

For more information about NASA’s CSLI, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/heo/home/CubeSats_initiative

NASA to Launch Small Satellites on Next SpaceX Cargo Mission

Middle schoolers are sending their science fair project to space, one of five CubeSats on a ride-share on a Commercial Resupply Services, CRS-25. The CapSat-1 team are three 7th-grade students from the Weiss School in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
Middle schoolers are sending their science fair project to space, one of five CubeSats on a ride-share on the 25th Commercial Resupply Services, CRS-25. The CapSat-1 team are three 7th-grade students from the Weiss School in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Photo credit: Weiss School

NASA’s Launch Services Program is preparing to send five CubeSats to the International Space Station as part of the ELaNa 45 (Educational Launch of Nanosatellites) mission aboard SpaceX’s 25th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-25) mission for NASA. Liftoff is scheduled for June 7 from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The small satellites were selected through NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative, which provides low-cost access to space for U.S. educational institutions, NASA centers, and others to develop and demonstrate novel technologies in space and to inspire and grow the next generation of scientists, engineers, and technologists.

The CubeSats were developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; The Weiss School in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida; and the University of South Alabama in Mobile. The CubeSats will be deployed from the space station.

NASA has selected over 200 CubeSat missions from more than 100 unique organizations representing 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico through the CubeSat Launch Initiative since 2010. To date, 134 CubeSat missions have launched into space through ELaNa rideshare opportunities.

NASA Announces 13th Round of Candidates for CubeSat Space Missions

A map showing the next round of CubeSat Launch Initiative selections for the 2023-2026 timeframe.
NASA has selected eight small research satellites from seven states to fly as either auxiliary payloads or deployments from the International Space Station during the 2023-2026 timeframe. Photo credit: NASA

NASA has selected eight small research satellites from seven states to fly as either auxiliary payloads or deployments from the International Space Station (ISS). These missions are currently planned to launch in the 2023-2026 timeframe. 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 on August 9, 2021.

The organizations and the CubeSats chosen during this selection round are:

  • Arizona State University – Star-Planet Activity Research CubeSat (SPARCS)
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Virtual Super-Resolution Optics with Reconfigurable Swarms (VISORS)
  • NASA Langley Research Center – ARCSTONE
  • California Polytechnic State University – Additively Manufactured Deployable Radiator with Oscillating Heat Pipes (AMDROHPSat)
  • Olin College – Space Weather Atmospheric Reconfigurable Multiscale Experiment (SWARM-EX)
  • University of New Hampshire – 3U3-A
  • Utah State University – Active Cooling for Multispectral Earth Sensors (ACMES)
  • Arizona State University – Deployable Optical Receiver Aperture (DORA)

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