Photo credit: NASA
By Mary Beth Griggs
Great things come in very small packages. When the Space Launch System–NASA’s new heavy-duty rocket–lifts off in 2018, the primary mission will be to put the uncrewed Orion capsule in a safe orbit out past the moon. (Safe being a key word here.) But the secondary part of Exploration Mission-1 will be to launch several tiny satellites, sending them out to the moon, space, and even an asteroid.
Today, NASA announced which of these CubeSats will be on that first mission.
A few, including BioSentinel and LunaH-Map, already had a spot on Exploration Mission-1, but now it’s official, and five other projects have gotten the green light as well:
- Near Earth Asteroid Scout (NEAScout) is a reconnaissance CubeSat that is set to visit an asteroid;
- Skyfire will map the lunar surface;
- Lunar IceCube will look for more water on the moon;
- CuSP is a “space weather station” that will be on the lookout for solar particles;
- Lunar Flashlight will look for locations where there is enough ice on the moon to be of use to future crewed missions.
Flip through the gallery above to learn more about each of the seven selected satellites. All of the CubeSats on Exploration Mission-1 are tiny–roughly the size of a shoebox–and light, with some clocking in at just 30 pounds. Fitting large numbers of scientific instruments in such a small space can be a challenge.
“It’s the most complicated game of Tetris you’ve ever played,” said Leslie McNutt, the project manager of NEAScout.
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