NASA has selected ten studies under the Planetary Science Deep Space SmallSat Studies (PSDS3) program, to develop mission concepts using small satellites to investigate Venus, Earth’s moon, asteroids, Mars and the outer planets.

For these studies, small satellites are defined as less than 180 kilograms in mass (about 400 pounds). CubeSats are built to standard specifications of 1 unit (U), which is equal to 10x10x10 centimeters (about 4x4x4 inches). They often are launched into orbit as auxiliary payloads, significantly reducing costs.

“These small but mighty satellites have the potential to enable transformational science,” said Dr. Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “They will provide valuable information to assist in planning future Announcements of Opportunity, and to guide NASA’s development of small spacecraft technologies for deep space science investigation.”

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate is developing a small satellite strategy, with the goal of identifying high-priority science objectives in each discipline that can be addressed with CubeSats and SmallSats, managed for appropriate cost and risk. This multi-disciplinary approach will leverage and partner with the growing commercial sector to collaboratively drive instrument and sensor innovation.

The SSERVI-related recipients are:

SSERVI DREAM2 Co-I Timothy Stubbs, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland: Bi-sat Observations of the Lunar Atmosphere above Swirls (BOLAS), tethered 12-unit CubeSats to investigate the lunar hydrogen cycle by simultaneously measuring electromagnetic fields near the surface of the moon, and incoming solar winds high above.

SSERVI DREAM2 Co-I Jeffrey Plescia, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland: Asteroid Probe Experiment (APEX), a SmallSat with a deployable seismometer to rendezvous with the asteroid Apophis and directly explore its interior structure, surface properties, and rotational state.

SSERVI DREAM2 Co-I Anthony Colaprete, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California: Aeolus, a 24-unit CubeSat to directly measure vertically-resolved global winds to help determine the global energy balance at Mars and understand daily climate variability.

For the full list of recipients, read the full story here.

SSERVI DREAM2 Co-I Mike Collier, PI: Phobos Regolith Ion Sample Mission (PRISM), would investigate the origin of Mars’ moon Phobos by studying the surface composition using secondary ion mass spectrometry. PRISM was down-selected earlier, but was not among the final ten awarded missions.

The PRISM concept is to obtain the surface composition of Phobos using the secondary ions ejected from the surface by incident solar wind and Mars tail oxygen. The application is called ‘secondary ion mass spectrometry’.

For more information about NASA’s CubeSat activities, visit:

Posted by: Soderman/SSERVI Staff
Source: NASA/T. Talbert

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