NASA Selects Cubesat, Solar Array Projects

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NASA’s Space Technology division will fund a series of small satellite technology demonstrations as well as early development work on advanced solar arrays, the U.S. space agency said in separate press releases.

Three experimental space systems hosted on cubesats launching in 2014 and 2015 will split about $23 million in NASA technology funding, the agency said Aug. 9. Each cubesat measures 10 centimeters on a side and has an interior volume of 1 liter.

Multiple single cubesats can be integrated and flown as a larger spacecraft.

The selected projects are:

  • The Proximity Operations Nano-Satellite Flight Demonstration, being developed by Nano Satellite Systems, Orange, Calif. This small-satellite docking project is expected to take three years and cost approximately $13.5 million. Partners on the project include Applied Defense Solutions Inc. of Columbia, Md.; 406 Aerospace LLC of Bozeman, Mont.; and California Polytechnic State University of San Luis Obispo, Calif., NASA said.
  • The Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray Antenna for High Bandwidth CubeSat. This $5.5 million project, being developed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., with help from Pumpkin Inc., San Francisco, will demonstrate a radio communications system that uses the back of its solar array as a reflector for the antenna, NASA said.
  • The Integrated Optical Communications and Proximity Sensors for Cubesats mission, a twocubesat mission that will cost $3.6 million. The project, being developed by the Aerospace Corp., El Segundo, Calif., will demonstrate low-cost radar and optical sensors that would enable small spacecraft to recognize and maneuver around nearby objects, NASA said.

Meanwhile, NASA said Aug. 10 it will begin contract negotiations with Deployable Space Systems of Goleta, Calif., and ATK Space Systems Inc., Commerce, Calif., to build advanced solar arrays that are lighter and more compact than existing systems. Under these contracts, to be worth between $5 million and $7 million each, the companies will design, analyze and test a scalable solar array system capable of generating more than 30 kilowatts of power.

The companies also will identify the risks of scaling up their arrays to support 250-kilowatt power systems, NASA said.