P31A-1882: Science-Driven NanoSats Design for Deep Space

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Authors: Andrew T Klesh, Julie C Castillo

Author Institutions: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, USA

CubeSat-based exploration of Earth has driven the development of miniaturized systems and research-grade instruments. The current performance of CubeSats raises the question of their potential contribution to planetary exploration. Two possible applications can be foreseen. One would take advantage of the readily availability of the CubeSat deployer Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD) for planetary-related observations around Earth (e.g., O/OREOS mission, ExoPlanetSat), and, when propulsion systems develop, for interplanetary exploration. However, the CubeSat formfactor restricts payloads to be in an undeployed volume of 10x10x10 (1U) to 10x20x30 (6U) cm, based on the qualified and accepted P-POD. As a possible alternative, one may leverage the CubeSat-tailored subsystems to operate that platform as a secondary payload on a deep space mission. Whether the CubeSat formfactor constraint might be adjusted to accommodate a broader range of science applications or specific tailoring is required remains to be quantified. Through consultation with a wide range of scientists and engineers, we have examined the possible applications of secondary deep space NanoSats, and what derived requirements stem from these missions. Applications and requirements, together with existing technology, inform on common formfactors that could be useful for future planetary missions. By examining these formfactors, we have identified different categories of NanoSat explorer (additionally imposing discrete requirements on the mothership) that directly support scientific endeavors. In this paper, we outline some of the scientific applications that would drive the NanoSat formfactor design, as well as describe how the requirements affect programmatic issues. Several mission types are considered: passive deployment, active propulsion, targeted landing, and sample return. Each scenario changes the risk posture, and can impose additional considerations. Our goal has been to identify appropriate science driven designs that might serve a similar purpose to the “CubeSat standard”, but not bound by the current specification adopted for launch vehicles. Additionally we consider the various technologies needed to successfully carry out deep space NanoSat missions including communication infrastructure (either direct-to-Earth or via relay), navigation / position determination, and avionics survivability. A brief survey of existing systems is presented, with recommendations for development toward future needs. As CubeSats demonstrate greater and greater science capability in low-Earth orbit, it is only natural to attempt to use this technology-driven formfactor to investigate the solar system. Here we merge desired science applications with existing CubeSat lessons-learned and technological ability to determine how we might explore intelligently and efficiently, yet not lose the wisdom we have gained from “thinking inside the box”รน. Acknowledgement: This work has been carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract to NASA.

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