Space research and technology development is done in many labs, small as well as large scale. From university departments to small funded companies, many scientists have ground breaking invention to boast, but not everyone get recognized by NASA. Since money is the only crunch that limits small scale company inventions, NASA decided to get the best out of their lab-brains.
All throughout March, NASA had narrowed down eleven different research groups from different parts of the country to take part CubeSat launch project. This project was initiated for the development of nano-satellites named as “CubeSats.” A CubeSat unit was to measure around 4×4 inches, and was to weigh something around three pounds. This idea triggered from cost saving perspective and also because smaller research groups keen on innovation would be able to take part in this.
Two out of the 11 projects that was shortlisted by NASA had good technological potential. Both Pathfinder for Autonomous Navigation and Alpha CubeSat, are from Space Systems Design Studio.
The PAN team used 3D printing technology and cheaper commercially available hardware store parts to build the CubeSat. If PAN`s CubeSat gets launched then it would be the very first time that the 3D printed propulsion system achieves success in satellite construction. Their launched is scheduled in 2019.
The PAN team have done some serious cost cutting in their design, roughly from a whopping $100,000 to a meagre $2,500 for satellite construction.
The Alpha CubeSat team on the other hand, along with the 3D printing technology also added a 1m x 1m light-sail. The latter will enable the microsatellite to automatically unfold in space. The light sail will have four “ChipSats” or chip-satellites that are smaller than even the CubeSats.
Before their 2019 launch, both the teams are busy in critically testing each component of their invention in varied conditions to give a robust output. Alpha team are facing a challenge related to handling communication systems since their satellites comprise of very small chips. However, they are tackling this challenge in a very good way and have only positives to report.
We hope both the teams see success in their launch to prove that low-cost satellites can also be a reality and so can micro-sized satellites. This will be a ground-breaking invention that the world is waiting for.