NASA Engineers Aim Big With Small Spacecraft    

Most of NASA’s most remarkable spacecraft were crafted by engineers like huge buses. Some of these spacecraft include the Voyager 1 and 2 and the Galileo or Cassini. But, in the past two decades, small satellites were developed and called as the Cubesats. These are also accessible in the space of today’s modern generation.            

Small spacecraft are also considered by engineers as it focuses on their abilities and has a fraction of mass and cost compared to larger spacecraft. In connection to this, engineers will mainly focus on NASA’s launch of its first pair of CubeSats. This plan will start this May. The small spacecraft is specifically designed for deep space. The twin spacecraft will be named as Mars Cube One or MarCO and will be produced at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. 

The latter spacecraft will both hitch on the same rocket launching InSight NASA’s next robotic lander that is headed for Mars. MArCos is also expected to follow InSight upon its cruise in space. If they survive in the journey, each of them will be equipped with a folding high-gain antenna to transmit data about InSight when it enters the lands and Martian atmosphere. 

However, the MarCos will never produce any science on their own. They were not expected for InSight to send its data back home. The twin spacecraft will first undergo a crucial test with the use of CubeSat technology beyond Earth orbit. This will demonstrate how they can be utilized for further projects and missions in exploring the solar system. 

Andy Klesh of JPL, the MarCos chief engineer, said that “These are our scouts. CubeSats was not able to survive the intense radiation of a trip to deep space before or use propulsion to point their way towards Mars. We hope to blaze that trail.” 

He added that the official names of the twin spacecraft are MarCo-A and MarCo-B. But, the team that built them will be Wall-E and Eva. These are nicknames based on Pixar characters. The MarCos will make use of compressed gas usually found in fire extinguishers in order to push themselves in space, which was also Wall-E din in his 2008 film. 

The MarCos batteries will be checked in March by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems of Irvine, California. Each CubeSat will be inserted with a special dispenser that will propel it as it goes in space.