NASA’s Astrophysics Division is gradually accepting the reality of CubeSats and smallsats

NASA’s Astrophysics Division smallsats lead programmer, Michel Garcia, revealed at the virtual American Geophysical Union conference that the agency would be choosing three Astrophysics Pioneers missions while supporting them with $20 million. Garcia explained that the agency developed the Astrophysics Pioneers initiative to conduct astrophysics science on a pilot-scale than going the traditional explorative way. Garcia articulated this at the NASA Astrophysics Committee nine months ago. Pioneers are ready to facilitate investigations capping $10 million for the Astrophysics Research and Analysis program, a Space Grant program’s Research and Opportunities subsidiary. 

The Pioneers missions can book rideshare opportunities on CubeSats larger than six portions, satellite constellations, small satellites, the International Space Station, or space vehicles that stay in the atmosphere for one month or more. The $20 million capital for Pioneers exclusive of the deployment costs. Lead engineers of the Pioneers missions suggested 24 missions to host the next-generation coronagraphs, versatile clocks, polarimeters, and radiofrequency meters. These missions will be heading for different orbits, including the cis-lunar space and the Lagrange Point 2. This year, NASA developed the Pioneers program to motivate researchers to utilize affordable satellite buses, developed balloon technology, and affordable space escorts to conduct their scientific research. 

Garcia outlined that the program is a great opportunity for the researchers to grow their bond with the commercial space services providers. The executive stated some of the commercial entities that were doing urging the cosmic scientists and researchers to take advantage of these opportunities while they are available. For instance, SpaceX intends to give rideshare opportunities to the 200-kilogram payloads heading to the sun-synchronous orbit for $1 million is an affordable alternative that any scientist with a CubeSat can utilize to conduct their experiment. Moreover, Garcia noted that York Space Systems would be offering a three-axis-stabilized satellite for astronomical studies. Such missions help scientists to conduct costly missions that would be costly when pursued independently. 

Garcia continued to outline the companies offering rideshare missions like Blue Canyon Technologies, undergoing acquisition by Raytheon Technologies, a versatile space bus. The advantage of this bus is that it can host a half-meter telescope. The NASA Astrophysics Division has been procuring CubeSat proposals for the last eight years to make the best of them while they are in space. Some of the CubeSats that the agency solicited include the Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment (CUTE), which they will be deploying next year via the Landsat 9 Earth observation satellite.