The Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA has been able to launch cubesats for the Mars mission. Despite the risk of distance twin Mars Cube One spacecraft took off for Mars and recovered vital data on the planet via Insight lander.
During the mission, one of the MarCO cubesats experienced a fuel leakage before malfunctioning on hitting Mars’ glow. The cubesat trackers derailed making the craft to lose angular momentum. JPL’s chief engineer for MarCO cubesats, Andrew Klesh, explained to SpaceNews that the cubesat experienced its mission challenges.
JPL successfully maneuvered the MarCO cubesat through its mission, maintaining a communication connection back to Earth. The success of the mission has shown that cubesats are vital in science explorations globally. Klesh explained that the leaky satellite utilized direction details from solar panels and antenna to meander through Mars successfully. The cubesats that went to Mars were able to image the planet and obtain essential data for future space exploits and deep space missions.
Klesh articulates that MarCO has become an inspiration for many exploits globally. MarCO spacecraft has been collaborating with NASA on this mission, but the surveillance campaign came back negative. As a result, NASA opted to terminate the mission early. Currently, JPL is dealing with other partners and the lessons from MarCO cubesat to develop advanced systems for deep space exploration.
Cubesats are affordable to develop compared to large spacecraft. However, the cubesats specially made for deep space exploration are advanced in terms of component materials than their low-Earth orbit counterparts.
Some of the notable changes required for the full operationalization of MarCO for new missions include radio transmitter, reflector array, and other essential cubesat elements. These changes include creating a massive propulsion tank, a GPS control system, and a flight computer that can function efficiently in deep space.
The ESA’s cubesat technology manager, Roger Walker, states that they are implementing the technical modifications that they learned from the MarCO cubesat mission. He reiterates that they have learned new cubesat recommendations that they will be used to adjust and develop appropriate cubesats.
Currently, ESA is manufacturing five deep space cubesats. The firm is working on minimizing costs for spacecraft operations. This move will facilitate the launch of its cubesats like M-ARGO for space exploits.
Lowering costs will also enhance the growth of the innovation department of the company.
Research is keen to observe that their cubesat mission goes further than Mars to make a permanent contribution to cubesat exploits. Another vital mission is the MARIO cubesats mission, which will be researching the Martian atmosphere’s thermal activity. This project is part of the studies at the Polytechnic University of Milan.
In conclusion, the partially successful MarCO cubesat mission motivates other satellite operators to observe its challenges and prepare for new exploits. The mission has sparked the development of new cubesats with better components.