NASA is currently soliciting proposals of flying cubesats on the Space Launch System’s second flight. However, the cubesats that had been chosen to be included in the first launch of SLS are still patiently awaiting their ride.
On August 5, an agency meeting was held at the town about Small Satellites. During this, Renee Cox who is SLS payload integration’s deputy manager at the Marshall Center for Space FlightsatNASA, said that the agency has been planning the flight of cubesats aboard Artemis 2, which is the second SLS flight, tentatively dated for 2022.
Speaking on the topic, Cox said that they, as an organization, were able to gain an increased maturity level recently and it has helped them identify the margin of performance, which means they will be capable of flying cubesats.
In 2016, NASA had announced that they will be flying 13 cubesats aboard the first mission of SLS, originally known as EM1 or Exploration Mission 1. Earlier in 2019, it was renamed as Artemis 1. These satellites include the demonstration mission of technology and science, funded by NASA, payloads from various international partners as well as competitors having taken part in the competition of Cube Quest Challenge.
Just like the mission of Artemis 1, the cubesats aboard Artemis 2 are expected to be mounted upon the stage adapter ring’s inside between the upper stage of SLS and the spacecraft Orion. Deployment will be done after separation of Orion. Artemis 1 will carry only cubesats having six units, but, as per Cox NASA will be accepting proposals pertaining to six-unit as well as bigger cubesats having 12 units.
Cox further added that NASA has not made an ultimate selection when it comes to the cubesats’ dispenser hardware. However, it is expected to be capable of accommodating satellites having six units with a weight of 12 kilograms or satellites having 12 units with a weight of 20 kilograms. Spacecraft needs to address the strategic gaps of knowledge, as put forward by NASA, related to human as well as robotic exploration of Mars or moon.