NASA to demonstrate miniature CubeSat Swarm technology | Trending Viral hub


Preparations are underway for a new, small spacecraft technology demonstration that will test cost-effective swarming capabilities – the ability for multiple spacecraft to communicate and take coordinated actions. The four CubeSats of the PY4 mission are scheduled to launch on Monday, March 4 at 2:05 pm PST into low Earth orbit aboard SpaceX’s Transporter-10 mission from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

Led by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and funded by NASA Small Spacecraft Technology Program, PY4 seeks to demonstrate spacecraft ranging, in-orbit navigation, and coordinated, simultaneous multipoint radiation measurements at low size, weight, power, and cost. It uses a single avionics platform called PyCubed that integrates power, computing, communications, attitude determination and orbit control functionalities into a single board system. The PyCubed system is also open source, fully programmable in the Python programming language, and uses affordable, off-the-shelf commercial components.

Once in orbit more than 325 miles above Earth, the spacecraft will periodically measure their relative distances. These range measurements provide information about the positions of the spacecraft relative to each other and, when combined with other sensor data, can be used to determine the configuration of the swarm. Advancing these capabilities could decrease the workload of ground operators while enabling multi-spacecraft missions at an affordable price. The PY4 platform was previously used in demonstrations of the V-R3x technologyboth in orbit and in a suborbital flight test in a commercial high-altitude balloon with NASA Flight opportunities program. Those initial tests helped researchers evaluate PY4’s functionality before this broader demonstration mission.

In addition to the PY4 demonstration, NASA is also testing critical swarm technologies through the agency’s ongoing program. Starling mission launching in 2023. PY4 could dramatically reduce the cost of small spacecraft swarm capabilities and make demonstration technologies like the autonomous navigation system tested through Starling more accessible by offering a hardware and software platform ready to fly.

Above, engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California, insert the mission’s four spacecraft into their dispenser supplied by Maverick Space Systems of San Luis Obispo, California, in preparation for testing. vibration. Each of the one and a half unit (1.5U) CubeSats measures approximately 4 inches x 4 inches x 6.5 inches. The spacecraft was later transported to SpaceX for integration into the Falcon 9 rocket in preparation for launch.

PY4 is led by the Robotics Exploration Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon University with funding from NASA’s Ames Small Spacecraft Technology program. The Small Spacecraft Technology program expands the ability to execute unique missions through the rapid development and demonstration of small spacecraft capabilities applicable to exploration, science and the commercial space sector. NASA Ames engineers supporting the small spacecraft technology program assisted in the assembly, testing and integration of the four PY4 spacecraft, as well as their delivery to Maverick Space Systems, the launch integrator for the PY4 mission. .

Chloe E. Tuck

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  • Members of the media interested in covering this topic should contact the Ames Newsroom.

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