A report describes upgraded CubeSat satellite elements for the interplanetary environment, with solar sail propulsion and the interplanetary superhighway for navigation and maneuvering. They can host small, capable instruments and optical telecommunications on a mission to map the composition of a sequence of near-Earth asteroids and planetary bodies.

Six technologies combine to enable a new architecture: CubeSat electronics and subsystems extended to operate in the interplanetary environment; optical telecommunications to enable very small, low-power uplink/downlink over interplanetary distances; solar sail propulsion to enable rendezvous with multiple targets using no propellant; navigation of the Interplanetary Super highway to enable multiple destinations over reasonable mission durations and achievable delta V; small, highly capable instrumentation enabling acquisition of high-quality scientific and exploration information; and onboard storage and processing of raw instrument data and navigation information to enable maximum utility of uplink and downlink telecom capacity.

This work was done by Robert L. Staehle, Pantazis Mouroulis, Thor O. Wilson, Hamid Hemmati, Abhijit Biswas, Martin W. Lo, Diana L. Blaney, and Paula J. Pingree of Caltech; Jordi Puig-Suari and Austin Williams of CalPoly San Luis Obispo; Louis Friedman and Bruce Betts of Planetary Society; and Tomas Svitek of Stellar Exploration for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NPO-48195

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Interplanetary CubeSats

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This article first appeared in the April, 2014 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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