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Tuesday, 2 July 2013

CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI.)

CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI.)

There are small remote controlled research spacecraft known as CubeSats. They are nano-satellites. These little cube-shaped outposts get released into orbit and are no more than half the size of a shoe box. This is a U-1 CubeSat but they can be clipped together. Two or three together may contain more monitoring and com links. Thus we get U-2 or U-3, depending on how many are clipped together.

Multiple CubeSats are stored in a large container that is attached to the main launch vehicle when it goes into space. This holder acts like a giant candy tin called a Nanosatellite Launch Adaptor System (NLAS.) When it opens, one can imagine these small CubeSats being released like sweets from a tube. They float out over the stratosphere or where ever else the project owner might wish them to go.

CubeSats have been used to patrol around space stations or satellites. They search for malfunctions or other damage. They can gently breeze the length of solar panels and check all is well, even report minor irregularities that can be tackled promptly, in case a fault becomes more substantial.

Now NASA has a programme called CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI.) This innovative idea allows free thinking projects within CubeSats. These projects are independent but hitch a ride, into space, upon a NASA rocket launch. A room for passengers appeal where space exploration is concerned.

Once in space, the NLAS releases its CubeSat passengers out and into orbit. Off they go on their own little adventures, leaving the NASA magic bus to do its own thing, while the little CubeSat goes about its self-indulgent quest for knowledge, in a field of its owner’s choosing. It might take photographs of Earth to study weather conditions, scan space for asteroids, survey the moon, Mars, Venus, or watch material test samples in a space vacuum. There are all sorts of things. These little undertakings can be controlled from a university classroom by students on Earth.

For a university to win the prized chance of controlling a CubeSat, they have to pass stringent tests via NASA monitors who judge each project for viability. The agency gets to filter the financially lucrative bidders for the choice of those most useful on the knowledge acquisition front. This is because NASA will have access to all information gathered before the reports go down to the students in control of the CubeSat project.

There are many CubeSats in orbit already and a growing number of projects waiting in line. NASA will be paid for getting this free information as a transport provider for independent CubeSats, which are just paying passengers on the main launch project.

Everyone wins when this experimental information starts to come in. The CubeSat can costbetween $65,000 and $80,000. If there is a launch that can carry four or five CubeSats, NASA gets a little of the cost back towards the main mission and a potential amount of updated and free information. It also insures that they have growing and enthusiastic candidates for future space exploration technology.

These delightful little parasitical space craft will develop over the decades and all launches might be able to lower funding costs by accommodating CubeSat projects. NASA may find ways to lower costs of building launch projects too, especially developing re-usable craft like the Orion MPCV. Every time an Orion launch goes up it will have CubeSat minor projects paying for a lift. Depending on how manyCubeSat projects at $65,000 + it can get aboard; could re-launchable MPCV claw back substantial finances against original costs of building main launch projects in the future.

Imagine the return in the shape of these four inch cubes. Not to forget long term and constant free information updates. NASA has stumbled upon a large number of independent projects lining up to be selected and waiting to hand over their money to get a CubeSat into space.
How long before large muti-corporate organisations offer large sums of money for their own space exploration tests, lowering the cost on the US taxpayer? Space exploration will cast away all national industry commitment and begin to pay for itself. Privatisation, once again, paves the way.

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