First Deep CubeSats Head for Mars: What are the objectives of NASA’s $ 18.5 million MarCO mission?

MarCO-B encountered a problem during the trajectory correction maneuver, but NASA engineers are optimistic. The MarCO mission will reach the red planet. What are the objectives of sending these interplanetary CubeSats to Mars?

( NASA / JPL-Caltech )

NASA launched two CubeSats called MarCO-A and MarCO-B to the planet Mars along with the robotic Insight lander last month.

MarCO-B Encounters Problem

The miniaturized satellites have been firing their propulsion systems as they go. towards Mars During the process known as trajectory correction maneuver, spacecraft refine their way to the Red Planet.

The US space agency UU He revealed that MarCO-B encountered difficulties during the course maneuver. The problem is due to a leaky propeller valve that caused small changes in trajectory. NASA engineers, however, are optimistic that the two CubeSats will reach Mars.

Mars Cube One Mission

The satellites, the first deep space CubeSats, make up the Mars Cube One (MarCO) mission. If all goes well, the CubeSats will fly across the planet Mars on November 26, the same day that the Insight stationary lander will land.

The CubeSats will attempt to transmit information to Earth during the incoming, descending and landing operations of InSight, although satellites do not play a crucial role in the success of the Insight mission.

MarCO is a mission in itself and satellites will sail to Mars independently of Insight, with their own course settings on the way. [19659003] MarCO Objectives of the mission

The main objective of the $ 18.5 million MarCO mission is to show that the CubeSats, which are currently restricted to Earth's orbit, are capable of to explore interplanetary space.

"Our broader goal was to demonstrate how low-cost CubeSat technology can be used in deep space for the first time," said John Baker of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "With both MarCO on the way to Mars, we have already traveled further than any CubeSat before them."

The satellites were not intended to collect scientific data, but to test experimental CubeSat systems, including satellite radios, attitude control and propulsion systems, and a high-gain folding antenna that can test new technologies in space deep.

"We are nervous but excited," said Joel Krajewski of JPL, the project manager of MarCO. "A lot of work went into the design and testing of these components so they could survive the trip to Mars and retransmit data during the InSight landing, but our broader goal is to learn more about how to adapt CubeSat technologies for future deep space missions. "

If the mission succeeds, it could pave the way for a "bring your own" communications relay option that can be used by future Mars missions during the so-called Seven Minutes of Terror.

NASA said that the verification of CubeSats as a viable technology for interplanetary mission and feasible in a short term of development could lead to other applications to explore and study the solar system.

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