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NASA opens CubeSat program to educators and nonprofits

The BisonSat is one example of a CubeSat mission launched by NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative on Oct. 8, 2015. Credits: Salish Kootenai College

The BisonSat is one example of a CubeSat mission launched by NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative on Oct. 8, 2015. Credit: Salish Kootenai College

NASA has opened access to the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) to accredited education institutions and nonprofit organizations in an effort to help NASA achieve its exploration goals.

In order to promote development of the small, research-focused satellites, CSLI provides CubeSat developers an inexpensive path to space. This should have the effect of advancing research in areas important to NASA’s strategic interests: science, exploration, technology development, education, and operations. Selectees will have the opportunity to get hands-on experience with flight hardware development.

Interested institutions must submit proposals by 4:30 pm EST, Nov. 22, 2016, and NASA will make selections by Feb. 17, 2017, though selection does not guarantee the satellite will be afforded a launch opportunity. NASA has selected 119 CubeSat missions to date, with 46 of them having already been launched. Historically, the agency has offered launch opportunities to 95 percent of selectees from previous announcements.

CubeSats belong to the ‘nanosatellite’ class of research spacecraft, and are sized in standardized units. One cube, or 1U, is approximately 4x4x4 inches (10x10x11 centimeters), typically have a mass of approximately 3 pounds (1.33 kilograms) per 1U cube when arranged in 1U, 2U, and 3U configurations. A larger 6U CubeSat may tip the scales at more than 26.5 pounds (12-14 kilograms), with the deployment method determining the final mass. The CubeSat Launch Initiative will support 1U, 2U, 3U, and 6U craft.

Selected CubeSats will fly as auxiliary payload on NASA launches, or will be deployed from the International Space Station (ISS), beginning in 2017 through 2020. Selectees will be responsible for funding the development of their satellite.

For more information, visit NASA’s CSLI website.

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