Extending CubeSat’s Reach.

Yesterday, we took a Look at the NuSTAR spacecraft with its incredibly long mast (10 meters).  Today, we are going to look at how that type of mast can be used in smaller satellites.

A normal 10×10 in cubesat has only a limited amount of space to carry its payload and communications gear.  Because the communications antenna are so small, it limits the range that these tiny science probes can go.

Photo: Alessandra Babuscia

Researchers at MIT have built and tested an inflatable antenna that can fold into a compact space and inflate when in orbit.  The new antenna allows a cubesat to communicate at seven times the distance of current cubesats.

Normally, when spacecraft wanted to use inflatable antenna, there were gas tanks and valves, etc.  Obviously, that would not work in a cubesat.  So the team at MIT came up with ‘magic powder,’ no not that kind of powder.  The magic powder is a chemical compound that transforms from a solid powder to a gas when exposed to low pressure.  Alessandra Babuscia who lead the research says:

“In the end, what’s going to make the success of CubeSat communications will be a lot of different ideas, and the ability of engineers to find the right solution for each mission.  So inflatable antennae could be for a spacecraft going by itself to an asteroid. For another problem, you’d need another solution. But all this research builds a set of options to allow these spacecraft, made directly by universities, to fly in deep space.”

Small powerful satellites that can do specific deep space missions very inexpensively.  I want one of my own!

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

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