This one was discussed at LPSC. It did not make it into phase 2, so I'm surprised to see it reemerge.I haven't seen any good overall discussion of CubeSats/Smallsats and planetary missions, but they're in a bit of a conundrum: NASA decided that none of the missions being studied would be allowed to interfere with a primary mission. That makes sense, but it had the effect of driving many of the CubeSat missions to look for alternative rides to their targets and/or alternative methods for entering orbit/landing.
There were a number of proposed Mars cubesats at LPSC. The problem almost all of them had is that if they hitched a ride to Mars, it put them in the wrong orbit for their mission...
For planetary missions, a big problem is getting the data back to earth. That requires either a lot of power or a big antenna, and that isn't a good fit for the cubesat concept. Also, telescope resolution decreases with the diameter of the mirror.
A way around the first problem is to use a mothership to relay the data. A way around the second problem is to fly closer to the target. The best use for a cubesat would be an an auxillary spacecraft that works together with a large probe. For measuring fields and particles four point measurements are desirable. That may be the best use for cubesat technology in planetary missions.
The proposer did not discuss it, but I wondered if such a very low data rate made it impossible to actually achieve the science goals.
So this then leads into a policy issue. Somebody has to make a decision on the rules for planetary cubesat missions. Of course, the rules can be different for each mission, but right now they had to be applied to general studies of cubesats. What the recent set of studies demonstrate is that there is a very small niche for planetary cubesats. They don't hold a lot of promise for planetary missions.
With the tremendous success of the MarCO relay cubesats during the InSight landing, it's almost a fait accompli that future cubesats (particularly on Mars 2020) are going to be more frequent.
Quote from: MattMason on 12/13/2018 09:40 pmWith the tremendous success of the MarCO relay cubesats during the InSight landing, it's almost a fait accompli that future cubesats (particularly on Mars 2020) are going to be more frequent.Let's hold back on the irrational exuberance a bit. The MarCO cubesats performed a very limited mission. Cubesats have severe limitations for planetary missions, and are limited by solar power (they don't have big solar panels--and if they do, they're no longer smallsats) and communications abilities.We will see more of them for planetary missions, but I don't think we'll see lots of them.
We know that we'll see more interplanetary cube/small sats because both NASA and ESA have announced plans to select missions to accompany future launches beyond Earth orbit
Quote from: vjkane on 12/14/2018 03:45 pmWe know that we'll see more interplanetary cube/small sats because both NASA and ESA have announced plans to select missions to accompany future launches beyond Earth orbit Could the mass of landers ballasts be better used in form of microsatellites? Currently its'a matter of hundreds of kg of just... nothing! (tungsten bricks)
I imagine that such an orbiter would be restricted to a few orbit inclinations dictated by the landing trajectory of the lander. i.e. it would mostly be of little if any scientific or practical interest
Is it possible that this is what Rocket Lab is launching for NASA in 2024 as they announced in their investor presentation?