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NASA Aims to Advance Comms, Proximity Operation Capabilities Via 2 Cubesat Demo Missions

NASA is set to conduct technology demonstration missions for two Cubesats that took off Sunday aboard Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft.

The agency said Tuesday it will conduct the Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration and Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray Antenna missions as part of the Small Spacecraft Technology Program.

“Our primary mission for OCSD is demonstrating laser communications, by using a laser on the spacecraft to downlink data to our optical ground stations on Mt. Wilson in California,” said Richard Welle, one of the principal investigators of the OCSD mission at The Aerospace Corp.

OCSD also seeks to evaluate the capability of small satellites for proximity operations.

The ISARA mission is designed to advance higher data downlink communications through the use of the Ka-band frequency and Cubesats equipped with solar cells and reflectarray antenna.

NASA will work with The Aerospace Corp. to conduct the ISARA mission, which seeks to facilitate the transmission of reflectarray antenna-derived signals to a ground station at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and the evaluation of the mission’s downlink transmission.

Cygnus lifted off Sunday aboard an Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia to deliver cargo to the International Space Station as part of the company’s eighth Commercial Resupply Services mission.

Cygnus will deploy the two Cubesats into a higher orbit to initiate the OCSD and ISARA missions once the spacecraft departs the orbiting laboratory.

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