Small Spacecraft Technology Program by NASA
NASA has recently launched a Small Spacecraft Technology Program, aimed at improving small satellite technology. Three teams specializing in the fileds of communications, formation flying and docking were selected by NASA to develop the advantages of the CubeSat standard.
Though the projects differ, they are all based on CubeSats, a class of cubical nanosatellites that are four inches (10.16 cm) on each side and weigh about three pounds (1.36 kg). These spacecrafts might seem very small, but they have many advantages over their larger analogues: they lack in complexity, they are much cheaper and besides they can be sent into orbit with bigger satellites as hitchhikers to reduce the costs. CubeSats aren’t independent spacecrafts as they are building blocks: groups of CubeSats can be launched that can either fly in formation or they can dock with one another to form a larger satellite featuring high-capacity.
Among the chosen spacecraft projects are Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray Antenna (ISARA) for High Bandwidth CubeSat by Richard Hodges, Integrated Optical Communications and Proximity Sensors for Cubesats by Siegfried Janson and Proximity Operations Nano-Satellite Flight Demonstration by Charles MacGillivray. The flights are planned to take place in 2014 and 2015.