Principal Investigator: Martin Langer
With the continuous advancements in nano-satellite technology, there has been a significant increase in proposed CubeSat missions for sophisticated space exploration. Due to their cost efficiency, rapid development and ongoing miniaturisation of satellite bus systems and scientific payloads, CubeSats offer the potential to increase the range of capabilities of deep space explorations and provide a minimum interstellar mission.
Missions already on launch manifests such as Mars Cube One, Lunar Flashlight, and NEA Scout will demonstrate the use of CubeSat technology for planetary explorations. CubeSat capabilities are also being expanded for other deep space missions and for the detection technique of Near Earth Objects (NEOs).
It is anticipated that CubeSats will increasingly become an attractive option to conduct cost-effective interplanetary missions. This increase in interest and development allows for the further advancement of Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of the present technology. This advancement can be extrapolated for extra-solar and near interstellar missions.
The Project: Minimum Interstellar Mission
This project addresses the potential utilization for interplanetary and near interstellar missions using technology developed from off-the-shelf components. It assesses current CubeSat technologies, their baselines TRLs, and the requirements needed to conduct such missions. It further looks into the feasibility study of the available CubeSat technology to conduct near interstellar mission by the year 2030. The feasibility of different propulsion, communication, electrical and power subsystems with a TRL level of 5 and higher in the next 10 years is evaluated. We explore the fundamental mission and spacecraft architecture required to exit the solar system using miniaturized space system technologies. The analysis and suggestions help recognize the resourcefulness of CubeSat for interplanetary and the edge of the solar system missions.