First Flight of NASA’s New Space Launch System Will Carry 13 CubeSats

Posted February 3rd, 2016 at 3:00 pm (UTC-4)
3 comments

Artist rendering of a 70 metric-ton crew vehicle SLS  blasting off from a NASA launchpad.  (NASA/MSFC)

Artist rendering of a 70 metric-ton crew vehicle SLS blasting off from a NASA launchpad. (NASA/MSFC)

NASA says the planned 2018 inaugural flight of its new and powerful rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), will test the performance of the SLS and Orion spacecraft as an integrated system before it can be used to send humans into space.

This initial flight, called Exploration Mission-1 or EM-1, will also carry 13 CubeSats (miniature satellites) on the Orion.

The space agency says that the EM-1 mission will provide the rare opportunity for the CubeSats to reach deep space destinations, since most current launch opportunities for the little satellites are from low-Earth orbit.

The CubeSats will be deployed from dispensers on the Orion spacecraft with spring mechanisms after it separates from the SLS’ upper stage and is a safe distance away.

Artist conception of the Lunar Flashlight one of 13 CubeSat experiments that will fly on the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, will examine the moon’s surface for ice deposits and identify locations where resources may be extracted. (NASA)

Artist conception of the Lunar Flashlight one of 13 CubeSat experiments that will fly on the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, will examine the moon’s surface for ice deposits and identify locations where resources may be extracted. (NASA)

The mini-satellites will conduct a variety of studies the space agency says will help open the way for future human exploration of deep space destinations including Mars.

Once deployed, transmitters on the CubeSat’s will be switched on and their signals will be monitored by ground stations on Earth.

“The 13 CubeSats that will fly to deep space as secondary payloads aboard SLS on EM-1 showcase the intersection of science and technology, and advance our journey to Mars,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman in a NASA press release.

Some of the experiments that will be carried out by the CubeSat’s include low moon orbits to gather information about its surface and look for water, ice and other lunar resources.

Others will include a photographic and observational trip near to an asteroid as well as one that will use yeast to investigate the effect of deep space radiation on living organisms over the course of a long journey into deep space.

According a NASA spokesperson, after being launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, the SLS will travel to the moon, then use lunar gravity to help propel it thousands of kilometers beyond the moon and make a return trip to earth.

For the EM-1 mission, the SLS will be powered by four RS-25 engines and two boosters which NASA says will provide a lift capability of at least minimum 70-metric-tons.

Space Launch System Carries CubeSat Explorers During First Mission (NASA/MSFC)
Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

3 responses to “First Flight of NASA’s New Space Launch System Will Carry 13 CubeSats”

  1. NASA has shown great art in the diplomacy of leaving space and let us focus on problems on Earth. We won’t be leaving for space anymore, and let any artist continue in the imaginary heavens above us, to keep our memories alive.
    When next we advance, laser guided machines would leave from Earth with better efficiency and safety.

  2. Good write-up, will abide by people originating in currently! Amazing article, i’m keen on it