NASA chooses two smallsat proposals for deep space science

NASA has announced that it has selected a pair of proposals to demonstrate the small satellite technologies that are aimed at improving science observations in deep space. The goal for the proposals is to improve observations to allow NASA to develop models to predict space weather events that can impact astronauts and spacecraft.

NASA also notes that this is the first time that the heliophysics program has funded this kind of technology demonstration program. Peg Luce, deputy director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA says that providing the chance for the technology to mature in deep space is a crucial step towards incorporating the new tech into future missions. Both of the proposals that NASA selected are funded with $400,000 for nine-month mission concept studies.

Both were selected based on potential technology and science value and the feasibility of developed plans. The proposals will support the NASA heliophysics program that seeks to better understand the nature of space throughout the solar system. The programs also want to determine how space changes in response to the outpouring of energy and particles from the Sun.

When the nine-month period is over, one proposal will be selected to launch as a secondary payload on the NASA Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe known as IMAP. That probe is set to launch in October 2024. The two proposals include Science-Enabling Technologies for Heliophysics (SETH).

SETH aims to demonstrate two technologies, including and optical communications technology for satellites and CubeSats. The second is to detect solar energetic neutral atoms as a system that could enable advanced warnings for radiations levels hazardous to astronauts. The other is Solar Cruiser that has two technologies, including an 18,000 square foot solar sail to demonstrate the use of solar radiation for propulsion. It also has a coronagraph instrument that would measure the Sun's magnetic field structure and velocity of coronal mass ejections.