NASA’s Tiny, Mars-Bound the Satellites Which Have Successfully Signalled Home: NASA’s Insight lander is on its way to Mars following Saturday’s successful launch of an Atlas V rocket from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
NASA’s Tiny, Mars-Bound the Satellites Which Have Successfully Signalled Home
But the lander is not alone it has a pair of twin communication CubeSats in tow.
Called Marcos-A and Marcos-B, the tiny machines have already passed the first significant milestone in their ground-breaking mission to the Red Planet.
When Marcos-A and Marcos-B arrive at Mars later this year, they will be the smallest machines ever to visit another planet.
Knows as nanosatellites, these devices weights a mere 30 pounds each and measure just 14.4 inches by 9.5 inches by 4.6 inches when packing into a rocket’s cargo hold.
Once at Mars, the tiny satellites will provide a communications link with stations on Earth as Insight makes its perilous entry to the surface. But
NASA’s lander is not dependant on Mars Cube One Marcos for its success.
The CubeSats are involving in a proof-of-concept mission to test the viability of sending small satellites to the outer reaches of the Solar System.
NASA receiving the first signals from Marcos-A and Marcos-B on Saturday at 3:15 pm ET, shortly after the launch.
The receipt of these signals is good news it means the devices are switching on and booting up.
But the signal also means that the CubeSats are successfully unfurling the solar panels, stabilising the orientation, turned towards the Sun, and switched on their radios.
NASA engineers still need to conducting a series of tests before the CubeSats begin their journey to Mars they are currently orbiting Earth, but early indications suggest the machines are working correctly.
Marco-A and Marco-B will spend the next half-year travelling to Mars.
The twin CubeSats are redundant versions of each other, deploying as a pair should one of them malfunction.
Their closest approach to Mars, scheduling for the year November 26th, 2018, will be at a distance of 2,175 miles 3,500 kilometres.
During this critical phase of a mission, dubbing the Seven Minutes of Terror.
The CubeSats will monitor Insight’s progress, providing information to mission controllers during a phase that generally goes dark.
Marco-A and Marco-B will track insights progress, and relay information back to Earth at a rate of eight kilobits per second over UHF, and in near-real time.
As noting, Insight does not need Marco to succeeding. A problem has landed safely on Mars’ fingers crossing.
Insight will use NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Earth-based stations for its communications needs.
NASA scientists are using the mission to understand if and CubeSats can work in deep space, testing the endurance and navigational abilities.
Should all go well, NASA can start to think about similar missions to other Solar System bodies such as the outer gas planets and possibly even the Kuiper Belt.
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