Location: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
Launch Vehicle: Atlas V launch vehicle
Project Manager: Joel Krajewski
Chief Engineer: Andy Klesh
Gumstix Caspa VL camera onboard to snap history
NASA set a new distance record for CubeSats this May when a pair of CubeSats called Mars Cube One (MarCO) reached 621,371 miles (1 million kilometers) from Earth. One of the CubeSats, called MarCO-B used a Gumstix Caspa VL fisheye camera to snap its first photo on May 9, 2018. That photo is part of the process used by the engineering team to confirm the spacecraft’s high-gain antenna has properly unfolded.
The MarCO spacecraft including the Gumstix Overo IronSTORM-Y are the first CubeSats ever launched to deep space. Most never go beyond Earth orbit; they generally stay below 497 miles (800 kilometers) above the planet. Though they were originally developed to teach university students about satellites, CubeSats are now a major commercial technology, providing data on everything from shipping routes to environmental changes.
If the MarCO CubeSats make the entire journey to Mars, they will attempt to relay data about InSight back to Earth as the lander enters the Martian atmosphere and lands. MarCO will not collect any science, but are intended purely as a technology demonstration. They could serve as a pathfinder for future CubeSat missions.
The MarCO and InSight projects are managed for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, by JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.