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NASA’s First Deep-Space CubeSats Say: “Polo!”

Note:  Based on press release from NASA/JPL

Bob Eklund Looking Up Column

Bob Eklund
Looking Up Column

NASA has received radio signals indicating that the first-ever CubeSats headed to deep space are alive and well. Engineers will now be performing a series of checks before both CubeSats enter their cruise to deep space.

Mars Cube One, or MarCO, is a pair of briefcase-sized spacecraft that launched May 5 along with NASA’s InSight Mars lander from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California. InSight is a scientific mission that will probe the Red Planet’s deep interior for the first time. The name stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.

The twin MarCO CubeSats are on their own separate mission: rather than collecting science, they will follow the InSight lander on its cruise to Mars, testing out miniature spacecraft technology along the way.

Both were programmed to unfold their solar panels soon after launch, followed by several opportunities to radio back their health.

“Both MarCO-A and B say ‘Polo!’ It’s a sign that the little sats are alive and well,” said Andy Klesh, chief engineer for the MarCO mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which built the twin spacecraft.

A couple of weeks will be spent assessing how the MarCO CubeSats are performing. If they survive the radiation of space and function as planned, they’ll fly over the Red Planet during InSight’s entry, descent and landing in November.

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