• Hashtag= #ridetomars


    A CubeSat is a type of miniaturized modular satellite for space research that usually has a module unit volume of one liter (10 cm cube), has a module unit mass of no more than 1.2 kilograms, and typically uses commercial off-the-shelf electronics components.  Individual satellites may comprise one or more modules.  Each satellite produces its own power, is designed with solar panels, and is capable of transmitting signals.

    CubeSat designs have been simplified so almost anyone can build them and instructions are readily available for free online. They have proven to be a very cost-effective and useful platform for low-cost and simple experiments in Earth orbit, and do so in a non-interference basis to the primary payload. NASA has successfully launched and utilized CubeSats in the past, including the historic December 2012 deployment from the International Space Station.

    To date, a CubeSat mechanism has not been used to support Mars exploration, and the Mars program does not currently have any specific applications for CubeSats as Mars exploration assets. NASA is considering launching a CubeSat-based payload (a cube-based experiment module, an independent CubeSat, or constellation of CubeSats) on a future Mars exploration mission, using excess capacity on the mission’s primary spacecraft. 

    Challenge Description:

    Create a CubeSat design and develop a mission that operates in the Mars environment and furthers our knowledge of Mars. The specific deliverable can take many forms: a simple mission concept document, software for CubeSat hardware and sensors, a detailed CubeSat design, a full mission plan, prototype CubeSat hardware.

    Functional Specifications:

    The solution should focus on the design and functionality of the CubeSat, but delivering space-rated hardware is not a requirement.  In other words, this challenge should focus on the mission concept for the CubeSat using off-the-shelf components.  A physical and/or functional prototype of the CubeSat would be a desirable product, but is not required. CubeSat hardware (frame, solar arrays, control motors) is readily available online and does not need to be redesigned as part of this challenge. You can assume a common CubeSat design or develop your own framework. CubeSats may be applicable to roles in Mars orbital and/or landed missions.

    CubeSat missions may address one or more of the following scientific objectives:

    • Understand Mars as a System – geologic, climactic, and other processes
    • Search for (extinct) life
    • Conduct systematic search for extant life (environments)
    • Perform comparative planetology: Mars as precursor for Earth
    • Study Mars’ well-preserved ancient geological record
    • Understand origin of life as recorded in Mars ancient geology
    • Investigate Mars as aggregator of disciplines relevant to Earth: Geology, atmospheric science, paleontology

    • Or CubeSat missions may address one or more of the following program infrastructure objectives:

    • Provide communication relay for landed and/or orbital assets
    • Provide reconnaissance imaging of potential landing and exploration sites
    • Provide communication and/or imaging coverage during critical mission events such as entry
    • Support rendezvous and proximity operations between orbital elements.
    • Prototypes of the software needed to control the hardware/sensors can be prototyped using an Arduino or Raspberry Pi, iPhone or Android to demonstrate Mars exploration objectives.


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  • The following projects are solving this challenge:

    • Mars Methane Explorer

      Plan for CubeSat Mars orbiter for detecting methane and other trace gases with passive spectroscopy imaging. Visit Project

    • Martian Navigation Constellation

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    • Mars AtmoSat

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    • MarsOpenCube

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    • CubeBerry

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    • Take an extra Base!

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    • AUISat

      Freshman students coming up with a new design (AUISat) of the CubeSat with a full detailed plan about a mission to Mars using it. Visit Project

    • Mars, Sweet Mars

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    • CubeSatConstellation

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    • Oklahoma To Mars

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    • Mars InventaRD

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