NASA launches small research satellite

Washington: With help from NASA, a small research satellite to test technology for in-space solar propulsion has been launched into space.

As part of NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative, the research satellite was sent aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida yesterday.

Called the Materials Exposure and Technology Innovation in Space (METIS), the probe will expose about 100 different materials samples to the space environment for more than 200 days.

The beauty of CubeSats is their versatility.

Because they are relatively inexpensive to build and deploy, scientists could conceivably launch multiple spacecraft for multi-point sampling a capability currently not available with single planetary probes.

Using the momentum transferred from solar photons as they strike a large, thin, reflective sail would allow a spacecraft to accelerate continuously using only the sun’s energy.

NASA is considering the use of solar sails on future exploration mission secondary payloads and data from this mission will advance understanding of this form of propulsion, the US space agency said in a statement.

Since its inception in 2010, the CubeSat Launch Initiative has selected 110 CubeSats primarily from educational and government institutions around the US.

NASA selected Planetary Society’s LightSail mission as part of the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative, which provides opportunities for small satellites to fly as auxiliary payloads on planned missions.

The cube-shaped satellites measure about four inches on each side, have a volume of about one quart and weigh less than three pounds each.

Since its inception in 2010, the CubeSat Launch Initiative has selected 110 CubeSats primarily from educational and government institutions around the US.

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