Monday , November 29 2021

Mars Cube One: Mini-satellites to observe Marsand


Little time? To & # 39; s end of & # 39; The text is a summary.

At & # 39; s foot of & # 39; The San Gabriel Mountains have often written their history. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of the California Technical Institute has buildings and operating space for decades for the name of US spacecraft NASA. The first US satelite "Explorer 1" came from the JPL, the answer to the Soviet "Sputnik". It was followed by unhealthy legends of sun-syndrome surveys, of twillings "Voyager", which are further away from & # 39; Earth's space or what others have always been built, famous Mars-cars such as "Curiosity."

For 54 years, the control panel has been interspersed with JPL, which calls the staff very impatient "the center of the universe". Here are the signals of # Deep Space Network Together, that global network of up to 70 meters high antennas, always hear the space of space – and keep in touch with more than two dozen missions.

Anne Marinan, Joel Steinkraus and her colleagues from JPL want another chapter in # 39; open space space next Monday. With the Mars mission Mars Cube One, in short "Marco", JPL researchers have tried enough revolutionaries: "For the first time, we see space players the size of a course in a profound universe," Since Marinan, one the responsible project manager. Otherwise, problems are sometimes the size of a minibus.

When launched in SpaceX rocket from Mayen in 2018 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the three camps were on board: the much larger Mars Insoration and the two smaller satellites "Marco-A" and "MarCo-B". The two flyers have since begun or a "Insight" issue that focuses on their landing Monday, mainly with the study of geological processes in the Red Planet.

Although a type of escort for Insight, the two mini-probes are even enough. They navigate using controls, where gas flows out. "The Marquis must find their way to Mars, they have to make corrective maneuvers, they have to make their own electricity, they must communicate with the Deep Space Network," says Project Manager Marinan . The energy is designed by solar cells, but only generate 17 watts, enough for just a few nights of light.

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"Mars Cube One":
Small – and on the road to Mars

The small satellite fleet, so speak, with their back to the sun – and at the same time dependent. This causes problems: "You are always out of power," says Joel Steinkraus, one of the # 39; the responsible engineers. The strategy of "low Mars satellites" is thus: "For the most part, they are just energy – the moment we need them." Meanwhile, the voluminous twin should spare the earth regularly.

Listening to the landing

The sun-built "Marco's" are among the so-called Cubesats, small satellites with a relatively short life. In addition, they are mainly locked up by universities – to know pupils with the construction and operation of space vessels. More recently, Cubesats are also used for commercial purposes such as earthquake.

The benefit: Cubesats are not only relatively cheap, they can be quickly developed and built. Planning, building and operation of a classic satellite can almost live a very researcher. In the case of "Marko's", however, there are only 14 months between the idea and an air-conditioned device, says Steinkraus.

The requirements for technology must not be ignored. The sun on the edge of & # 39; Satellite is always limited. Parts that appear in the dark of space are also cold. In addition, particles of cosmic rays are continuous on & # 39; and devices – and can easily lead to computers and memory problems.

The two mini-probes do not have to make their own assessments – but they see their big sister "Insight" on Mars. The fact that "Insight" is in contact with the "Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter" satellite, which has been Mars for years, is driving through the Martian atmosphere. But the satellite can not get the status messages at the same time and send it to the earth.

In the control center at the JPL should therefore be the only patient in the worst sense of being to know when the landscape worked well. The "Marko's" must resolve the problem. They can hear the same skin completely and spit on the earth, which often supplies access to countries. They use a small antenna to listen – and send the other. At least if everything comes out.

Digital SLR? Or maybe active camera?

But why should cheap, quick-to-fly aircraft like the "Marko's" make their own discovery – and thus help with the research of the solar system? "This area is still relatively minimal," says planetary scientist Tilman Spohn of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Berlin. He is responsible for one of the areas in & # 39; Insight, the Great Marssond, where the landing is assessed by the "Marco's".

If such small satellites are 't future in & # 39; The future is important for planetary exploration, they must also include instruments for measuring instruments, Spohn says. The small mass and dimensions of the mini-probes are still a serious disadvantage. Currently, many measurements are too big and heavy, says Spohn. Only when miniaturization is gone, nasosatellites can play an important role in planetary exploration.

"Some smaller satellites will always focus on specific tasks, which can be used with a large observatory," says engineer Steinkraus. To explain what he means, the amateur photographer draws a comparison: he would take his expensive SLR, for example, not everywhere. "Sometimes the benefit is that you want to use the Go-Pro if only the features you need to have."

NASA will clearly try in the future. At the end of its SLS-heavy rocket, maid that has now been planned for the end of the next year, it will not only be the "Orion" trumpet capsule – only # with dolls for this flight – but also several Cubesats.

In summary: so far, surveys of missions in deep space have become relatively large. Now, as part of a Mars mission, even the small campsites will be used for the first time. They check the landing of a problem # 39; Insight on & # 39; the red planet. And can be a success of # missions on # 39; the blueprint for future space traveler.

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