Virgin Orbit has entered into an agreement with the Polish company SatRevolution and several universities to develop cubesat, which can then be sent to Mars to explore this planet. According to Virgin Orbit, the first launch of new satellites is planned for 2022. After that, Virgin Orbit will be the first commercial company that managed to launch small spacecraft to Mars.
The first interplanetary cubesats were launched to Mars in 2018 as part of the MarCo mission. Satellites were developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The objectives of the MarCo mission were to study the surface of Mars, as well as to test the survival of spacecraft like CubeSat in deep space. In addition, the researchers planned to demonstrate the possibility of building an interplanetary communication system based on cubsats. The MarCo mission ended in February of this year.
According to the Virgin Orbit and SatRevolution consortium, devices weighing 50 kilograms can be used to conduct a wide range of studies, including photographing the surface of Mars and its satellite Phobos, analyzing the Martian atmosphere and searching for hidden reservoirs. In total, Virgin Orbit plans to organize three missions to Mars. To launch the satellites, the LauncherOne rocket will be used, which, in turn, will start from a modified Boeing 747-400 carrier aircraft.
In mid-September of this year, NASA announced that it intends to send cubes to the moon before the launch of the first modules of the future near-moon station. It will be directed to the same exotic halo orbit, to which the near-moon station will later be displayed. Using a spacecraft, it is planned to accurately measure the characteristics of the trajectory, as well as to work out a system of autonomous navigation. The development and assembly of cubesats will be undertaken by Advanced Space.
Via | Virgin Orbit