Massively Clustered CubeSats NCPS Demo Mission

Technologies under development for the proposed Nuclear Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (NCPS) will require an un-crewed demonstration mission before they can be flight qualified over distances and time frames representative of a crewed Mars mission. In this paper, we describe a Massively Clustered CubeSats platform, possibly comprising hundreds of CubeSats, as the main payload of the NCPS demo mission.

This platform would enable a mechanism for cost savings for the demo mission through shared support between NASA and other government agencies as well as leveraged commercial aerospace and academic community involvement. We believe a Massively Clustered CubeSats platform should be an obvious first choice for the NCPS demo mission when one considers that cost and risk of the payload can be spread across many CubeSat customers and that the NCPS demo mission can capitalize on using CubeSats developed by others for its own instrumentation needs.

Moreover, a demo mission of the NCPS offers an unprecedented opportunity to invigorate the public on a global scale through direct individual participation coordinated through a web-based collaboration engine. The platform we describe would be capable of delivering CubeSats at various locations along a trajectory toward the primary mission destination, in this case Mars, permitting a variety of potential CubeSat-specific missions.

Cameras on various CubeSats can also be used to provide multiple views of the space environment and the NCPS vehicle for video monitoring as well as allow the public to "ride along" as virtual passengers on the mission. This collaborative approach could even initiate a brand new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program for launching student developed CubeSat payloads beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO) on future deep space technology qualification missions.

- Full paper

- Associated briefing

Please follow SpaceRef on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.