J32.1 The Role of SmallSats and CubeSats for NASA Science (Invited Presentation) (Core Science Keynote)

Tuesday, 9 January 2018: 1:30 PM
Room 9AB (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA, Washington, DC

NASA's Science Mission Directorate conducts scientific exploration that is enabled by access to space. To accomplish this, NASA utilizes a portfolio of spacecraft of various sizes and purposes. At the strategic level, missions such as the James Webb Space Telescope or Mars 2020 Rover seek to transform our knowledge of nature but require significant funds to enable mission success due to their complexity and size. However, on the lower-cost end of the spectrum, small spacecraft have proved useful for performing targeted measurements and forming constellations that provide unprecedented insights. Indeed, a recent study conducted by the U.S. National Academies focused on the scientific potential and technological promise of CubeSats and small satellites (SmallSats). The report concluded that there is significant potential for these platforms to perform high-priority science. The report also determined that NASA should increase “coordination of their CubeSat programs for science and science-enabling technology, with the goal of further increasing the overall scientific return” as well as advancing science use of CubeSats. During this talk, we will first review examples of CubeSats and SmallSats in NASA’s science portfolio and then discuss a cross-cutting initiative NASA is undertaking to exploit the scientific potential of these tools.
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