Mothership of Asteroid CubeSats – Enabling Low Cost Swarm Based Investigations of Small Bodies

Monday, 15 December 2014
Sebastian M. Ernst, James D. DiCorcia, David Gump, Amanda Owens, John S. Lewis, Craig Foulds and Daniel Faber, Deep Space Industries, Mountain View, CA, United States
Deep Space Industries is under contract to NASA to evaluate options for secondary spacecraft in support of the Asteroid Redirect Mission. One concept to enable broad participation by the scientific community is the Mothership of Asteroid CubeSats to deliver third-party experiments and sensors to a near Earth asteroid. The Mothership service includes delivery of nanosats built by a variety of non-DSI researchers, communications relay to Earth, and visuals of the asteroid surface and surrounding area. This service allows researchers to house their instruments in a low-cost nanosat body that does not require the high-performance propulsion or deep space communications capabilities that otherwise would be required for an asteroid mission. This enables organizations with relatively low operating budgets to closely examine an asteroid with highly specialized sensors of their own choosing. In addition, the Mothership and its deployed nanosats can offer a platform for instruments, that need to be distributed over multiple spacecraft. The Mothership would be designed to carry a variety of form factors, from chipsats to 1U to 8U CubeSats. The initial missions would begin as early as fourth quarter 2017 and continue through 2018-19. Special interest groups are being conducted for gathering input from the small body research community.