The first interplanetary Cubsat completed their mission - N + 1

Animation of MarCO-B satellite Kubatat approaches Mars, composed of frames received on November 26, 2018. The distance to the planet at the time of shooting ranged from 575 thousand to 18 thousand kilometers.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

The Mars Cube One mission, in which the very first interplanetary Cubsat satellites, which have successfully tested the possibility of building an interplanetary communication system, are completed, have been completed. reported on the mission website. Contact both Kubsat for no more than a month.

The Mars Cube One (or MarCO) project is an additional part of the scientific program of the new Mars InSight research mission (Interior Exploration with Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport), which was successfully launched in space on 5 May 2018 One of the goals of the project is to test the existence of spacecraft of the CubeSat type in the deep space and to demonstrate the possibility to build an interplanetary communication system based on this. As part of the mission, two identical Kubsat satellites Marco-A and MarCO-B (with the unofficial names "EVE" and "WALL-E") of 6U format (36.6 x 24.3 x 11, 8 centimeters), equipped with solar panels, lithium-ion batteries, antennas working in the X-band, and an antenna that operates on decimeter lengths of radio waves, as well as two color cameras with wide-angle lenses and narrow-angle lenses and an orientation control system that uses a propulsion system that works on compressed gas.

On November 26, 2018, the satellites flew past Mars and successfully completed their mission to transfer data to Earth from the automated InSight emission during the landing on Mars, which also ended in success. In the course of the rapprochement one of the cubs could photograph Mars with his camera. The last time WALL-E communicated with the earth was December 29, 2018 and EVE – January 4, 2019, after which there were no signals from the satellites. Based on calculations, WALL-E is located at a distance of more than 1.6 million kilometers from Mars and EVE is 3.2 million kilometers.

It is assumed that the radio silence of the Kubsat is associated with the ever increasing complexity of directional antennas to the earth due to the weak propulsion system, as well as the ever smaller amount of light entering the solar panels when they are moving away from the sun. The mission team will continue until the summer of 2019 to make contact with the satellites, but the chance of success is very small. A number of MarCO spare elements that remain on Earth, such as antennas and propulsion systems, will in future be used to create other satellites of this size.

About how the InSight devices work and what their scientific value is, you can read in our material "Look in the Red Planet" and the mysteries of Mars geology are described in our other article "Seismograph for Mars".

Alexander Voytyuk

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