Thirteen NASA and National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)-sponsored CubeSats are scheduled to launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 8:49 a.m. EDT (5:49 a.m. PDT) Thursday, Oct. 8, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Prelaunch media briefings and launch commentary coverage will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
NASA TV coverage of the launch will begin at 8:29 a.m. EDT Thursday.
NASA will host two prelaunch briefings at Vandenberg on Wednesday, Oct. 7. The first briefing will highlight the growing importance of CubeSats in exploration and technology development and will begin at 1 p.m. EDT (10 a.m. PDT). The second briefing, at 2 p.m. EDT (11 a.m. PDT), will cover the five NASA-related CubeSats.
Four of the CubeSats are NASA-sponsored and nine are NRO-sponsored, one of which was developed with NASA funding. All will be flown on the NRO’s Government Rideshare Advanced Concepts Experiment (GRACE), which is an auxiliary payload aboard the NROL-55 mission.
The CubeSat developed with NASA funding will evaluate the ability to point a small satellite accurately as it demonstrates data transfer by laser at rates of up to 200 Mb/s — a factor of 100 increase over current high-end CubeSat communications systems. The NASA-sponsored CubeSats will test new small satellite control and communications systems, Earth observations, amateur radio communications and an X-Band radio science transponder.
These CubeSats also include the first to be designed, built and operated by students in Alaska and the first from Native American tribal college students.
Small satellites, including CubeSats, are playing an increasingly larger role in exploration, technology demonstration, scientific research and educational investigations at NASA.