NASA will examine the possibility of collecting multipoint scientific data using small satellites designed to operate autonomously in a swarm during a six-month mission slated to launch later this year, SpaceNews reported Tuesday.
The agency selected Firefly Aerospace to build a rocket that will send four six-unit CubeSats to low-Earth orbit for a series of Starling mission experiments under the company’s Venture Class Launch Services contract.
“Instead of having one monolithic spacecraft that you are dependent on operating properly, you can have multiple smaller spacecraft that are less expensive,” Howard Cannon, Starling project manager at NASA’s Ames Research Center, was quoted as saying by SpaceNews.
Demonstrations will test communications among the satellites, the use of onboard cameras called “star trackers” to detect spacecraft detection, swarm maneuvering and artificial intelligence-based ionospheric density monitoring.
Raytheon Technologies’ Blue Canyon Technologies subsidiary is the satellite manufacturer and operations support provider for the mission.