InSight will be the next robotic Lander mission to Mars. Scheduled in 2016 the mission will also compose of 2 CubeSats. They will be used to transmit information faster from the Lander to Earth.
MarCO’s twin communications-relay CubeSats, that were build built by NASA were designed as miniaturized satellites to be used for space Research.
Built at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California the designs were created as far as 1999 by California’s Polytechnic State Institute and Stanford University and were originally intended for LEO( low Earth orbit), they now constitute a technology demonstration called Mars Cube One.
Although not originally developed for travelling to Mars, these technologies will be used to test if low cost CubeSats are adequate for aiding Mars Landing missions like InSight.
The design evolved along the years and since now NASA is planning its Mars Cube One Mission (MarCO)development on this specific model is expected to continue. Mars Cube One will be the first of these basic minimalist satellite designs to operate beyond Earth.
InSight is an backronym for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. The car-sized Lander was developed to explore the surface of the red planet using state of the art instrumentation.
The Mission will compose of 2 separate objectives, MarCO will have the assignment to Fly by Mars and deploy two radio antennas and two solar panels. MarCO is composed of 2 CubeSats that will transmit data from the red planet.
MarCO will flu by Mars while InSight will land on the planet. MarCO will fly independently of InSight and will have it’s own course and separate adjustments.
If successful the Marco CubeSats will allow for limited transmission time, in the critical moment when the future Landers will enter the atmosphere of mars and the docking process.
The CubeSats where the idea of U.S. University Professors and their goal was to entice graduate students to design and operate spacecrafts similar to Sputnik. The first CubeSats were launched in June 2003 by a Russian commercial spacecraft.
By 2012 a number of 75 CubeSats Were placed in orbit around the Earth. The minimalist design with reduced weight and volume allows CubeSats to be launched in several numbers at a time and thus further reduce costs.
Image Source: pepl.engin.umich.edu