Learning to communicate with and navigate multiple spacecraft autonomously in space is a technological challenge that will be even more important to solve as NASA continues to operate in low Earth orbit and beyond. The V-R3x mission uses a swarm of three small satellites to demonstrate new technologies and techniques for radio and navigation networks.
By developing and demonstrating these technologies on a small scale, they can be deployed for future multi-spacecraft missions, allowing NASA to pursue its future science, technology and exploration goals.
Using three satellites known as CubeSats, each the size of a coffee cup, the mission will conduct a series of such demonstrations. They will demonstrate the ability to take high-precision data on the distance of spacecraft, send data from one spacecraft to another at a high data rate, coordinate radiation measurements using onboard sensors, and track orientation and formation. of the three spaceships.
The first stage of the mission will begin with the launch of an orbital mission aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as part of the Transporter-1 mission. If all goes according to plan, the mission expects to complete its primary objectives within two weeks of launch, with a full mission duration of three months to collect additional data.
To complement this launch, the V-R3x team will also launch a CubeSat on a high altitude balloon in the future. Balloon testing is facilitated through NASA’s Flight Opportunities program. Four units will be deployed on the ground, each driven to separate locations. Once turned on, each unit will communicate with the satellite in the upper edges of the atmosphere, more than 30 and a half kilometers away.
Both experiments will show the ability of small satellites to communicate with each other over long distances, maintain spatial awareness of each other, coordinate to collect data, and quickly share that data with each other.
V-R3x is based on an open source CubeSat framework that integrates hardware and software, known as PyCubed. It will also make use of the Amazon Web Service ground station, the first operational use case for a NASA mission. Moving forward, V-R3x provides NASA with a simple, low-cost platform for future technology demonstration needs.