In DepthPlanetary Science

Interplanetary small satellites come of age

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Science  24 Aug 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6404, pp. 736-737
DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6404.736

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Summary

Cheap, small satellites—sometimes called CubeSats—have swarmed into Earth orbit over the past decade, cutting the cost of studying our home planet from space. Now, with advances in guidance, communications, and propulsion, these spacecraft, some no bigger than a briefcase, are becoming capable enough to venture into deep space—or at least the inner solar system. Two are halfway to Mars, more than a dozen planetary probes are in development, and scientists are coming up with ever-more-daring ideas for doing cheap, high-risk interplanetary science. Earlier this year, NASA began to accept proposals for a line of small planetary missions, with costs capped at $55 million.