The MakerSat-0 CubeSat, designed by students at Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) and Caldwell High School in Idaho, is scheduled to launch into space aboard a Delta II rocket Friday, November 10th from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The experimental CubeSat is carrying electronics that will, for the first time in history, collect real-time data on the effects of the harsh environment of space on 3D-printed polymer materials. Test data will be collected continually for the next several years on half-gram samples of four materials: ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), PLA (Poly Lactic Acid), nylon, and PEI/PC (polyetherimide/polycarbonate) ULTEM.
MakerSat-0 will begin sending test data to Earth two hours after launch, flying at an altitude of 800 kilometers. It will travel at 17,000 mph in a sun-synchronous orbit crossing the North and South Poles 14 times a day. Students can access the data from their smartphones. The launch opportunity is provided by NASA’s Cubesat Launch Initiative. MakerSat-0 is one of four CubeSats chosen for NASA’s ELaNa XIV mission on this launch.
“This is the first of two MakerSat missions that we’re launching in partnership with Made In Space,” said Dr. Stephen Parke, NNU engineering professor and faculty lead. “The MakerSat missions will provide the space community with invaluable test data on how these materials react to oxygen plasma, ultraviolet and ionizing radiation, vacuum, extreme temperatures, and micrometeorite collisions.”
Much of the science possible in older and larger satellites and spacecraft is now possible using CubeSats, at costs in the thousands of dollars instead of millions, thanks to the miniaturization of electronics and sensors. In August 2017, MIS successfully additively manufactured the structural frame for MakerSat-1 aboard the International Space Station (ISS) using the company’s Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF). MakerSat-0 is a precursor mission to MakerSat-1 which will be assembled (snapped together) aboard ISS in early 2018 by an astronaut crew member and then deployed into orbit.
“Our AMF printer makes it possible to manufacture and assemble CubeSats on demand aboard the ISS,” said Matt Napoli, MIS vice president of In-Space Operations. “Using AMF, universities, government and company researchers can rapidly design, print, test, and iterate new research concepts at a much lower cost than traditional research methods on Earth. The MakerSat missions are going to provide us with materials research information that will be used for projects such as Archinaut, the first in-space, autonomous robotic additive manufacturing and assembly platform.”