oday the Hyper-Angular Rainbow Polarimeter (HARP) CubeSat made history by becoming the 100th CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) selected mission deployed into space. This mission marks nearly 12 years of the CSLI providing CubeSat developers rideshare opportunities to space via Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) missions.
“This 100th mission is extremely noteworthy because it highlights just how special and valuable CSLI is. Not only does the initiative provide real-life, hands-on experience to the next generation of space exploration professionals, it also adds tremendous value and moves NASA’s mission forward in meaningful ways,” said Jim Norman, director, Launch Services at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "I want to thank all the university students, faculty and staff, industry partners and NASA centers who have participated in this program for their contributions.”
Lucky 100—Hyper-Angular Rainbow Polarimeter (HARP)
HARP is a 3U CubeSat designed to measure the microphysical properties of atmospheric aerosols, cloud water and ice particles. It is a precursor for a new generation of imaging polarimeters to be used for the detailed measurements of aerosol and cloud properties in larger missions. The wide field-of-view imager splits three spatially identical images into three independent polarizer and detector arrays. This technique achieves simultaneous imagery of the three polarization states and is the key innovation to achieve a high polarimetric accuracy with no moving parts. The mission is expected to spend nearly a year in orbit with three months dedicated to technology demonstrations and an extended science data period of an additional seven months.
Funded by NASA’s Earth Science Technology Office, HARP launched Nov. 2, 2019, as part of the ELaNa 25 mission on Northrup Grumman’s 12th Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station.
NASA’s CSLI provides access to space for small satellites and CubeSats, developed by accredited educational institutions, non-profit organizations, Federal agencies, and NASA Centers. CSLI provides CubeSat developers a low-cost pathway for conducting scientific investigations and technology demonstrations in space, and NASA a mechanism for low-cost technology development and scientific research to help bridge strategic knowledge gaps and accelerate qualified technology. Sponsored by the Human Exploration Operations Mission Directorate’s Launch Services Program and Advanced Exploration Systems Division, CSLI is an integrated cross-agency collaborative effort that streamlines and prioritizes rideshare and deployment opportunities.
CubeSats are built in standard units of approximately 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm, or in configurations of one, 1.5, two, three, four, five, six and 12 units. These small satellites play a valuable role in the agency’s exploration, technology, educational, and science investigations, including planetary exploration, Earth observation, and fundamental Earth and space science. They are a cornerstone in the development of cutting-edge NASA technologies like laser communications, satellite-to-satellite communications, and autonomous movement. Each proposed investigation must demonstrate a benefit to NASA by addressing aspects of science, exploration, technology development, education, or operations consistent with NASA’s strategic goals.
The History of CSLI
"The first CSLI activity was announced in 2010. CSLI program founders Jason Crusan, Anne Sweet, Carol Galica, Diane Detroye, and Garrett Skrobot built in processes for establishing the criteria for opportunity announcements, developed CubeSat design specifications and created a process for vetting the hundreds of proposals received during each announcement cycle," said Scott Higginbotham, NASA Launch Services Program ELaNa Mission Lead. "The team not only established a selection system, they also created resources to assist in the success of CubeSat developers."
The first CSLI mission, ELaNa-1—consisting of three CubeSats, Explorer-1 (Montana State University), HERMES (University of Colorado) and KYSat-1 (University of Kentucky)—launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California on March 4, 2011. The mission was a success as it provided participating university students hands-on, space flight hardware development and launch vehicle integration experience. All three organizations went on to launch other successful missions that also flew on ELaNa flights.
Since that first mission, 176 CubeSat missions from 39 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have been selected, 101 missions (as of today) have been deployed into their own free-flying orbit, and over 97 unique organizations and 75 universities have participated in this initiative. Currently, there are 39 missions manifested and awaiting a launch opportunity.
CSLI is in its 11th annual selection cycle. Final CubeSat mission selections will be announced in February of this year.