Picture credited by: NASA/JPL – Caltech
NASA can now relax about the two CubeSats entering into space. NASA’s CubeSats MarCo-A and MarCo-B are the first CubeSats to venture into deeper space. NASA was nervous about their success in space, but the two CubeSats have managed to maneuver to Mars.
MarCo-A and MarCo-B were launched on May 5, and they have just completed the process called trajectory correction maneuver. This process allows a spacecraft to refine its path to Mars. The CubeSats, collectively called Mars Cube One are expected to relay data about the Insight lander back to Earth.
Even though the CubeSats will relay data, they are also serving as test CubeSats for NASA. NASA wants to know if it is possible to send CubeSats to deeper space to collect data. If this test is successful, NASA can cut cost on relay satellites to deep space.
MarCo-A had a smooth maneuvering process while MarCo-B faced some challenges. MarCo-B had a smaller maneuver because one of the thruster valves was leaking. Engineers are expecting that the CubeSat will perform a trajectory correction maneuver. This can last for a couple of weeks, but MarCo-B will find its way to follow the Insight lander after the correction.
NASA is not relying on the CubeSats to relay data from the Insight to Earth. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will transmit data to the Earth. The orbiter is the primary communication instrument for the Mars Lander.
In May last month, NASA launched Insight Mars lander aboard United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket at the Vandenberg Air Force base in California. The lander will probe the interior of Mars and also check for quakes on Mars popularly called Marsquakes.
The lander will cruise in space for seven months before landing on Mars in November. Previous Mars mission has explored the surface of the Red Planet and also studied the features including volcanoes, soils, and rocks.
NASA will use the data collected to study and understand Mars better. They also intend to use the data to understand Earth better. This mission will reveal the activeness of Mars. While the Insight lander is yet to land on Mars, NASA has revealed that the lander is working as expected.
The CubeSats are also making their way to their destination despite the challenges that the MarCo-B is facing. NASA is hopeful that the MarCO CubeSats will follow the lander to land on Mars in November. Meanwhile, the CubeSats have managed to send images to earth.