Starling [Blue Canyon Technologies]
NASA’s Starling mission is a multi-CubeSat mission to demonstrate autonomous swarm technologies. It's mission is advancing the readiness of various technologies for cooperative groups of spacecraft – also known as distributed missions, clusters, or swarms. Starling will demonstrate technologies to enable multipoint science data collection by several small spacecraft flying in swarms.
The six-month mission will use four CubeSats in low-Earth orbit to test four technologies that let spacecraft operate in a synchronized manner without resources from the ground. The technologies will advance the following capabilities.
The Starling mission will test whether the technologies work as expected, what their limitations are, and what developments are still needed for CubeSat swarms to be successful.
The four 6-unit CubeSats will fly in a Sun-synchronous orbit more than 300 miles above Earth and no more than 170 miles apart from each other. The spacecraft will fly in two formations. First, they will begin in line, or in-train, like a string of pearls. Then, the CubeSats will move out of the in-train configuration and into a set of stable relative orbits known as passive safety ellipses.
During the two flying formations, the following four technologies will be tested.
Starling was selected in 2020 by NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) to be launched as part of the ELaNa program. Launch wass planned for mid 2022 on a shared Firefly-Alpha. Due to delays and uncertainties, the mission was moved to a Rocket Lab Electron KS launch in 3Q 2023.
|Type / Application:||Technology|
|Operator:||NASA Ames Research Center|
|Contractors:||NASA Ames Research Center (prime); Blue Canyon Technologies (BCT) (bus)|
|Power:||2 deployable fixed solar arrays, batteries|
|Starling 1||-||2023||OnS LC-1||Electron KS||with Starling 2, 3, 4, (more small sats)|
|Starling 2||-||2023||OnS LC-1||Electron KS||with Starling 1, 3, 4, (more small sats)|
|Starling 3||-||2023||OnS LC-1||Electron KS||with Starling 1, 2, 4, (more small sats)|
|Starling 4||-||2023||OnS LC-1||Electron KS||with Starling 1, 2, 3, (more small sats)|