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NASA Developing Inexpensive, Fun-Sized Spacecraft to Explore the Cosmos

posted: 05/22/15
by: Danny Clemens
NASA CAPE prototype
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Space exploration is no inexpensive feat - SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launches come it at $61.2 million per pop. A NASA scientist is working to bring that cost down, developing a relatively cheap concept spacecraft that can be easily deployed to study other planets.

Jaime Esper, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, is developing CubeSat Application for Planetary Entry Missions (CAPE), an 11-pound spacecraft as big as a loaf of bread. After being launched on a rocket, CAPE utilizes an internal battery to begin its sojourn to a faraway cosmic destination.

Upon arrival, the spacecraft descends through the the target planet's atmosphere, rapidly collecting information like atmospheric pressure, temperature, and composition data, which is then transmitted back to Earth.

Although no price point has been specified, NASA notes that CAPE is "relatively inexpensive to build and deploy" and could be particularly attractive to "researchers with limited resources".

"The CAPE concept is like no other CubeSat mission," Esper said. "It goes the extra step in delivering a complete spacecraft for carrying out scientific investigations. We are the only researchers working on a concept like this."

Esper and his team are planning a balloon mission with a prototype CAPE for this summer; the spacecraft will plunge to Earth from an altitude of almost 19 miles to demonstrate its aerodynamic stability.

Click here to learn more from NASA

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