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ASTERIA (Arcsecond Space Telescope Enabling Research in Astrophysics) is a technology demonstration and opportunistic science mission to conduct astrophysical measurements using a CubeSat. ASTERIA is a 6U CubeSat (roughly 10 x 20 x 30 cm, 10 kg) that was launched into low-Earth orbit. It is the first JPL-built CubeSat to have been successfully operated in space. Originally envisioned as a project for training early career scientists and engineers, ASTERIA's technical goal is to achieve arcsecond-level line-of-sight pointing error and highly stable focal plane temperature control. These technologies are important for precision photometry, i.e., the measurement of stellar brightness over time. Precision photometry, in turn, provides a way to study stellar activity, transiting exoplanets, and other astrophysical phenomena.

Mission Status

In June 2017, the flight spacecraft was delivered for integration into the Nanoracks CubeSat Deployer. ASTERIA was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) with the SpaceX Falcon-9 Commercial Resupply Services 12 (CRS-12) mission on August 14, 2017. The spacecraft was deployed from the ISS on November 20, 2017 to begin the 90-day ASTERIA technology demonstration mission.

As of February 2018, ASTERIA had met its primary mission requirements by demonstrating pointing stability better than 0.5 arcseconds RMS over 20 minutes and pointing repeatability of 1 milliarcsecond RMS from orbit-to-orbit. The mission also demonstrated thermal stability of +/-0.01 K as measured at a single point on the focal plane.

ASTERIA was in an extended mission to search for new exoplanet transits around nearby, bright stars. The extended mission provided long-term validation of hardware and software for use on future projects. JPL lost contact with the spacecraft as of December 19, 2019. It is expected to deorbit in the Spring of 2020 (JPL Press Release).

Further Literature:

ASTERIA eoPortal Directory

JPL ASTERIA Information Page

Launched by NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative on the ELaNa II mission as an auxiliary payload aboard the NROL-39 Mission on December 6, 2013, the Multipurpose Mini-satellite was developed by students from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. M-Cubed-2/COVE's mission is to obtain mid-resolution color imagery of Earth's surface and to carry the JPL/Caltech-developed CubeSat On-board processing Validation Experiment (COVE). COVE advanced technology required for real-time, high-datarate instrument processing relevant to future Earth science missions. MCubed-2 is functional and in-orbit, but not being actively commanded. CMOC is working with University of Michigan to reestablish regular ops.

Further Reading:

MCubed-2 eoPortal Directory

MCubed-2 NASA Information Page