After two successful years of on-orbit operations, NASA's Fast, Affordable, Science, and Technology Satellite, or FASTSAT, mission is coming to an end. FASTSAT successfully demonstrated a capability to build, deploy, and operate a science and technology flight mission at lower costs than previously possible.
The satellite was designed, developed, and tested over a period of 14 months at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL, in partnership with the Von Braun Center for Science & Innovation and Dynetics, both of Huntsville, and the Department of Defense's Space Test Program.
FASTSAT used off-the-shelf commercial hardware provided by NASA and a group of industry partners. Weighing slightly less than 400 lb and carrying six technology and atmospheric science experiments, FASTSAT provided an opportunity to conduct innovative research and mature the readiness of new technologies for future missions.
"FASTSAT demonstrated that an 'outside the box' solution afforded a highly synergistic concept which satisfied experiment, payload, and launch schedule requirements," says Mark Boudreaux, FASTSAT project manager at the Marshall Center. "This successful mission brings us closer to realizing a unique, small-satellite platform and the environment needed to perform low-cost research in space."
FASTSAT was launched by the DoD Space Test Program from Kodiak, AK, in November 2010, and completed two years on orbit. It served as an autonomous research laboratory in low-Earth orbit, containing all the necessary resources to conduct scientific and technology research operations for all onboard experiments.
"This project has validated the effectiveness of a commercial/government partnership, leveraging the resources and capabilities of Dynetics and the expertise of the Marshall Space Flight Center," says Steve Cook, Dynetics' director of Space Technologies.
Marty Kress, executive director of the Von Braun Center for Science & Innovation, agrees. "FASTSAT provided a comprehensive and cost-effective capability, which resulted in affordable and flexible access to space for a diverse set of users," he says. "Such a minisatellite capability is an invaluable asset, making future partnerships between government, industry and academia more viable and mutually beneficial than ever before."
Among the NASA innovations enabled by FASTSAT during its mission to test low-technology-readiness experiments were: the Miniature Imager for Neutral Ionospheric Atoms and Magnetospheric Electrons, or MINI-ME; the Plasma Impedance Spectrum Analyzer, or PISA; and FASTSAT's ability to eject a nanosatellite, NanoSail-D, from a minisatellite.