NASA Successfully Launches First Mission of 2023

NASA Launch Vehicles Send Three Small Satellites Into Orbit

Washington, DC - NASA successfully launched its first mission of 2023 with the liftoff of three small satellites, designed and built by students, aboard a rocket from the agency's CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI). The mission launched on Thursday, January 12, at 4:00 pm EST from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

The CubeSat payloads aboard the rocket were designed and developed by undergraduate and graduate student interns as part of NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative CSLI program. The initiative provides select student teams from across the country with the opportunity to design and build small satellites for launch and operation aboard NASA rockets. The program encourages students to become involved in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields and provides them with real-world experience in designing and conducting missions to outer space. This launch marks the agency's first launch of 2023 and is part of NASA's broader efforts to create opportunities for students and underrepresented groups within the agency.

"These internships are paramount to cultivating the minds of future scientists and engineers, while also encouraging diversity and inclusion in our future workforce," said Bhavya Lal, NASA's acting chief of staff and senior advisor of STEM engagement for agency leadership. "It's crucial that we continue to invest in these young minds, not only to fulfill today's missions, but for generations beyond."

This launch included the following three CubeSat missions:

Hurricane Assessment Near-real time Satellite (HANS) Mission

The HANS mission, developed by students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, aims to provide improved situational awareness for hurricanes and tropical storms. The mission objective is to provide near-real-time observations of the surface atmospheric conditions of tropical storms and hurricanes. This information will be used to improve the understanding of hurricane formation and intensity changes, as well as help provide validation of existing satellite-derived datasets and numerical hurricane models. The data will be distributed to the National Weather Service and other agencies for use in developing forecasting tools and provide useful information to emergency managers and concerned citizens.

Near-Earth Asteroid Scout (NEAS) Mission

The NEAS mission, developed by the University of Colorado Boulder, seeks to demonstrate nascent spacecraft technologies, including a new type of low-energy ion propulsion system and new scalable small satellite architectures. The mission will perform a quick flyby of the asteroid 1986 DR, passing within 2000 kilometers of the asteroid's surface, with the goal of producing new insights into the asteroid's composition and structure.

The NEAS satellite will also deploy a handful of small chip-sized satellites, called CubeSats, in orbit around the asteroid. These CubeSats will photograph the asteroid from different angles as they orbit, providing complementary data on the asteroid's composition.

Titan Alpha Satellite (TAS) Mission

The TAS mission, developed by students at the California Polytechnic State University, aims to provide a better understanding of the atmosphere of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, and ultimately improve our understanding of planet Earth. The TAS mission involves the design and construction of a near-Titan spacecraft and a suite of science instruments to characterize the Titanian atmosphere. Data collected from the mission will provide insight into the moon's atmospheric chemistry, humidity, and precipitation patterns.

Through the CSLI program, NASA recently announced the selection of nine small satellite missions, including the HANS, NEAS, and TAS missions, slated to launch in 2024. These missions continue NASA's commitment to increase learning opportunities for students while also engaging in cutting-edge research and development.

"It is inspiring to see how these students develop and execute these missions, and then watch them transition into the next generation of commercial providers and NASA mission leaders," said Jordan Evans, program manager for the CubeSat Launch Initiative at NASA. "It's a transformative experience for them, and for us as we watch them flourish."

NASA continues to engage with the next generation of future leaders as part of its mission to boldly go forward through diverse collaborations, active learning, and inspirational action. With an exciting year ahead, NASA is poised to continue to look toward new horizons and opportunities to create transformative experiences for current and future generations.

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