Several recent developments show that the Interplanetary CubeSat concept, which we reported on previously, is continuing to gain mindshare.
There are also specialized conferences for specific applications.
LunarCubes is a concept being promoted by Flexure Engineering for lunar missions based on an evolved CubeSat standard. Flexure hosted a LunarCubes Briefing in Palo Alto. Content from the briefing is now available online.
Finally, there is CubeSats to Mars from the nonprofit Explore Mars, Inc. in association with Busek Space Propulsion, Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems LLC, United Launch Alliance, and California Polytechnic State University.
The CubeSats to Mars project proposes to use an EELV Secondary Payload Adaptor and Orbital Maneuvering System (ESPA-OMS) boosted by a Centaur upper stage. The ESPA-OMS could carry 27 three-unit CubeSats to Mars orbit, then serve as a communications relay satellite. Presumably, it could carry a mix of 1U and 2U CubeSats as well.
The CubeSats to Mars project notes that NASA’s Mars Program Planning Group reviewed over 400 mission proposals but only a handful could be carried forward. This leads the CubeSats to Mars project to believe there is a market for a privately funded Mars mission carrying CubeSats. It’s also suggested that a national or international student competition could be held to seek innovative designs for Martian CubeSat missions. It’s believed that large numbers of modestly priced CubeSats would provide unprecedented opportunities for students to develop hardware that would be sent to another planet.