Recently NASA has launched TechEdSat-6 (Technology Educational Satellite) aboard the Cygnus spacecraft, developed by the commercial spaceflight firm Orbital ATK, to ISS. The cargo spacecraft took off on November 12 from the Wallops Flight Facility of NASA at Virginia.
The TechEdSat-6 satellite, which is as small as a bread loaf, is basically a part of an ongoing series by the space agency aimed at demonstrating the 'Exo-Brake' parachute, the highly developed wireless sensor network used for communication.
The satellite, which is the fourth TechEdSat satellite to be launched from NASA, was deployed into the lower orbit of Earth on November 20 from a platform of NanoRacks. It's carrying the Exo-Brakes upgraded version, which is supposed to demonstrate safe return of the small spacecraft after conducting various experiments in space. The satellite is scheduled to start wireless sensor testing soon and this would be first ever self-powered tests run by the satellite.
"The Exo-Brake's shape can be changed to vary the drag on the satellite. With the help of high-fidelity simulations, we will demonstrate a low-cost, propellant-less method of returning small payloads quickly, and to fairly precise locations, for retrieval. We are excited about tracking TechEdSat-6 as it re-enters the atmosphere," said Michelle Munk, the head of entry, descent and landing of NASA's System Capability.
Along with achieving the goal of making the samples return to Earth successfully from the orbital platform and space stations, NASA is also looking to construct building blocks for major structures, which would, in future, facilitate small spacecraft's arrival on Mars and various other locations in our solar system.
The Exo-Brake mission has been sponsored by Entry Systems Modeling project under the Space Technology Mission Directorate's Game Changing Development program. NASA's Ames Research Centre at Silicon Valley, California and the Engineering and Safety Centre of the space agency at Virginia's Hampton have also provided the extra funding for it.
The Technology Educational Satellite series is essentially a collaboration of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and the team consists of interns and early-career employees of NASA, besides students from different universities.