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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

Experimental exoplanet-hunting CubeSat starts to prove itself in space

• New Atlas

Awarded the Small Satellite Mission of the Year by the Small Satellite Technical Committee of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' (AIAA), the bread loaf-sized spacecraft is designed to show that small satellites can hunt for exoplanets just as larger space telescopes like Kepler can, and impressed after "demonstrat[ing] a significant improvement in the capability of small satellites."

The Kepler mission and its successors like TESS have revolutionized our understanding of both other planetary systems and our own Solar System. The thousands of exoplanets confirmed so far provide us with a greater understanding of what kinds of systems are out there, how they formed, and the chances that some of them might harbor life.

The problem is, for all the attempts by space engineers to control costs, space telescopes like Kepler are very expensive and when one malfunctions it's all hands on deck to get it back up and running. For this reason, NASA is interested in spreading the load, looking at the potential to send out a constellation of exoplanet-hunting CubeSats that can take on some of the duties of their larger conventional counterparts.

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