MMA HaWKs Power First Ever Interplanetary CubeSat Demonstration on JPL’s Mars Cube One “MarCO” Mission
2019’s SmallSat Mission of the Year, MarCOs A and B were the first CubeSats to ever set forth on a journey to deep space. Launching in May of 2018, MarCO’s twin CubeSats, nicknamed Wall-E and Eva, arrived at the red planet six months later, in November of 2018. Their mission was to demonstrate that CubeSats could play an integral part in improving communications as the Mars InSight Lander entered Mars’ atmosphere. MMA’s solar arrays provided critical space power to the two diminuitive satellites, with our first dual-axis deployment HaWKs, which exceeded power expectations on their trip to Mars. Thanks to the MarCO CubeSats, the InSight team learned of the lander’s successful entry into Mars’ atmosphere in near-real-time, instead of the previously standard 1+ hour delay.
The MarCO HaWK solar arrays were some of MMA’s first solar arrays developed after achieving commercialization success with the AFRL HaWK under Small Business Innovation Research grants, or SBIRs. The requirements of the MarCO spacecraft and other constraints of the mission also brought about significant advancements in the technologies we originally developed. Specifically, critical improvements to our design of launch restraints were made, improving overall strength and reliability for the severe environments experienced during ascent and on-orbit. The hinge and spring innovations developed on MarCO have not only been flight proven in deep space, but are now standard components in many of the HaWK configurations we have delivered since.
Our work with JPL started with the MarCO mission, and has continued with ASTERIA, NeaScout and Lunar Flashlight. When two out of four missions win SmallSat Mission of the Year awards, you know you’re doing something right.