How do Cubesats and Small Satellites fit into NASA’s Strategic Plan?

In the document “NASA Small Spacecraft Strategic Plan” NASA explicitly recognizes the significant and increasing role that small spacecraft will play in NASA’s future scientific research and exploration. Small spacecraft range from Cubesats to ESPA–class.

NASA’s strategies for small spacecraft are summarized in the following subsections.

High Priority Innovative Science

Adopt small spacecraft as part of a balanced program of exploration, incorporating new technology, mission formulation, and launch capabilities to enable unique scientific observations.

Actively partner on capabilities and services that enable multipoint measurements from distributed spacecraft systems.

Educate the wider scientific community about mission formulation, technology, and large service capabilities to enable decadal survey–class science and exploration initiatives.

Support to Human Exploration

Actively partner with industry on capabilities and services for affordable small spacecraft missions to the Moon and Mars to support human exploration.

Ensure that scientific and exploration activities in cis-lunar space involving humans and small spacecraft are coordinated, mutually beneficial, and complementary.

Disruptive Technology Innovation

Collaborate on emerging commercial small spacecraft and systems to reduce risk on NASA missions.

Partner with industry and academia to aggressively adopt innovative emerging technology capabilities to meet NASA’s unique small spacecraft needs.

Foster innovation, agile development practices, and embrace higher risk throughout the Agency through small spacecraft missions and flight demonstrations.

Regular Access to Space

Coordinate access to space opportunities for NASA’s small spacecraft.

Explore new methods to increase space access by providing flexibility in destinations, capability, and manifesting options, while preserving core capabilities.

Identify and address regulatory roadblocks to streamline processes impacting space access for our NASA partners.


Additional information for the curious

Decadal Survey references

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