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This paper will present the Hummingbird concept and its strengths that enable versatile interplanetary mission architectures.  Interplanetary missions and system architectures for small satellites require a new type of thinking.  Specifically, taking advantage of cubesat components, composite technology, and low cost approaches represents a paradigm shift essential to sending small satellites on interplanetary missions.  Microcosm has worked with NASA Ames on a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program called Hummingbird, a low-cost (~ $3M recurring cost) small interplanetary satellite with 1.5-3.5 km/s delta V capability and sub-meter resolution applicable for many Earth/planetary science missions. These missions include orbiters/landers/sample return missions to Mars, Phobos/Deimos,near Earth asteroid/asteroid belt, Lagrange points, Venus,and Moon, and Earth science. The spacecraft is a unique all-composite, unibody structure in which the propellant tank itself is the structure.  Quicker scouting missions to asteroids and planets are needed to assess their potential for both science missions and eventually human missions.  Evolving small satellite travel to interplanetary destinations requires versatile scouting missions that provide quick turnaround, easy access, and multiple destination possibilities. Hummingbird serves as a low-cost alternative that can pave the way for larger, more in-depth missions to multiple destinations with multiple payload configurations.  There is no one way to incorporate low-cost methods into a given mission. However, incorporating radiation hardened cubesat components and supporting multiple payload classes, while keeping mass low by utilizing composite tanks, is a start to expanding space exploration to include the small satellite community.

Download “Hummingbird: Versatile Interplanetary Mission Architecture”

Taylor, C., A. Shao, N. Sarzi-Amade, R. Van Allen and J. Wertz. ISSC 2013, Pasadena, CA. June 20–21, 2013.