NanoEye is a near-term space system capable of providing better than 0.5 m resolution at nadir for a total recurring mission cost of less than $5 million — including payload, spacecraft, launch, and 3 years of mission operations. NanoEye is based on a unique, light-weight telescope built and tested on IR&D by ITT, a unique structural design, also created on IR&D, by Microcosm, and existing proven CubeSat components from Pumpkin. The system has a dry mass of less than 10 kg without propulsion and less than 15 kg for an advanced system with enhanced bus capability and a propulsion system. (Cost and performance numbers are for the advanced system.) Because the advanced system can carry up to twice its dry mass in propellant, it is exceptionally agile with on the order of 2 km/sec of delta V available. This allows the spacecraft to fly low for extended periods and change its orbit as needed to adjust coverage, viewing times and angles, and provide drag compensation, thus giving the system unique
capabilities that are not practical with larger, heavier, more traditional (and much more expensive) surveillance systems.
By the end of Phase II in late 2010, all the components for the Tech Demo mission (no propulsion) will be qualified and ready for integration and test, which could be completed within an additional 6 months. The biggest impediment to an operational system is the lack of a dedicated, low-cost NanoLauncher, so launch options will also be discussed.
The paper will describe the current status of NanoEye and the expected results of the present development phase. It will describe the reasons for the very low non-recurring and recurring costs, potential follow-on missions, and the implications of this approach to creating dramatically more affordable, more responsive space missions with high mission utility that provide an excellent complement to more conventional large space systems. Participants in Phase II are Microcosm, ITT Geospatial Systems, Pumpkin, General Dynamics C4 Systems, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and NASA Ames Research Center.
Wertz, J., and R. Van Allen. 8th Responsive Space Conference, Los Angeles, CA. March 8–11, 2010.