Nanosatellite specialist NanoAvionics is to build a 12U bus system to demonstrate a solar sail system in orbit. The Advanced Composite Solar Sail System (ACS3) measures approximately 800 square foot (74 square meter) with a composite boom and solar sail.
The aim of the ACS3 mission is to replace conventional rocket propellants by developing and testing solar sails using sunlight beams to thrust the nanosatellite. These solar sail propulsion systems are designed for future small interplanetary spacecrafts destined for low-cost deep-space and science missions requiring long-duration, low-thrust propulsion. NASA Ames Research Centre has contracted AST, the majority owner of NanoAvionics, for the 12U bus to carry the payload into low Earth orbit (LEO).
As part of the deal NanoAvionics will also supply a mechanical testbed model and a FlatSat model. In addition, a team of NanoAvionics engineers will provide the support required for testing, integration and operations of the nanosatellite.
The FlaSat model has identical software functionality as the final 12U bus hardware, hosting the actual payload. It allows NASA Ames to run tests via remote network connectivity without having to ship equipment back and forth. The mechanical testbed model can be used for testing payload integration and other mechanical tests, such as the deployment of solar sails.