Nanosatellite bus manufacturer NanoAvionics has secured a contract to support Nasa’s Advanced Composite Solar Sail System (ACS3) in-orbit demonstration.

Under the contract, the company will build a 12-unit (12U) nanosatellite bus that will be used to fly the ACS3 mission.

The ACS3 will demonstrate deployment of an approximately 800ft² composite boom and solar sail system in low Earth orbit (LEO). It aims to replace conventional rocket propellants.

The mission will provide insights for a future 5,382ft² composites-based small spacecraft solar sail system for affordable heliophysics research and small body planetary science.

As part of the contract, NanoAvionics will also provide a mechanical testbed model and a FlatSat model of the nanosatellite, as well as assist in testing, integration and operations.

NanoAvionics North America CEO F Brent Abbott said: “I’m tremendously proud and excited that NanoAvionics will be part of Nasa’s effort to validate a new beam-powered propulsion system, eventually leading to more marvellous deep-space missions following the first interplanetary CubeSats MarCO-A and B (Mars Cube One).

“The technology demonstration using NanoAvionics’ 12U bus will be the first-ever in-orbit trial of Nasa’s composite booms, as well as sail packing and deployment systems for a solar sail. It will guide the development of next-generation nanosatellites with a solar sail propulsion system for small interplanetary spacecraft.”

NanoAvionics will build the system at its new Columbia facility in Illinois with the final integration to be done at Nasa Ames facilities.