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.

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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.”

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