Anyone developing a CubeSat now has an opportunity to have their technology launched into space, thanks to NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI).

NASA will select a group of CubeSats for launch on one of its rockets for upcoming planned missions.

"The CubeSat Launch Initiative provides access to space for CubeSats developed by NASA centers, accredited educational institutions and nonprofit organizations, giving CubeSat developers access to a low-cost pathway to conduct research in the areas of science, exploration, technology development, education or operations consistent with NASA's Strategic Plan," writes NASA on its website. "NASA does not provide funding for the development of the small satellites."

CubeSats are miniature research satellites, or nanosatellites. The base CubeSat dimensions are about 4x4x4 inches, which equals one Cube, or 1U, and NASA says CubeSats supported by this launch effort include volumes of 1U, 2U, 3U and 6U. CubeSats up to 3U in size usually have a mass of 1.33 kilograms, or about 3 pounds per 1U. A 6U CubeSat typically has a mass of 12 to 14 kilograms, or about 26.5 to 30.9 pounds. The CubeSat's final mass depends on the selected deployment method. Most are designed for scientific research and to test new space technologies in low Earth orbit.

NASA's initiative reaches out to students, teachers and nonprofit agencies interested in promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), encouraging them to build a CubeSat for potential future launch by the agency. All interested parties must submit their proposals to the agency via the CubeSat Launch Initiative website by 4:30 p.m. EST on Nov. 24.

NASA hopes to select CubeSats for launch by February of next year for planned missions to the International Space Station from 2016 through 2019. NASA's goal is to select at least one CubeSat from each state in the U.S. in accordance with a goal the agency set at last year's White House Maker Faire. To date, NASA has selected 105 CubeSats from 30 states. Thirty-seven CubeSats have been launched, and 16 more are scheduled to go into space in the next 12 months.

"By providing a progression of educational opportunities including CSLI for students, teachers, and faculty, NASA assists the nation in attracting and retaining students in STEM disciplines," writes NASA on its website. " Further, the CSLI promotes and develops innovative technology partnerships among NASA, U.S. industry, and other sectors for the benefit of agency programs and projects."

NASA has flown CubeSats aboard its rockets since 2011 and has four such missions that include CubeSats scheduled for this year through early January 2016.

Photo credit: NASA

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