NASA has deployed a set of four small satellites to low Earth orbit aboard Rocket Lab‘s Electron launch vehicle to test autonomous spacecraft swarm technologies in space.
The 6U-sized CubeSats lifted off from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand and will demonstrate their ability to conduct maneuver planning, communications networking, relative navigation and autonomous positioning as a group with minimal supervision from ground mission controllers, NASA said Monday.
Funded by NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology, the six-month Starling mission is expected to pave the way toward advancing autonomous robotic swarms for future space and lunar science and exploration missions.
Rocket Lab’s Baby Come Back mission marks the company’s seventh launch for 2023 and the 39th Electron launch overall.
The launch deployed Telesat’s LEO 3 demonstration satellite manufactured by Space Flight Laboratory and Spire Global‘s two 3U satellites carrying global navigation satellite system radio occultation payloads.