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Although scientists are increasingly using pint-size satellites sometimes no larger than a loaf of bread to gather data from low-Earth orbit, they have yet to apply the less-expensive small-satellite technology to observe physical phenomena far from terra firma.

Jaime Esper, a technologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, however, is advancing a CubeSat concept that would give scientists that capability.

Technologist Jaime Esper and his team are planning to test the stability of a prototype entry vehicle -- the Micro-Reentry Capsule (MIRCA) -- this summer during a high-altitude balloon mission from Ft. Sumner, New Mexico.

Dubbed the CubeSat Application for Planetary Entry Missions (CAPE), the concept involves the development of two modules: a service module that would propel the spacecraft to its celestial target and a separate planetary entry probe that could survive a rapid dive through the atmosphere of an extraterrestrial planet, all while reliably transmitting scientific and engineering data.

Esper and his team are planning to test the stability of a prototype entry vehicle -- the Micro-Reentry Capsule (MIRCA) -- this summer during a high-altitude balloon mission from Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

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