Only a few years ago, the astronomy and heliophysics communities were skeptical about whether CubeSats could reliably obtain scientific data. But these breadloaf-size satellites have proven their ability to return useful data.

During the American Physical Society's April Meeting 2019, being held April 13-16, in Denver, Colorado, Christopher S. Moore, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the Solar and Stellar X-ray Group, will describe how the twin Miniature X-ray Solar Spectometer (MinXSS) CubeSats measure soft X-rays from the Sun. These were the first solar science-oriented CubeSat missions flown for the NASA Science Mission Directorate.

As he will describe at the meeting, Moore was one of several dozen graduate students who contributed to MinXSS over its lifetime. He worked on the MinXSS CubeSats as part of his doctoral research at the University of Colorado Boulder.

"This work demonstrated that these small, relatively cheap—ranging from $1 million to $2 million for MinXSS—CubeSats can collect data that fills a specific niche and is consistent with large satellites, which are much more expensive, and contribute to major science investigations," said Moore.

There was a group fundraising on Kickstarter a few years ago that wanted to launch cubesats (a.k.a. nanosats) carrying multispectral high-resolution cameras whose sole purpose would be monitoring near-earth space for objects entering and leaving the atmosphere. I don't think anything ever became of it. A constellation of such small sats would go a long way in answering some nagging questions about visitors. To read more, click here.