Mars Cube One

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Mars Cube One (A & B)
File:MarCO CubeSat.jpg
Mechanical engineer Joel Steinkraus and systems engineer Farah Alibay, from JPL, holding a full scale model of
Mars Cube One (MarCO)
Mission type Communications relay
Operator NASA
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft type 6U CubeSat
Manufacturer JPL
Start of mission
Launch date to be announced
Rocket Atlas V 401
Launch site Vandenberg Air Force Base SLC-3E
Contractor United Launch Alliance
Orbital parameters
Reference system Heliocentric
Epoch Planned

Mars Cube One (or MarCO) is a Mars flyby mission consisting of two nanospacecraft, of a size that JPL has referred to as a "6U CubeSat," that is planned for launch in 2018 or later alongside NASA's InSight Mars lander mission. Mars Cube One is intended to provide a communications link to Earth for InSight during mission critical entry, descent, and landing when InSight will be out of sight from the Earth.[1] Mars Cube One is expected to be the first spacecraft built to the CubeSat form to operate beyond Earth orbit.


The launch of Mars Cube One is being managed by NASA's Launch Services Program. The launch was originally scheduled for 4 March 2016 on an Atlas V 401,[2] but the mission was postponed to 2018 after a major test failure of an InSight instrument.


MarCO A and B monitoring InSight landing (artist concept)

The two "MarCO" CubeSats (A and B), are identical.[3] They measure 36.6 cm × 24.3 cm × 11.8 cm (14.4 in × 9.6 in × 4.6 in)[4] (about 10.5x the volume of a 10x10x10 cm 1U cubesat) with one of them serving as backup. They will fly by Mars during the landing phase and relay InSight's telemetry in real time.[5][1] MarCO is a technology capability demonstration of communications relay system.

Communications system

MarCO has a small UHF antenna and a large flat-panel X band antenna. They are capable of an 8 kbit/s UHF link from InSight to MarCO, and 8 kbit/s X-band link from MarCO to DSN dishes on Earth.[1]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Asmar, Sami; Matousek, Steve (20 November 2014). "Mars Cube One (MarCO) - The First Planetary CubeSat Mission" (PDF). Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 2015-05-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "NASA Awards Launch Services Contract for InSight Mission". NASA. Retrieved 11 December 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Schulze-Makuch, Dirk (9 June 2015). "CubeSats to the Rescue?". Smithsonian Air & Space. Retrieved 2015-06-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. MarCO Mission overview includes video
  5. Messier, Douglas (27 May 2015). "Two Tiny 'CubeSats' Will Watch 2016 Mars Landing". Retrieved 2015-05-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links