NASA confirmed today that so-called “recurring slope lineae” are in fact seasonal flows of briny water! This is a game-changer for exploration of the Red Planet. It relates to Cislunar Explorers because one of our goals is to demonstrate that a water-powered spacecraft is feasible. Then, if future spacecraft could find water in the Solar System, they could gather it up and use it to refuel! Any evidence that points to the abundance of water on other worlds helps make that concept more feasible. Although our spacecraft will not be able to refuel (and will go to the Moon, not Mars) this is still very exciting news.
We have made the decision to transition our spacecraft to an open-source design! This means we will be posting our code, prototype design files, and technical reports on Github this fall. The idea is to create a template from which anyone can build their own lunar CubeSat mission with our design as a starting point. It also gives us the opportunity to solicit feedback from the community on our design as we refine it for the CubeQuest Challenge!
Accessibility is a core concept of the Cislunar Explorers: reducing the cost and entry barriers to space exploration by proving that the popular and inexpensive CubeSat platform can be used for missions beyond Earth orbit. But this increase in accessibility would be substantially reduced if other would-be explorers have to design their own spacecraft from scratch!
To better serve our mission of making space exploration accessible and affordable, we decided to release our design products to the public. Our spacecraft design is continuously improving and maturing, but we will make regular “stable releases” of each substantial iteration. By the end of the fourth Ground Tournament in February 2017, a complete spacecraft design will be available on Github. It will match the final product we hope to deliver to NASA for the in-space portion of the CubeQuest Challenge.