Upcoming Work

With a very successful Ground Tournament 2 behind us, we are looking ahead to an upcoming safety review, Ground Tournament 3, and of course the eagerly anticipated Ground Tournament 4 where we hope to earn our spot aboard EM-1! Let’s cover each of those events in turn along with what our plan to prepare for each is.

Phase I Safety Review:

After our success at Ground Tournament 1 we were slated to begin the process of safety reviews and integration planning with the SLS/EM-1 secondary payload team. In Phase 0 of this process we introduced our spacecraft to the safety panel and relayed to them the potential hazards we have:

  • A tank full of liquid water at 1 atmosphere of pressure (until long after deployment from EM-1).
    • Potential hazard: Leakage of water into EM-1.
    • Prevention: Extremely large factor of safety due to the vessel being designed for containing electrolyzed, combustible gas mixtures that will not be present until after deployment.
  • A pressurized carbon dioxide cylinder for use with the cold gas thruster.
    • Potential hazard: Bursting under high temperature during launch.
    • Prevention: Completely-off-the-shelf parts with a high factor of safety.
  • Lithium-Ion batteries.
    • Potential hazard: Rupture due to overcharging or some other cause.
    • Prevention: Use of CubeQuest-required batteries, external casing to contain spills.
  • The spring-loaded separation mechanism.
    • Potential hazard: Premature separation.
    • Prevention: Multiple inhibit switches and ground station command required to trigger.
  • The communications system.
    • Potential hazard: Inadvertent transmission while still onboard SLS.
    • Prevention: Multiple inhibit switches and ground station command required to trigger.

Coming up in about a month, we will be doing the next step, Phase I review, including a similar but updated introductory presentation. Also, we are submitting a report presenting these potential hazards in more detail along with mitigation strategies and the behavior of our spacecraft up until 15 seconds after deployment (because after this time, we are far enough away from the SLS Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage as not to be a safety risk).

Ground Tournament 3:

Submittals for GT3 are due on August 5th, 2016. Although this GT does not determine eligibility for launch, it does offer the chance to win another valuable prize to ensure our success. In preparation for GT3, we will be integrating our “flatsat” prototype system and performing verification and validation of its capabilities. Life cycle tests of individual subsystems, environmental testing of the combined prototype, and as realistic of a mission simulation as possible are all planned for this spring and summer.

Ground Tournament 4:

Submittals for GT4 are due on February 3rd, 2017. This is the most important of the four Ground Tournaments as the  top three teams here will be offered a ticket to ride on SLS/EM-1 in 2018! For GT4, we intend to have our completed flight units ready for delivery to NASA. After GT3, we will be assembling flight hardware and ramping up our efforts in mission planning, creating mission products, and so on. Because Cornell has other satellite projects ongoing, we will be able to prove our renovated ground station and mission control center well in advance of EM-1.


1st Place at GT2!

NASA’s Centennial Challenges program recently announced the results of the second Ground Tournament in the CubeQuest. The Cislunar Explorers team is proud to say that we won first place, earning a $30,000 prize! This brings us closer to our goal of being selected for launch on the EM-1 mission as a secondary payload, which will allow us to compete in the Lunar Derby and become among the first CubeSats to depart Earth orbit. It is a great followup to our prize-winning finish in the first Ground Tournament last year. The next Ground Tournament will be in February 2016. We hope to maintain our strong position to win another prize and continue our journey towards an EM-1 launch and lunar orbit mission!

In the near future, we will begin a crowd-funding effort to ensure mission success, raising funds to buy down mission risk in certain areas. Details will be available shortly as our Kickstarter page is rolled out! Our backers will receive individual rewards, but the space technology community at large will benefit from a successful mission. 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. In keeping with this philosophy, we will be releasing our design as open source as it is completed. The idea is to create a template from which anyone can build their own lunar CubeSat mission with our design as a starting point.

With your help, we can make the road to space an easier path for everyone!