On Friday, a small, 5.5 kilogram propellant-free loaf-of-bread-sized satellite was launched into low earth orbit aboard a United States Air Force rocket. Its mission is to study the origins, evolution, and distribution of life in the universe. The “nanosatellite”, called Organism/Organic Exposure to Orbital Stresses (O/OREOS), was developed by NASA and is the first propellant-less small spacecraft to carry two independent science experiments.
“With O/OREOS we can analyse the stability of organics in the local space environment in real-time and test flight hardware that can be used for future payloads to address fundamental astrobiology objectives,” said Pascale Ehrenfreund, O/OREOS project scientist at the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, in a NASA press release.
Researchers will be able to make contact with the nanosatellite 12.5 hours after it reaches low Earth orbit during its six month mission. The satellite will conduct experiments autonomously and will receive commands from a ground station in California to which it will relay data daily.
O/OREOS will be conduct an experiment to characterize the growth, activity of health of microorganisms in a space environment, which includes exposure to radiation and weightlessness. A second experiment monitors the stability and changes in different organic molecules as they are exposed to these space conditions.
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