NASA Small Spacecraft Technology (SST) Program

Virtual Exhibit Booth:

April 27:  2:00 PM – 4:00 PM PDT

April 28: 8:00 AM – 9:30 AM PDT / 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM PDT

April 29: 8:00 AM – 9:30 AM PDT / 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM PDT

Christopher E. Baker

Program Executive


Justin V. Treptow

Deputy Program Executive (Acting)


Roger C. Hunter

Program Manager


James J. Cockrell

Chief Technologist


Elwood F. Agasid

Deputy Program Manager


About NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program

The Small Spacecraft Technology program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, expands the ability to execute unique missions through rapid development and demonstration of capabilities for small spacecraft applicable to exploration, science, and the commercial space sector. Through targeted development and frequent in space testing, the program enables execution of missions at much lower cost than previously possible; substantially reduces the time required for development of spacecraft; enables new mission architectures through the use of small spacecraft; expands the reach of small spacecraft to new destinations and challenging new environments, and enables the augmentation of existing assets and future missions with supporting small spacecraft.

Small Spacecraft Technology Missions

CAPSTONE is expected to be the first CubeSat to fly in cislunar space. The mission will demonstrate an innovative spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation solution at the Moon from a near rectilinear halo orbit slated for Artemis’ Gateway. The CAPSTONE mission is planned for launch in 2021.

Lunar Flashlight will use lasers to help determine the presence and nature of water ice at the bottom of some of the Moon’s craters. The quantity and distribution of surface ice deposits in lunar South Pole cold traps will be measured with a compact laser spectrometer.

NASA’s PTD series of missions will test the operation of a variety of novel CubeSat technologies, providing significant enhancements to the performance of small spacecraft.

  • PTD-1 launched in January to demonstrate a propulsion system with a water-based propellant
  • PTD-2 will demonstrate an enhanced attitude control system that improves the stability and pointing accuracy of small spacecraft. PTD-2 is planned for launch in mid-2021.
  • PTD-3 will demonstrate technologies for high-bandwidth laser communications. PTD-3 is planned to launch in late 2022 or 2023.
  • PTD-4 LISA-T will demonstrate a very high-power, low-volume deployable solar array with an integrated antenna. PTD-4 is planned for launch in late 2022 or 2023.

CPOD will demonstrate rendezvous, proximity operations and docking using two 3U CubeSats. CPOD is planned for launch in late 2021.

Through the “Tipping Point” solicitation, NASA seeks industry-developed space technologies that can foster the development of commercial space capabilities and benefit future NASA missions. A technology is considered at a tipping point if an investment in a demonstration will significantly mature the technology, increase the likelihood of infusion into a commercial space application, and bring the technology to market for both government and commercial applications.

Tipping Point 2019 Class

  • Dual Propulsion Experiment (DUPLEX)  – Public-private partnership with CU Aerospace to flight test two fiber fueled CubeSat propulsion systems
  • Courier Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) Demonstration – Public-private partnership with ExoTerra Resource to flight test a micro Hall effect thruster, power system, and solar arrays for a micro SEP system
  • Tiled Ionic Liquid Electrospray (TILE) Propulsion Demonstration – Public-private partnership with Accion to flight test an extremely compact modular electric propulsion system that uses non-volatile ionic salt propellant.
  • X-NAV Autonomous Navigation Demonstration – Public-private partnership with Blue Canyon Technologies for a CubeSat autonomous navigation solution to reduce need for navigational aid from ground stations on Earth.

Want to learn about advanced SmallSat technologies that could enable your future mission or be accessed for commercialization? Sign up to attend the SmallSat Technology Partnerships (STP) Technology Exposition being held Monday, May 24.

The virtual STP TechExpo will highlight advanced communications, navigation, constellation coordination, and other SmallSat technologies emerging from recent university-NASA partnerships funded under NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology program’s STP initiative. STP teams in attendance will answer questions about technology transfer for your mission or product.

Visit the 2021 TechExpo webpage for more information.

The CLICK mission will demonstrate technology to advance the state of the art in communications between small spacecraft as well as the capability to gauge their relative distance and location. CLICK is comprised of two sequential missions. CLICK A is a risk reduction mission that will test out elements of the optical communications system with a single 3U spacecraft. CLICK B/C will demonstrate full-duplex optical communication crosslink between two 3U spacecraft at distances between 25 – 580 kilometers apart at data rates greater than 20 Mbps. CLICK A is slated for launch in late December 2021 and CLICK B/C, in late 2022.

PACE is designed to aggressively shorten conventional technology testing timelines for early-stage technologies. The initiative strives to fly as many technologies as possible and efficiently connect payloads to both suborbital and orbital flight tests that increases the likelihood of a technology being selected for a space exploration mission. The next PACE mission is planned for launch in mid-2021.

V-R3x is a swarm of small satellites developed to demonstrate the next generation of communication and navigation technology.

Launched on January 24, the V-R3x mission consists of three 1U CubeSats conducting a series of demonstrations to prove the ability to take high-precision data on spacecraft distance, send data from one spacecraft to the other at high data rate, coordinate radiation measurements using onboard sensors, and keep track of the orientation and formation of all 3 spacecrafts. The V-R3x mission was the first PACE mission to launch to low-Earth orbit.

Advanced Composite Solar Sail System (ACS3)

The ACS3 mission will demonstrate new composite booms to enable mission capable solar sails. ASC3 mission will also test an innovative tape-spool boom extraction system designed to minimize jamming of the coiled booms during deployment.  ACS3 is planned for launch in mid-2022.

Starling Distributed Spacecraft Missions

Image Credit: Blue Canyon Technologies/NASA

NASA’s Starling mission will demonstrate technologies to enable multipoint science data collection by several small spacecraft flying in swarms. Starling will demonstrate swarm maneuver planning and execution, communications networking, relative navigation, and coordinated autonomous operations between spacecraft. Starling is planned for launch in mid-2022.

Please visit the Small Spacecraft Technology program website for more information, or email


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