CubeSail was built by CUA and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), the same team that designed the I-Sail and UltraSail concepts funded by NASA's SBIR program and managed at NASA MSFC. CubeSail is a nano-scale flight experiment to demonstrate deployment and control of a single 250-meter (20 m2) solar sail blade as a low-cost risk reduction precursor of the exciting advanced interplanetary UltraSail concept having four 5-kilometer blades (with approximately 100,000 m2 of sail area). CubeSail mission goals are successful sail deployment, attitude control, and deorbit.
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CubeSail represents an affordable stepping stone towards the future development of the UltraSail solar sail concept that would enable very high energy inner heliosphere and interstellar scientific missions. In addition, near-earth missions such as Heliostorm for early warning of solar storms will provide more warning margin as the solar sail performance is increased with UltraSail technology. Spacecraft design studies show that for sail areal densities below 5 gm/m2, as proposed with UltraSail, that spacecraft payloads can be significantly increased to 50-60% because of the elimination of the propellant, without sacrificing flight time. Furthermore, higher payload fractions will result in dramatically lower total spacecraft mass and consequently much lower launch cost, enabling more missions for the research dollar.