BLISS: Interplanetary Exploration with Swarms of Low-Cost Spacecraft

Leveraging advancements in micro-scale technology, we propose a fleet of autonomous, low-cost, small solar sails for interplanetary exploration. The Berkeley Low-cost Interplanetary Solar Sail (BLISS) project aims to utilize small-scale technologies to create a fleet of tiny interplanetary femto-spacecraft for rapid, low-cost exploration of the inner solar system. This paper describes the hardware required to build a ∼10 g spacecraft using a 1 m2 solar sail steered by micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) inchworm actuators. The trajectory control to a NEO, here 101955 Bennu, is detailed along with the low-level actuation control of the solar sail and the specifications of proposed onboard communication and computation. Two other applications are also shortly considered: sample return from dozens of Jupiter-family comets and interstellar comet rendezvous and imaging. The paper concludes by discussing the fundamental scaling limits and future directions for steerable autonomous miniature solar sails with onboard custom computers and sensors.
Publication date: 
February 1, 2024
Publication type: 
Journal Article
Alvara, A. N., Lee, L., Sin, E., Lambert, N., Westphal, A. J., & Pister, K. S. (2024). BLISS: Interplanetary exploration with swarms of low-cost spacecraft. Acta Astronautica, 215, 348-361.