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Earth Escape Explorer

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Earth Escape Explorer
Prototype of CU-E3 nanosatellite
Mission typeTechnology demonstration
OperatorUniversity of Colorado Boulder
Mission duration1 year (planned)
Spacecraft properties
SpacecraftEarth Escape Explorer
Spacecraft type6U CubeSat
BusXB1 (Blue Canyon Technologies - BCT)
ManufacturerUniversity of Colorado Boulder
Launch mass14 kg (31 lb)
Dimensions10 cm × 20 cm × 30 cm
Start of mission
Launch dateNET 2024 (planned)[1]
Orbital parameters
Reference systemHeliocentric orbit
Flyby of Moon
BandUplink: C-band
Downlink: X-band
FrequencyC-band: 5182 MHz
X-band: 8447.6 MHz [2]
Capacity13 bit/s (at 27 million km) [2]
EIRP108 dBm [2]
NASA CubeQuest Challenge

Earth Escape Explorer (CU-E3) is a nanosatellite of the 6U CubeSat format that will demonstrate long-distance communications while in heliocentric orbit.[3]

The Earth Escape Explorer spacecraft is a student-driven effort at University of Colorado Boulder to design and build the spacecraft as part of the NASA CubeQuest Challenge. It was planned to be one of thirteen CubeSats carried with the Artemis 1 mission into a heliocentric orbit in cislunar space on the maiden flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion spacecraft, scheduled to launch in 2022.[4] Delays caused the spacecraft to miss its integration window to be included on Artemis 1; a new launch provider has not yet been chosen.[1]


The CU-E3 team is pursuing four different CubeQuest prizes: largest aggregate data volume; most error-free data blocks; the most distant communications from Earth; and spacecraft longevity.[5]


Once deployed in the vicinity of the Moon, CU-E3 will use a lunar gravity assist to propel itself into heliocentric orbit, trailing the Earth and slowly distancing itself over time.[3] By the end of its one-year mission, CU-E3 is planned to be as far as 27 million kilometers from Earth.[3] The spacecraft will use a commercial 6U CubeSat satellite body (bus) called XB1 of Blue Canyon Technologies (BCT), measuring about 10 cm × 20 cm × 30 cm. The mass is about 14 kg (31 lb).[6] Electric power will be provided by solar panels and stored in rechargeable lithium batteries.


The mission is focused upon advancing deep space CubeSat communication techniques using an innovative reflective array antenna, an X-band transmitter for downlink and a C-band transmitter for uplink.[2][3][5] The antenna array is "planar", meaning all of the elements are in one plane, yet provide a large aperture for beam steering and make possible high data rates.[5] ATLAS Ground Networks will be the ground station for their uplink and downlink communications.[5] Their telecomm package is called High-Rate CubeSat Communication System (HRCCS).[2]


CU-E3 does not feature an onboard propulsion system, and will be using solar radiation pressure for reaction wheel desaturation and attitude control (orientation).[5]

See also[edit]

The 10 CubeSats flying in the Artemis 1 mission
The 3 CubeSat missions removed from Artemis 1


  1. ^ a b Ohana, Lavie (3 October 2021). "Four Artemis I CubeSats miss their ride". Space Scout. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e John S. Sobtzak; Elie G. Tianang; Varun Joshi; Breana M. Branham; Neeti P. Sonth; Michael DeLuca; Travis Moyer; Kyle Wislinsky; Scott E. Palo (2017). "A Deep Space Radio Communications Link for Cubesats: The CU-E3 Communication Subsystem". University of Colorado Boulder. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d "CU Earth Escape Explorer". University of Colorado Boulder. 2019. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  4. ^ Anderson, Gina; Porter, Molly (8 June 2017). "Three DIY CubeSats Score Rides on NASA's First Flight of Orion, Space Launch System". NASA. Retrieved 10 March 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ a b c d e "CubeQuest Challenge Team Spotlight: CU-E3". Colorado Space News. 1 June 2017. Archived from the original on 1 March 2021. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  6. ^ "CU-E3". Gunter's Space Page. 18 May 2020. Retrieved 10 March 2021.