The Jupiter Observing Velocity Experiment (JOVE) is a planned 16U CubeSat in development by an inter-disciplinary team of scientists and engineers in the United States and Latin America (Ecuador and Costa Rica), that seeks to arrive at Jupiter in 30 days counting from its launch. A novel solar-powered mission will utilise the momentum, speed and direction of solar winds, using them as propulsive thrust to get to the Jovian system (comprising Jupiter, its rings, and moons).
The hardware going on board JOVE is built by the Ecuadorian Civil Space Agency (EXA), which has substantial experience designing robust and compact hardware for the Cubesat market, including one of the highest energy density batteries for Cubesats (350Whr).
“The challenge set upon ourselves is to use technology that is readily available and within realistic immediate reach, to definitely prove that it is feasible to reach other worlds in a practical time frame for missions that are more than just scientific,” Cdr Ronnie Nader – EXA Astronaut, CE/CTO & Space Operations Director – EXA (Ecuador), tells Financial Express Online.
Cdr. Ronnie Nader – EXA Astronaut dons several hats besides spearheading the JOVE Program. He is on the AIAA Nuclear & Future Flight Technical Committee, Practical Interplanetary Propulsion Group Leader and IAA Academician – Eng. Sciences (M2).
The Ecuadorian astronaut talks with Huma Siddiqui about JOVE, and the efforts of the Ecuadorian Space Agency in pushing the final frontier. Some excerpts-
How did you come up with this idea and work with the scientific community of Costa Rica – which has no space agency or expertise?
We’ve all seen over the decades that many technologies have been developed and even tested, without being put to actual use. Our team saw an opportunity to make history with an array of such technologies and it’s a matter of putting it all together in a probe that can accomplish the task. From laser communications to solar magnetic propulsion, and the miniaturization of technology in the larger CubeSat platforms with TRL9 components, we already have all we need in terms of technology to make this happen.
Costa Rica has a space footprint and the experience that comes with it. Costa Rica launched Irazu, a 1U CubeSat built by engineers at the Costa Rica Institute of Technology (TEC), their experience maybe modest and it is true that EXA (Ecuador) has a larger footprint and we even export our technology in the fields of power, laser communications and computing platforms to countries like the USA and many in Europe, but we believe in them.
How does it feel for you and your company to be on this huge project which is the first of its kind in the world?
By developing this project, and making it come to pass, we are pushing the final frontier. An explorer and a scientist can hope for nothing greater than this. It is my honor to work among distinguished professionals that share this passion. We want to build something greater than just a probe and a piece of hardware, we want to make history and inspire others, by proving that we can and need to be more ambitious in our space-faring efforts. Mankind can achieve much more, even with what we have right now.
Who is involved in this project?
The team has members of the Practical Interplanetary Propulsion group at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Nuclear Future Flight Propulsion Committee, as well as engineers from Ecuador and Costa Rica working closely in this multidisciplinary project.
You have put Ecuador on the space map – how does it feel?
Ecuador has been in the space map since 2007 with the founding of EXA, and every day we push forward and advance. Our effort has inspired the region. This is a great responsibility and one we do not bear alone, as more and more projects blossom, developing the space sector in Latin America. For everyone in the team, it has always been our dream to work on projects like these. Even during the most serious and calm technical procedures, one can feel the palpable enthusiasm in all that we do. Our wish is that more and more countries put themselves on the map, and I hope we do it by continuing to work together.
Is there any possibility of involving Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in this project or any other private sector company from India?
There are no immediate plans for ISRO’s involvement right now. However, that could change. The probe would need a deep space launch platform, and ISRO’s GSLV is well suited for this task. We also believe that this project could include nations in development from all over the world, not just Latin America. The important thing with this effort is not just to accomplish, but also the way that we accomplish it. The path we take and the advances we make are just as important as the arrival on Jupiter.
Can you elaborate on the future of small countries in the region in space?
The future of the region lies in developing our own technology, our own launch capabilities, and our own industry that can successfully develop and complete projects. We must dare mighty things, and to do this, we must stand tall and proud on our own two feet, and this will inspire the generations to come.
This effort has many applications once completed. One of these is the possibility to reach the outer solar system and start building a multi-planetary economy. There are opportunities in the resource gathering of asteroids that contain materials sorely needed in the world. This is precisely what developing countries need: a technological leap forward, an economic incentive, an inspiration for the future and an effort that unites us all.