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The CubeSat Particle Aggregation and Collision Experiment (Q-PACE) is a 3U CubeSat designed to perform a long-duration microgravity experiment studying collision and aggregation of small particles in a chamber. The chamber is equipped with video cameras and reservoirs of small particles, and is planned to operate for at least 3 years. The scientific objective is to develop a database of small particle interactions in microgravity at low velocity for the purpose of understanding processes of very early particle coagulation leading to planet formation. Q-PACE is part of the NASA Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx) program.

Q-PACE is a 3U (10 x 10 x 30 cm) CubeSat with chamber backlit by LEDs(the Experiment Test Cell, or ETC), video cameras, and two reservoirs of particles, one holding meteoritic chondrules and one holding aggregates of 10-micron silicon spheres. The ETC will hold cm-size and 2 mm diameter spherical particles. The walls of the ETC are able to vibrate to impart known velocities, up to 10 cm/s, to the particles. Video of the thousands of interactions will be transmitted back to Earth. Due to slow downlink rates, each experiment is expected to take 2 to 3 weeks to be transmitted. Solar panels mounted on the body of the spacecraft power rechargeable batteries. Primary downlink is S-Band at 2.4125 GHz, with secondary downlink via UHF at 437.275 MHz.

Q-PACE launched on 17 January 2021 on a Virgin Orbit LauncherOne vehicle from the Mojave Air and Space Port, California. The LauncherOne was initially carried on a modified Boeing 747, named "Cosmic Girl", which took off at 18:38 UT, and then dropped and ignited over the Pacific Ocean at 19:39 UT. Designated ELaNa-XX (Educational Launch of Nanosatellites 20), the mission deployed 14 CubeSats at roughly 20:34 UT. Q-PACE was inserted into a low Earth orbit (approximately 500 km altitude), where it was planned to operate for a minimum of two years. However, no contact has been made with the satellite.

Alternate Names

  • CubeSat Particle Aggregation and Collision Experiment

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 2021-01-17
Launch Vehicle: LauncherOne
Launch Site: Mojave Air and Space Port, United States
Mass: 3 kg

Funding Agency

  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (United States)


  • Planetary Science
  • Microgravity

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Dr. Josh ColwellMission Principal
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