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Ncube-2, a Norwegian Cubesat.

A CubeSat is a type of miniaturized satellite for space research that usually has a volume of exactly one litre, weighs no more than one kilogram, and typically uses commercial, off-the-shelf electronics components. Beginning in 1999, California Polytechnic State University (CalPoly) and Stanford University developed the CubeSat specifications to help universities worldwide to perform space science and exploration.

Several companies have built CubeSats, including large-satellite-maker Boeing. But academia does most development, with a mixed record of successfully orbited Cubesats and failed missions.


[edit] Design

CP-1, the first in a string of CalPoly Cubesats.

The term "CubeSat" was coined to denote nano-satellites that adhere to the standards described in the CubeSat design specification. CalPoly published the standard in an effort led by aerospace engineering professor Jordi Puig-Suari.[1] Bob Twiggs, from the Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics at Stanford University, has contributed to the CubeSat community. His efforts have focused on CubeSats from educational institutions.[2] The specification does not apply to other cube-like nano-satellites such as the NASA "MEPSI" nano-satellite, which is slightly larger than a CubeSat.

In 2004, with their relatively small size, CubeSats could each be made and launched for an estimated $65,000 – $80,000 dollars.[1] This price tag, far lower than most satellite launches, has made CubeSat a viable option for schools and universities across the world. Because of this, a large number of universities and some companies and government organizations around the world are developing CubeSats — more than 113 in August 2008, Cal Poly reported.

The standard 10×10×10 cm basic CubeSat is often called a "1U" CubeSat meaning one unit. CubeSats are scalable in 1U increments and larger. CubeSats such as a “2U” CubeSat (20×10×10 cm) and a “3U” CubeSat (30×10×10 cm) have been both built and launched.

CP4 in flight, taken by AeroCube2.

Since CubeSats are all 10x10 cm (regardless of length) they can all be launched and deployed using a common deployment system. CubeSats are typically launched and deployed from a mechanism called a Pico-Satellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD), also developed and built by CalPoly.[3] P-PODs are mounted to a launch vehicle and carry CubeSats into orbit and deploy them once the proper signal is received from the launch vehicle. P-PODs have deployed over 90% of all CubeSats launched to date (including un-successful launches), and 100% of all CubeSats launched since 2006. The P-POD Mk III has capacity for three 1U CubeSats, however since three 1U CubeSats are exactly the same size as one 3U CubeSat, and conversely two 1U CubeSats are the same size as one 2U CubeSat; the P-POD can deploy 1U, 2U, or 3U CubeSats in any combination up to a maximum volume of 3U.

Although launch prices have risen[when?] quite substantially across the board of launch providers,[citation needed] a CubeSat still forms the most cost-effective independent means of getting a payload into orbit. Several companies and research institutes offer regular launch opportunities in clusters of several cubes. ISIS, CalPoly, and UTIAS-SFL offer such services.

Most CubeSats carry one or two scientific instruments as their primary missions payload. A few CubeSat projects have limited propulsion systems; for example, the CubeSat project of the University of Illinois uses an array of small ion thrusters.[citation needed]

[edit] Successful projects

On 27 October 2005, a Kosmos-3M launch vehicle launched from Plesetsk carried three CubeSats into orbit on the SSETI Express mission. The CubeSats on board were projects from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the University of Tokyo.

Seven CubeSats were launched April 17, 2007 as secondary payloads on a Dnepr rocket.[4] They included a Columbian project from the students at the Universidad Sergio Arboleda. Their satellite, called Libertad 1, was Columbia's first. The Aerospace Corporation had their AeroCube 2 and CP-3 & CP-4 were on board from California Polytechnic State University.

In a launch coordinated by the Nanosatellite Launch System, a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle launched CubeSats on April 28, 2008. One was a 3-unit CubeSat (10x10x30 centimeters) named Delfi-C3 from Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands.[5]

The Students for the Exploration and Development of Space built their first micro satellite in 1998. The satellite, SEDSAT-1, was launched as a secondary payload on the Deep Space 1 mission. The satellite carried amateur radio transponders and a camera but the design predated the CubeSat specification.[6] The SEDS group are building a second satellite that will conform to the specification.[citation needed]

[edit] Applications

[edit] Development of CubeSat technology

  • AAU CubeSat, by Aalborg University - The Danish students in this project, beginning in the summer of 2001, designed a satellite that would evaluate the technology and demonstrate the capabilities of the CubeSat concept. In order to successfully show the technology to the public, the team installed a camera on board the spacecraft, and outfitted it with a magnetically-based attitude control system. But upon reaching orbit, the radio signals were weaker than expected and the batteries failed after only one month of semi-operational activity.[7]
  • PW-Sat, by Warsaw University of Technology - This experiment revolves around CubeSats themselves. The test will involve developing a method to deorbit CubeSats by engaging an atmospheric drag device.[8] The mission's focus will be the testing of this foil device; its deployment to intentionally bring the satellite back into the thicker portion of Earth's atmosphere to bring the mission to an end.[9] If successful the satellite will be Poland's first.[10]
  • OUFTI-1, by the University of Liège and I.S.I.L (Haute École de la Province de Liège) - This is a 1-unit CubeSat that is being built by Belgian students. The name is an acronym for Orbital Utility For Telecommunication Innovation. The Belgian satellite is scheduled to launch on the maiden flight of Vega in 2009. The goal of the project is to develop experience in the different aspects of satellite design and operation. In the communications portion of the device, the academic team will be experimenting with the D-STAR communications protocol that is popular with amateur radio operators.[8][11]
  • CubeSat TestBed 1, by Boeing - Boeing successfully completed all of its design and operational goals with its first nanosatellite. It was built and flown to explore the possibilities with the new CubeSat standard.[12] Boeing traditionally builds satellites that are on a scale that is much larger; a Boeing 601 or 702 satellite weighs 1,000 times the 10 kilograms that this CubeSat weighs.[13]

[edit] Earth remote sensing

  • Quakesat, by Quakefinder - This satellite was set out on a mission to help scientists improve earthquake detection. The students are hoping that the detection of magnetic signals may have value in showing the onset of an earthquake.[14] The company that put the satellites together is from Palo Alto, California. They're gathering data on the extremely low magnetic field fluctuations that are associated with earthquakes to help better understand this area of study that has its skeptics.[15] The 30 June 2003 deployment of Quakesat was along side other university CubeSats and one commercial CubeSat. The launch occurred on a Rockot rocket from Russia’s Plesetsk launch site.
  • PLUME, by the University of Leicester - They plan to launch a CubeSat by mid-2009 that will detect cosmic dust. It will be the first English CubeSat to be launched.[16] The students began their project at the beginning of 2007 and if successful will have a method for scientists to look at the smallest ever dust particles from space.[17]

[edit] Space tether

NASA's GeneSat 1
  • MAST, by Tethers Unlimited - The Multi-Application Survivable Tether experiment, based in the United States, was launched 17 April 2007 aboard a Dnepr rocket. This 1 km multistrand, interconnected tether (Hoytether) is being used to test and prove the long-term survivability for tethers in space. The satellite deployed successfully, but the tether did not function properly.[19] While Stanford University formed the academic portion of the team, Tethers Unlimited, from Seattle, Washington, formed the commercial portion of the team.[20]
  • Tempo3, by The Mars Society - [21]

[edit] Biology

  • GeneSat 1, by the NASA Ames Research Center - In December 2006, a Minotaur launch vehicle carried this satellite into orbit from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility to carry out a genetics experiment. The team assembled the biological growth and analysis systems to perform experiments with the E coli bacteria.[22] The project is not a cheap one by comparison; the total spent on the satellite and its experiments were $6 million before the launch took place. The goal is to establish methods for studying the genetic changes that come from being exposed to a space environment.[23] The satellite was outfitted with a UHF beacon.

[edit] Other

[edit] Launch failures

[edit] Dnepr rocket crash

On July 26, 2006, 14 CubeSats from 11 universities and a private company were launched aboard a Dnepr rocket, the largest planned deployment of CubeSats to date.[2] The rocket failed and was destroyed during launch, obliterating the CubeSats and four other satellites aboard.[25] The launch was lost after the first stage engine shut down prematurely.[26] All satellite parts are believed destroyed.

The launch had been postponed numerous times because the primary payload, EgyptSat 1, was not ready. Due to ITAR concerns, the CubeSats were moved to a different launch site, with the primary payload being BelKA, which was to be the first orbiting satellite from Belarus.

The launch carried Rincon 1 and SACRED, both from the University of Arizona. Other projects came from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and Hankuk Aviation University, Seoul, Korea. The Aerospace Corporation, from the United States, also had its own commercial project onboard.

[edit] Falcon incident

On August 3, 2008, a SpaceX Falcon 1 launched from the Kwajalein Atoll launch facility (U.S.) with two NASA Ames CubeSats. They were the PREsat from NASA's Ames Research Center, and the NanoSail-D from both NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and Ames Research Center.[27] These CubeSats were lost due to a launch vehicle failure when the rocket's first stage inadvertently made contact with the second stage after separation.

[edit] Planned projects

A July 2009 plan is in place for three university CubeSats to be launched by NASA in their mission called ELaNa (Educational Launch of Nanosatellites). These university satellites include the Space Science and Engineering Laboratory's Explorer-1 PRIME (E1P) developed by students at Montana State University, Kentucky Space's KySat-1 which was developed by multiple Kentucky universities plus several organizations and companies,[28] and the University of Colorado-Boulder's HERMES. The backup for the launch is University of Florida's ASTREC-1.[29] This launch has been pushed back until at least late November 2009.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b Leonard David (2004). "Cubesats: Tiny Spacecraft, Huge Payoffs". Retrieved on 2008-12-07. 
  2. ^ a b Leonard David (2006). "CubeSat losses spur new development". Retrieved on 2008-12-11. 
  3. ^ "Educational Payload on the Vega Maiden Flight - Call For CubeSat Proposals". European Space Agency. 2008. Retrieved on 2008-12-07. 
  4. ^ "Dnepr LV with 14 satellites onboard launched". Space Fellowship. 2007. Retrieved on 2008-12-04. 
  5. ^ "Delfi-C3 delivered to launch site". Space Fellowship. 2008. Retrieved on 2008-12-24. 
  6. ^ "SEDSAT Puts Students Over The Earth". 1998. Retrieved on 2009-01-03. 
  7. ^ Lars Alminde, Morten Bisgaard, Dennis Vinther, Tor Viscor, Kasper Ostergard (2003), Educational Value and Lessons Learned from the AAU-Cubesat Project, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, ISBN 0-7803-8142-4, 
  8. ^ a b c d e "SA Announces Vega CubeSat Selection". European Space Agency. 2008. Retrieved on 2008-12-05. 
  9. ^ Piotr Wolański (2008). "Space-related activities at the Warsaw University of Technology and Institute of Aviation". Warsaw University of Technology. Retrieved on 2008-12-07. 
  10. ^ "From the Publisher". Warsaw Voice. 2008. Retrieved on 2008-12-07. 
  11. ^ "The ARRL Letter". American Radio Relay League. 2008. Retrieved on 2008. 
  12. ^ Robert Villanueva (2007). "Boeing Successfully Completes CubeSat Mission to Advance Nano-Satellite Technology". Boeing. Retrieved on 2008-12-09. 
  13. ^ Elaine Caday-Eames (October 2006). "Small box, big potential". Boeing Frontiers. Retrieved on 2008-12-09. 
  14. ^ Tariq Malik (2003). "What's Shakin'? Tiny Satellite to Try and Predict Earthquakes". Retrieved on 2008-12-08. 
  15. ^ Leonard David (2003). "Cubesats: On the Prowl for Earthquake Clues". Retrieved on 2008-12-05. 
  16. ^ University of Leicester (2008-06-10). Students prepare for dust-up - in space!. Press release. Retrieved on 2008-12-05. 
  17. ^ "Student satellite to be launched". BBC News. 2008. Retrieved on 2008-12-07. 
  18. ^ Irene Klotz (2008). "Probe seeks relationship between lighting strikes, gamma ray flashes". The Discovery Channel. Retrieved on 2008-12-07. 
  19. ^ Kelly Young (2007). "Experimental space tether fails to deploy". New Scientist. Retrieved on 2008-12-05. 
  20. ^ "Multi-Application Survivable Tether (MAST) Experiment". NASA. 2002. Retrieved on 2008-12-07. 
  21. ^ K.C. Jones (2008). "'TEMPO 3' Artificial Gravity Satellite On Mars Society's To-Do List". InformationWeek. Retrieved on 2008-12-03. 
  22. ^ "Genesat". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Retrieved on 2008-12-09. 
  23. ^ Leonard David (2005). "GeneSat-1: Small Satellite Tackles Big Biology Questions". Retrieved on 2008-12-09. 
  24. ^ Orbital Sciences Corporation. Thomas Jefferson High School and Orbital Establish Partnership For The First-Ever Small Satellite Build. Press release. Retrieved on 2008-12-12. 
  25. ^ Stephen Clark (2006). "Russian rocket fails - 18 satellites destroyed". SpaceFlight Now. Retrieved on 2008-12-03. 
  26. ^ Tariq Malik (2006). "Report: Dnepr Rocket Crashes Shortly After Launch". Retrieved on 2006-07-27. 
  27. ^ "SpaceX Sets August 2 for Falcon 1 launch". Reuters. 2008. Retrieved on 2008-12-24. 
  28. ^ "Concept of Operations". Stanford University. 2006. Retrieved on 2008-12-03. 
  29. ^ "New Opportunities for Space Grant CubeSats". National Science Foundation. 2008. Retrieved on 2008-12-12. 

[edit] External links

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