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Introductions to CubeSat

Small is the new big in satellite applications.

CubeSats are miniature satellites that have been used exclusively in low Earth orbit for 15 years, and are now being used for interplanetary missions as well.

We tend to think of satellites as huge spacecraft that tower over the engineers who build them.

But over the last 20 years, miniature satellites called CubeSats have been shaking up the space industry, making accessing space easier and cheaper for those who could previously not afford it.

Having initially been developed as educational tools, CubeSats are increasingly being put to active use in orbit for technology demonstration, scientific studies and even commercial purposes. And just like typical satellites, they are custom built to fulfil the specific requirements of their mission.

CubeSats take up reduced amounts of volume and mass, making them easy to load onto spacecraft as well as a low cost solution. Furthermore, the emergence of micro-launchers around the world, dedicated exclusively to placing small satellites in orbit, has forced the market to lower launch prices.

Consequently, CubeSats are now deployed for a multitude of scientific applications, such as:

  • Systems testing in orbit or biomedical research
  • Space observation programs
  • Monitoring radio signals from Earth
  • Earth observation including analysis of the human impact on agriculture, forest, geology and the environment

There are considerable advantages of modern CubeSats over conventional satellites – especially considering a large number of services can now be provided from space. Besides being more affordable and having shorter development times, CubeSats provide more up-to-date technology and provide greater data security.

There’s also an important risk distribution factor with CubeSats. CubeSats usually operate in constellations, so the different satellites provide backup and redundancy to the services they offer. If a small satellite becomes unusable, for whatever reason, the project does not fail, but the other CubeSats can fill that gap while waiting for a replica to be placed in orbit to take the place of the damaged satellite — and all this in a very short period of time.

CubeSats also provide greater independence and control over a project. CubeSats open up space to companies that can now have their own small satellites without intermediaries and with absolute control over their services.

Most observers feel the space industry is moving toward a future with large constellations of small satellites capable of providing all types of services in large geographical areas or across the globe. This trend in turn implies new challenges for satellite coordination and management.

Some solutions will help optimize coordination between CubeSats in the same constellation so that satellites are able to communicate with each other for different purposes.

Introductions to CubeSat Course by Tonex

Introductions to CubeSat is a 2-day covering the basic concepts and processes for
CubeSat analysis, design and developments. Participants will learn about the CubeSats or miniature satellites that have been used exclusively in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), and can be used for exploring and interplanetary missions. In the beginning,    however, they were commonly used in low Earth orbit for applications such as remote sensing or communications.

Nanosatellites are loosely defined as any satellite weighing less than 10 kilograms. The basic design of a CubeSat is a 10-centimeter (4-inch) cube with a mass of less than 1.33 kilograms (2.93 lbs.). CubeSats can also be designed to encompass two, three or six 10-centimeter units for more complicated missions. CubeSats shall also comply with a series of specific criteria that control factors such as their shape, size and weight.

Two of the 28 Dove cubesats that make up Planet Lab's "Flock 1" constellation are seen deploying into orbit from the International Space Station on Feb. 11, 2014.

28 Dove CubeSats part of Planet Lab’s “Flock 1” constellation deployed into orbit from the International Space Station (ISS) on Feb. 11, 2014.
(Image: © NASA)
What is a Nanosatellite?

The standard CubeSat unit, a cube-shaped structure measuring 10x10x10 centimetres, has with a mass of somewhere between 1 and 1.33 kg (AKA as 1U). This modular unit is now multiplied and larger nanosatellites such (1.5U, 2U, 3U or 6U).

Course Topics

Fundamentals of CubeSats

  • CubeSats Use Cases
  • Satellite Types
  • Satellite Types and the Mass
  • Large satellites: More than 1,000 kg
  • Medium-sized satellites: 500-1,000 kg
  • Small satellites
  • Minisatellite: 100-500 kg
  • Microsatellite: 10-100 kg
  • Nanosatellite: 1-10 kg
  • Picosatellite: Less than 1 kg
  • CubeSat Launch Initiatives
  • CubeSats System Survey
  • Mission Models
  • Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Rideshare
  • National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) Rideshare
  • International Space Station (ISS) Deployment Mission Model
  • Commercial Launch Services
  • Structure
  • Computing
  • Attitude control
  • Propulsion
  • Power
  • Telecommunications
  • RF
  • Antennas
  • Antennas
  • Thermal management

CubeSat Architecture and Design

  • CubeSat Reference Architecture CubeSats Systems Engineering Design Process
  • Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) applied to CubeSats
  • System Inputs
  • Desired System Outputs
  • System Level Architecture
  • CubeSat RF Engineering
  • Antennas
  • Communication Protocols
  • Launch Vehicles
  • CubeSat Dispenser Systems
  • 3U Dispensers
  • 6U Dispensers
  • Launch Vehicles Rockets
  • Development Process Overview
  • Ground Station Design, Development, and Testing
  • CubeSat Software Design and Implementation
  • CubeSat Testing
  • CubeSat Hardware Fabrication and Testing
  • CubeSat Software Testing
  • Mission Readiness Reviews
  • CubeSat-to-Dispenser Integration and Testing
  • Mission Operations

CubeSat Design Specifications (CDS)        

  • Range Safety Requirements
  • Licensing Procedures
  • Radio Frequency (RF) Licensing
  • Remote Sensing
  • Flight Certification
  • Orbital Debris Mitigation Compliance
  • Transmitter Surveys
  • CubeSat Components
  • Materials List
  • Environment Testing (Vibration/Shock)
  • 693 Thermal Vacuum Bakeout Testing
  • Compliance
  • Safety and Reliability
  • CubeSat Verification and Validation (V&V)
  • Acceptance Checklists
  • Technical Reference Documents for CubeSat
  • Requirements Verification
  • CubeSat Cybersecurity Attacks and Mitigation

CubeSat Cybersecurity

  • Space Cybersecurity
  • CubeSat Networking, Systems, Technologies, Databases
  • CubeSat Defensive and Offensive Cybersecurity
  • CubeSats Vulnerabilities and Hackers
  • Securing Satellites and CubeSats
  • CubeSat Threat Models and Mitigation

CubeSat Case Study

  • Business Case for a CubeSat-based Earth Imaging Constellation
  • Tools to to Build a CubeSat
  • CubeSat cost and Components


Introductions to CubeSat

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