CubeSats are pico-satellites of standardized dimensions (cubes of 10 cm per side, with a maximum mass of 1 kg) which can be operated from university or radio amateur ground stations. They offer hands-on experience to aerospace engineering students in designing, developing, testing and operating a real spacecraft system and its ground segment.
- Vermont Tech’s satellite —its first ever—is one of hundreds of tiny spacecraft projects under development that may change how we explore the solar system. The satellite now in orbit is a cube only 10 centimeters on a side, but it has the same kind of equipment you’d expect on a much larger spacecraft: star-tracking camera, GPS, gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, solar panels, computer, and radio transceiver.
What’s the problem?
Supertiny satellites launched – Researchers are building simple, miniature satellites to bring down their costs and expand their availability.
- Ask – Why were tiny satellites required? What are some ways to lower the cost of satellites?
- Imagine – How can earth-bound technologies be adapted for use in space?
- Plan, Create – How have the designers included new ideas? What special precautions are taken during building of these satellites?
- Improve – What improvements are planned?
- low earth orbit (LEO) – an orbit inside the area which comes from the Earth’s surface up to an altitude of 2,000 km
- outer space – the near-vacuum between celestial bodies. Space begins at the Kármán line (100 km above sea level). This is where Earth’s atmosphere is said to stop and outer space begins. This is not a firm boundary but is a convention used by scientists and diplomats.
- pico, standardize, low earth orbit, orbit, atmosphere, star-tracking camera, GPS, gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, solar panels, computer, radio transceiver
Challenges for you to work on…
- Find some examples of student-built CubeSat projects. Follow their progress. What questions were they designed to investigate? Were they successful? What have they learned? How will this be used in future projects?