What is a cubesat used for?

Nowadays, satellite deployment is not just reserved for sizeable spacecrafts.

Instead, advancements in the sector have allowed for smaller spacecrafts to be launched in higher volumes and at a reduced cost.

What is a CubeSat?

A CubeSat is a small satellite that can be used for several purposes.

The CubeSat standard was developed by California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) and Stanford University , with the intention of conducting scientific research and exploring new space technologies.

Since then, CubeSats have been increasingly visible in the commercial space sector.

Visually, a CubeSat is characterised by its cube-like appearance or shape, and is typically built to standard dimensions of 10x10x10cm. They can vary in sizes and masses according to their mission. However, they are typically between one and 12 units, resulting in a mass of 1.3–16kg.

Not only are CubeSats more accessible than traditional larger satellites, but they are smaller in size and weight, meaning that it takes less time to develop and launch them.

This can make all the difference for individuals or companies who rely on CubeSats for their projects.

What can a CubeSat be used for?

For many people, the purpose of a CubeSat still remains a mystery if they have little to no knowledge of space missions.

In fact, many people wonder to themselves ‘What is a CubeSat used for?’ A CubeSat is primarily designed for lower Earth orbit missions such as communications and remote sensing.

However, they have a variety of purposes and are multifunctional. They appeal to a wide range of groups, including those involved in research like students or lecturers in universities as well as those interested in technological developments or commercial services.

They can function as testing instruments to conduct science experiments or study the weather. This also includes assessing new technologies or instruments in space like cameras, sensors, antennas, or propulsion systems. For example, CubeSats can be designed to test scientific instruments or carry out technology demonstrations.

They can also be used to carry out observations of deep space or the Earth. For example, they can function in performing scientific studies in sectors such as astronomy, or planetary exploration.  This data can be used to inform companies and improve future missions. Interestingly, they can also operate as vehicles of transportation, carrying miniature science instruments to conduct an experiment or take measurements from space.

On top of this, CubeSats can also be used to enable commercial applications by offering services or products for commercial purposes such as telecommunications, navigation, or remote sensing. For example, high-resolution or hyperspectral images can be gathered which can be useful for various industries.

Satellite communications, including Internet of Things, are also increasingly making more use of CubeSat technology. To offer good coverage, telecommunication providers require large satellite constellations in low Earth orbit and nothing suits better than CubeSats that can be launched in higher volume and at a lower cost.

What are the advantages of using a CubeSat?

CubeSats are incredibly beneficial for those who are interested in satellite development and space launch but don’t have the budget to carry out large-scale projects.

This is because CubeSats are inexpensive satellites that are still able to fulfil many of the same duties traditional larger satellites can. They are also an attractive option for those who are not involved in government agencies or commercial industries related to space missions and want to launch their own project because CubeSats are more accessible.

Furthermore, given CubeSats are so small, it is possible to launch more than one at the same time. Therefore, for people who want to launch multiple CubeSats, the shorter development times of this type of satellite means that they can be launched closer together without delay.

A CubeSat can be designed, built, tested, and delivered in a minimum time of six months. However, the process usually takes around 18 to 24 months, which is still quicker than a traditional satellite approach. This is mainly achieved through the wide use of off-the-shelf components for electronics and subsystems, which is one of the key facets of CubeSat mission development. It permits CubeSat missions to rapidly create intricate yet reliable spacecraft at a low cost and in a narrower timeframe.

In addition, CubeSats use more up-to-date technology than a lot of other types of satellites. In fact, they are constantly and consistently advancing and incorporating new technologies to facilitate more impressive and diverse missions in space. For example, this type of satellite takes into consideration the latest developments in electronics, software and sensors which are may not be compatible with more traditional satellites.

Moreover, their smaller size and weight allows for much easier transportation between locations and they don’t take up as much storage space as other types of satellites. Often, many people have to pay for large storage locations to host their satellite. However, this is not needed with CubeSats. Owing to their size, they can also be moved with ease and controlled in orbit more easily than other types of satellites – all while using less fuel and power.

In terms of risks, because CubeSats can be deployed in large constellations and launched one after the other, they are typically more reliable. This is because with multiple CubeSats in orbit, there is plenty of backup in case one CubeSat fails or malfunctions.

With large traditional satellites, many people find that they are limited when it comes to what they can do and what they offer. However, the services that CubeSats provide are bountiful. This can include remote sensing, earth observation, communications and connectivity. They are also unique to each mission as they can be personalised and tailored to specific needs, such as scientific research, exploration, or education.

CubeSats are also the perfect solution for those who are seeking more autonomy and independence over their space mission project. These types of satellites permit owners and operators to harness greater control over their space assets because it eliminates the need to rely on outsourcing others for their design, launch and operation. In this way, it also helps those who are launching their small satellites to build their confidence as they are becoming more self-sufficient.

How can Bright Ascension help you build a CubeSat?

It can be easy to race into building a CubeSat, especially if you are in a hurry to launch it into space. However, rushing the process can actually heighten the risk of failure because they are virtually unreachable once they are in orbit. Therefore, having reliable onboard software can dramatically increase the dependability of your satellite.

Bright Ascension has valuable solutions to assist you in simplifying and improving your mission with our unique flight and ground software products.

Our Flight Software Development Kit is simple, functional and readily available early on in the space development process. We are also aware that things can change, which is why our software is adaptable.

Our flight software uses a modular structure, which means that even the most unique mission software can be developed in a short space of time by fusing together pre-existing off-the-shelf components, typically used in most missions, with bespoke ones, special to your spacecraft.

Whether you are on a mission to launch a single CubeSat or a large constellation, building a CubeSat has never been easier. Not only, standardisation and wide use of off-the-shelf components also allows developers to keep costs under control at fixed prices and limit the requirement for different resources.

Whatever the challenge, we always aim to create solutions that deliver the best possible results.

Our flight software development kit is optimised to bolster simple and rapid development. On top of this, it is extremely versatile because it is an open system able to be easily extended to operate with new subsystems and fresh hardware, as well as new and existing software components. This means it gives people exposure to the best available and most cost-effective off-the-shelf components on the market.

Although the building of a CubeSat can be relatively straightforward, guaranteeing that it remains effective in orbit can be difficult. Our tested code, proven on over 50 spacecraft in orbit, meets strict standards for mission-critical software and displays pre-validated and readily-available software components to decrease the risk of failure.

To discover out how our modular space software technology and integrated solutions can help you simplify and streamline your space mission development and launch, contact us today.