Notable Upcoming CubeSat Missions

Mission Destination Launch Summary Image
CPOD LEO 2017 Docking with 3U nanosatellites. Will demonstrate precision flying around each other and then docking. Will enable to explore asteroids, moons and to inspect other spacecraft. CPOD 3U CubeSats
INSPIRE Earth escape 2017 Goal of two 3U INSPIRE spacecraft is to open deep space to CubeSats and demonstrate necessary functions like telecommunication and navigation. Will be the first interplanetary and deep space CubeSat. INSPIRE 3U CubeSats
RSat (Repair CubeSat) LEO 2017 Two 7 DoF robotic arms fitted with manipulators to enable inspection and servicing. Operates with BRICSat that provides propulsion and attitude control. Magnetic docking system will include power and data pass-through. Part of AMODS (Autonomous Mobile On-orbit Diagnostic System). RSat Repair CubeSat
CAPE-MIRCA LEO 2018 Micro return capsule is the first planetary atmosphere entry probe flight prototype to measure density, temperature and composition. GAMASAT also has re-entry capsule and will launch in 2016 with QB50, but not sure if and how capsule will be released. CAPE-MIRCA 3U Reentry CubeSat
Mars Cube One (MarCO) Mars flyby 2018 Two 6U deep space CubeSats were planned to be launched in 2016, but delayed due to InSight Mars lander. They will flyby Mars during the landing of InSight and relay status in real time, which is not possible today. NASA 6U Mars Cube One
NEA Scout Asteroid flyby 2018 First CubeSat to reach an asteroid and map it using an ~80 m2 solar sail for propulsion. One of 13 6U CubeSats that will launch with a new NASA SLS rocket in 2018 which will send Orion capsule on a trip around the Moon. NASA NEA-Scout 6U CubeSat
Lunar Flashlight Moon orbit 2018 First CubeSat to reach the Moon and the first to use lasers to look for water ice. Near infrared lasers will shine light into the shaded polar regions, while the spectrometer measures surface reflection and composition. One of 13 6U SLS CubeSats. NASA 6U Lunar Flashlight
OMOTENASHI Moon orbit,
Moon surface
2018 Will release a 1 kg lunar lander with inflatable airbags to demonstrate technology for low-cost and very small spacecraft to explore the lunar surface and will measure the radiation environment. One of 13 6U SLS CubeSats. OMOTENASHI CubeSat and lunar lander
AIM/AIDA CubeSats Didymos, asteroid 2020 Likely cancelled. European Space Agency (ESA) Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) spacecraft to Didymos will include two 3U CubeSats that will be selected from ASPECT, AGEX, PALS, CUBATA or DUSTCUBE CubeSat studies. AIM ESA CubeSats
SWIMSat GEO 2021 6U CubeSat to monitor solar Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) and monitor Earth meteor impacts. Might be the first CubeSat to geostationary (GEO) orbit, but too early to know for sure. SWIMSat first GEO CubeSat
DARCSIDE Europa, Jupiter moon 2025 3U CubeSat flying with Europa Clipper spacecraft to study Europa's atmosphere. Experiments are planned to be drag measurement and high energy particle detector. DARCSIDE Europa moon CubeSat

Last update: 2016-12-28

CubeSat Commercial Constellations and Investments

Organization Launched /
Planned size
Form factor Field Funding Image
Planet 179 / 150+ 2013 3U Earth observation $183 million Planet Dove 3U CubeSat
Spire 25 / 100+ 2013 3U Weather / AIS / ADS-B $69.5 million Spire Lemur 3U CubeSat
Planetary Resources 2 / 10 2014 12U Earth observation $50+ million Planetary Resources Arkyd 12U CubeSat
Astro Digital (Aquila) 2 / 10+20 2014 6U / 16U Earth observation ? Astro Digital 6U CubeSat
Hera Systems 0 / 9-48 2017 12U Earth observation $4.2+ million Hera 12U CubeSat
Sky and Space Global 0 / 200 2017 3U IoT / M2M / Voice $11.5 million Sky and Space Global 3U CubeSat
Kepler Communications 0 / 140 2017 3U IoT / M2M $5 million Kepler 3U CubeSat
Fleet Space 0 / 100 2017 12U IoT / M2M ? Fleet Space image
0 / 64 2017 3U IoT / M2M $3.75 million Astrocast 3U CubeSat
AISTech 0 / 25 2017 6U IoT / M2M / ADS-B / AIS / IR imaging $0.31 million AISTech 6U CubeSat
PlanetiQ 0 / 18 2017 6U Weather $5+ million PlanetiQ 6U CubeSat
Aerial & Maritime
(partially GomSpace)
0 / ? 2018 3U? AIS / ADS-B $7.2 million
Helios Wire 0 / 30 2018 16U IoT / M2M $1 million Helios Wire 16U CubeSat
Karten Space 0 / 14 2018 6U Earth observation / AIS ? Karten Space 6U CubeSat
Promethean Labs 0 / ? 2018 ? Gas emissions ?
Harris 0 / 12 2019 6U Weather ? Harris Corp 6U CubeSat
Analytical Space 0 / ? ? 6U Relay / IoT / M2M $0.5 million Analytical Space 6U CubeSat
Earthcube 0 / ? ? ? IR imaging $1.1+ million
Blink Astro 0 / ? ? 3U IoT / M2M ? Blink Astro 3U
4skies 0 / ? ? 12U IoT / M2M ?
Magnitude Space 0 / ? ? 3U IoT / M2M ?
Terran Orbital (Tyvak) 0 / ? ? ? IoT / M2M ?
ISIS / Innovative
Data Services
0 / 16 ? 3U AIS ?
SkyFi 0 / 60 ? 3U Internet $3 million SkyFi 3U CubeSat

Last update: 2016-12-28

State-of-the-art CubeSat Technologies

Complimentary reading are NASA Small Spacecraft Technology State of the Art and Achieving Science with CubeSats reports.

Technology Organization Summary Image
Communications Planet 120+ Mbit/s to 5 m ground station in X band with patch antenna. Planet 3U CubeSat
NASA Mars Cube One (MarCO) reflectarray capable of 8 Kbit/s from Mars in X-band. Three 33.3 cm x 19.9 cm panels achieve >28 dB gain at 8.4 GHz. MarCo Reflectarray
NASA KaPDA parabolic deployable Ka-band antenna with 0.5 m diameter, 1.5U stowed size, 1.2 kg mass and 42.5 dB gain. KaPDA parabolic Ka-band antenna
NASA Iris V2 Transponder. Parameters include 0.5U, 1.2 kg and interoperability with Deep Space Network (DSN) at X-band. NASA Iris V2 Transponder
Astro Digital
40 Mbit/s in 26.8 GHz Ka-band with patch antenna on Perseus-M 6U CubeSats. Module is about 1U and 1 kg. Astro Digital first Ka band transmitter
Aerospace 1.5U AeroCube-7 (OCSD) will do optical communications with data rates up to 622 Mbps using 80 cm ground station. OCSD 1.5U CubeSat with Laser Communications
Syrlinks EWC27 X Band transmitter. Up to 100 Mbps. Up to 13.3 GB per pass can be downloaded on a 5 m station or 5.8 GB with a 3.4 m station. Syrlinks X band transmitter
QuickSAT (Globalstar) Using GlobalStar satellite network for 24/7 communications. Module is only 44 × 88 mm, weighs 25 g and consumes 200 mW with 500 mW peak.
Power Planet 3+3 3U deployable solar panels Planet 3U CubeSat
MMA Design HaWK steerable 3 × 3U solar arrays capable of tracking Sun and 36W peak power. Might use Honeybee SADA drive actuator. MMA Design CubeSat Deployable Solar Panels
NASA ISARA has solar cells opposite the reflectarray. 3 × 3U panels achieve 33 dB of gain at 26 GHz and data rates about 100 Mbps. NASA ISARA 3U Reflectarray
Compact Satellite Bus Planet Bus is a wrap-around design of about 0.25U - 0.5U total volume. Includes star camera, GPS, 4 reaction wheels. Planet Labs 3U CubeSat
Tyvak Intrepid platform avionics, power system, communication, and payload interface are all hosted in a 9 × 9 × 3 cm package. Tyvak Intrepid CubeSat Platform
Propulsion NASA Solar sail with an area of ~86 m2 that fits into 2U and has 2.5 kg mass. NASA CubeSat Solar Sail
Busek BIT-3 propulsion sized 2.5U includes 1.5 kg solid iodine propellant and will provide 6U CubeSat up to 3 km/s of delta-V. Busek CubeSat BIT-3 Propulsion
Phase Four CubeSat Ambipolar Thruster (CAT) sized 4U could provide 8 km/s of delta-V for 6 kg dry mass satellite consuming 2.56 kg of water. Phase Four CAT Thruster
Deep Space Industries Comet-1 thrusters are simple, safe, and cost-effective electrothermal propulsion systems that use water as propellant. Phase Four CAT Thruster
Booms Oxford Space Systems AstroTube retractable boom with up to 3 m length and less than 0.5U size. Oxford Space Systems CubeSat Boom

Last update: 2016-12-28

CubeSat Instruments

Last update: 2016-12-27

Good overview of CubeSat instruments and technology progress by Anthony Freeman from 2016 CubeSat Instruments Status
Planetary Decadal Science Mapping and Nanosat-Compatible Instrument Availability by Caltech from 2016 CubeSat Instruments Status

Technology Some applications Organization or instrument Description Image
Visible and near-IR cameras Determine asteroid’s shape, rotational properties, spectral class, local dust and debris field, regional morphology and regolith properties. Planet Scope PS2 29 MP detector capable of taking images with 3.7 m ground resolution and swath of 24.6 km × 16.4 km from 475 km altitude. Planet Labs 3U CubeSat
Hera Systems 1-meter resolution imaging satellite is built on a 12U cubesat, 22-kilogram form factor. Hera Systems 12U Imager
Astro Digital (Aquila) 6U has 22 m resolution in RGB and NIR. 16U has 2.5 m resolution in RGB, red edge, and NIR using 70 MP sensor and butcher block filter. Astro Digital 6U Imager
Malin Space Systems ECAM C-50 imager uses the Aptina MT9P031 sensor certified for deep space. 5 MP (2592 x 1944) CMOS. Malin Space Imager
JPL IntelliCam 20 MP, 15 deg FOV. 10 cm/pix at ~800 m. Asteroid (~5-12 m) detection from ~50K km. Science and optical (autonomous) naviation. NEA Scout and JPL IntelliCam
Microwave radars Precipitation profiling NASA KaPDA Ka-band antenna KaPDA parabolic deployable Ka-band antenna with 0.5 m diameter, 1.5U stowed size, 1.2 kg mass and 42.5 dB gain. NASA 6U RainCube
Radiometers Greenhouse gases measurement

Atmosphere humidty and temperature profiling
Boulder (BEST) 150 and 183 GHz Radiometers 150 GHz radiometer has 2 channels between the 118 GHz oxygen absorption line and the 183 GHz water vapor absorption line. BEST Radiometers
NASA Laser Heterodyne Radiometer (Mini-LHR) 4U occultation-viewing passive radiometer that measures methane (CH4), carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapor (H2O) in the limb.
Infrared imagers Characterize volatiles and minerals.

Measure temp and water vapor in atmosphere.

Night-imaging, temperature mapping.
NASA BIRCHES 1.5U, 2.5 kg, 5 W. Spectral resolution (5 nm) to characterize volatiles (water etc) and minerals (oxides etc). Micro-crycooler to keep <140 K. NASA BIRCHES Spectrometer
Thoth Argus 1000 Infrared Range: 1000 nm - 1700 nm. Spectral resolution: 6 nm. 15 mm aperture, 0.15° FoV. Envelope: 45 × 50 × 80 mm. Mass < 230 g. Argus 1000 Infrared Spectrometer
MWIR Grating Spectrometer (CIRAS) Spatial: 13.5 × 0.32 km. Spectral: 4.8-5.1 μm. 625 Channels. HOT-BIRD detectors comparable to HgCdTe at much reduced cost. CIRAS Spectrometer
Planetary Resources MWIR Midwave infrared imager (MWIR) in 3-5 μm with 15 m ground resolution. Planetary Resources MWIR Infrared Imager
Hyperspectral imagers / spectrometers
Material detection, crop identification, soil moisture, oil spill concentrations, monitoring pollutatns, hazardous gases.
Harris Fourier Spectrometer (CubeSat-FTS) 4 cm aperture, MWIR band only (5.7-8.3 um). Cooled to ~120K using an AVHRR-based passive cooler. Hundreds of hyperspectral bands.
Planetary Resources VNIR Visible-NIR 40 channel hyperspectral imager with 10 m resolution.
Planetary Resources CHAP Visible, NIR, IR and far-UV (90-140 nm) possible, 400 channels. Co-registration of spatial and spectral information.
VTT VISION Tunable spectral imager operating in the visible and near-infrared spectra (430 – 800 nm) for ozone vertical profile measurement. VTT VISION Imager on 3U PICASSO
ESA Mini-TMA 90 m ground resolution, 565 km swath, 400-800 nm range, 300 channels, 15 nm spectral resolution, 150 g, 60 × 50 × 30 mm. ESA Mini-TMA Hyperspectral Imager
Snow and Water Imaging Spectrometer (SWIS) 4U, 1.9 kg, 350-1700 nm region with 5.7 nm sampling, 10 deg FoV, 160 m resolution from 500 km. SWIS Imager
Neutron spectrometers Map hydrogen (and water) abundances NASA Mini-NS (Neutron Spectrometer) 2.5U detector using Cs2YLiCl6:Ce (CLYC) scintillator material to detect epithermal neutrons at spatial scales below 10 km. NASA Mini-NS Neutron Spectrometer
X-ray Chemical composition Amptek X-123SDD 7 × 10 × 2.5 cm, 180 g, 2.5 Watts, solar SXR spectral measurements in the 0.5-30 keV range (0.04-2.5 nm) with 0.15 keV energy resolution. Amptek X-ray Spectrometer
REDLEN M1770 Precise measurement of the cosmic (diffuse) X-ray background in the 20 – 50 KeV range. REDLEN CubeSat X-ray
Lobster Eye X‐ray telescope Wide‐field optical system for X‐ray monitoring in range 3 ‐ 40 keV, based on Lobster Eye optics and Timepix detector VZLUSAT-1 X-ray Telescope
Mass spectrometer Elemental composition Quadrupole Ion Trap Mass Spectrometer (QIT-MS) 2.5 kg, 2U, isotopic accuracy <1%.
Gamma ray spectrometer Sub-surface composition Miniaturized SrI2 Gamma Ray Spectrometer 1U, 0.5 kg, 3 W. Europium-doped strontium iodide (SrI2) crystal is 15 × 15 × 10 mm. CubeSat Gamma ray spectrometer

Advanced CubeSat Concepts

Last update: 2016-11-13

Many future space science mission concepts in Keck Institute Final Report from 2014.

Field Technology or concept Summary Image
Communications Structureless antenna Under funding from DARPA, Tethers Unlimited is developing technology that will enable new capabilities for small, low-power nanosatellites such as transmission of real-time video from GEO. CubeSat structureless antennas
Inflatable antennas NASA JPL is leading the development of inflatable X-band antenna with 34 dBi gain, 0.5U stowage volume that uses sublimating powder and is highly scalable. Arizona State University is also involved. CubeSat inflatable antenna
Optics 6U Collapsible Telescope NASA Ames 6U Collapsible Telescope primary mirror diameter is 152.6 mm (6 inches). Fits into 13.8 cm × 20.3 cm × 7 cm. CubeSat collapsible telescope
3U Folded Telescope UK Astronomy Technology Centre solution estimated resolution from 300 km altitude is about 0.5 m per pixel with a 3U CubeSat. Volume of the folded system is 1.5U. CubeSat folded telescope
3U Deployable Telescope Utah State University solution ground sampling distance is 1.3 m. The rectangular full field of view is 0.7° by 0.5° giving a ground coverage of 6.1 km by 4.6 km from a 500 km altitude with a 3U CubeSat. Fits within a 2.5U volume, but length can be reduced to 175 mm.
Carbon-nanotube mirrors with integrated actuators Made of carbon nanotubes embedded in an epoxy resin. Lightweight, highly stable, easily reproducible and do not require polishing. Just pour the mixture of epoxy and carbon nanotubes into a mandrel or mold and let it cure and harden. CubeSat carbon mirrors
(Synthetic Aperture Radar)
12U Ka-Band CubesatSAR 6U spacecraft, 12U total volume. Capable of 10 m resolution from 400 km. 3 min on-time per orbit. Tx power is 120 W and DC power in burst mode is 80W. Antenna size 1.7 × 3 m. Data rate is 104 Mbps and downlink rate is 40 Mbps CubeSat 12U SAR
6U SRI CubeSat Imaging Radar SRI-CIRES is designed for 500 km altitude, 2.9 GHz S-band, 25 m spatial resolution, 3.2 × 1.6 m. Module volume less 1U and < 1 kg. Interferometric SAR (InSAR) for Earth science. SRI CubeSat radar
NanoSAR Antenna is 1.14 × 0.18 m, 5.8 GHz frequency. Swath width of 60 km and pixel size of 10 × 3 m from 350 km altitude. Study by Delft from 2012.
Servicing & Inspection Multi-Purpose CubeSat at ISS ESA study lead by Tyvak will include refueling from ISS and autonomous inspection of ISS.
Power Thin film solar cells Enable much larger solar panels (blanket arrays) in the same volume and mass that can be folded or rolled. Alta Devices 2U concept can produce 29W with much room to grow using their record efficient and bendable cells. CubeSat thin film solar cells
Radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) PocketRTG is a study by University of Bristol for a CubeSat-scale RTG using COTS fuel. Measures 0.5U and mass is 0.5 kg, but output is currently only 50 mW. Also studied by NASA Glenn for Lunar missions in permanently shadowed regions.
Missions Mars Micro Orbiter 6U Cubesat to measure the Martian atmosphere in visible and infrared wavelengths from Mars orbit. Can also act as orbital communication relay for surface-based missions. Mars CubeSat orbiter
DAVID 6U CubeSat will flyby an asteroid much smaller than any investigated by now. Instruments are wide-field camera, a narrow-field camera and a point VNIR spectrometer. DAVID asteroid flyby CubeSat
L5 Space Weather Sentinels (L5SWS) One Keck Institude study proposes fractionated space weather monitoring from the Sun-Earth L5 point with 5 × 6U CubeSats. One is telecom and others would carry specific instruments. 98 m2 solar sails are used to enter orbit and perform station keeping. L5 CubeSats

CubeSat Launch Provides, Programs and Prices

Last update: 2016-12-27
Provider CubeSats launched First launch Cost
Terran Orbital / Tyvak 121+ (40+ planned) 2003
ISIS (Innovative Solutions In Space) 75+ 2009 $210,000 - 270,000 for 3U LEO
NASA CSLI and ELaNa 46+ (120 selected) 2011 Free
ESA Fly your Satellite! 10 2012 Free
JAMSS / JAXA 10+ 2012
Nanoracks 80+ 2012 $85,000 for 1U
Spaceflight 77+ 2013 $295,000 for 3U LEO
$545,000 for 6U LEO
$995,000 for 12U LEO
GTO and Lunar also listed
G.A.U.S.S. 12+ 2013
ULA (United Launch Alliance) 0 2017 Free
Rocket Lab 0 (178 booked on website) 2017 $70,000 - 80,000 for 1U LEO
$200,000 - 250,000 for 3U LEO
Virgin Galactic LauncherOne 0 2017 Assuming $10 million and 40 CubeSats gives $250,000 per 3U.
KiboCUBE (UNOOSA, JAXA) 0 2018 Free
Vector Space 0 2018
Astrobotic 0 2019 $1.2M per kg to Lunar orbit or surface

Best overview of (upcoming) small satellite launchers by Carlos Niederstrasser and Warren Frick of Orbital ATK at IAC 2016. (I will mostly wait for the first launch before adding.)
There are many more providers and special (free) launch opportunities and competitions. e.g. with SLS to Moon through Cube Quest and with ESA AIM to Didymos asteroid.
Most nanosatellites from Japan, India, China and Russia are launched by their space agencies.
PW-Sat2 Preliminary Requirements Review includes a table about 2U launch offers from 2014.

Ground Station Networks for Small Satellites

Organization Sites active/planned Status Bands Cost Investments
Spaceflight Networks 3 / 20+ Operational UHF, S, X $1.95/min for UHF. $19.95/min for S/X band.
KSAT Light 22 / 22 Operational VHF, UHF, S, X, Ka 250€/pass ?
SSC Infinity ? / ? Operational
SatNOGS 6 / ? Operational VHF, UHF Free
ATLAS 9 / 9 Operational UHF, S, X, Ka
Leaf Space 0 / 20 Coming in 2017 VHF, UHF, S, X 5€/Mbyte to receive UHV/VHF. 0.4€/Mbyte to receive S band. 0.1€/Mbyte to receive X band. $1.1 million
Audacy 0 / ? Planned for 2019 $2 million
RBC Signals ? / 16 In private Beta UHF, S, X, Ka Yes

Last update: 2016-09-23

Mission Control Systems (MCS) for Nanosatellites

From commercial services and products to freeware mission control software

Mission Control System Type Status Description Flight heritage
Solenix / Elveti Product Ready product? Complete, cost effective solution for operating and monitoring nano and small satellites. Multi-satellites and multiple ground station capability. Scripts for simplified operations. Leverage key aerospace standards. Based on SwissCube Satellite Control System.
Bright Ascension Product Close to ready product? Mission control software provides the interface and controlling automated operations. A functional simulator allows operator training and the validation of onboard scripts before uploading. Infrastructure software to connect the ground stations to the mission operations centre. Used on UKube-1.
Saber Astronautics / PIGI Product Close to ready product? Mission control software for the modern age. A video-game quality interface allows you to reach any point of the spacecraft or environment, while world class data mining gives operational intelligence to the meaning of the data. Selected by Fleet Space as operations provider for up to 100 satellites.
Audacy Space / Quindar Freeware In early stage Aims to create a modern, browser based, real time data visualization platform to monitor and operate complex engineering systems in a spaceflight mission operations setting. Commercially backed by Audacy to maintain it for free.
Spaceit Product In early stage MCS as a service, cloud based solution. CTO background from ESTCube-1 MCS and CGI.
Interstel / iCOSMOS Product In early stage? Spin-off company of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Primary purpose is to market iCOSMOS™ and adapt it for specific and more proprietary applications. .

Last update: 2016-12-27

Nanosatellite Crowdfunding Campaigns

Last update: 2016-11-19
Project name Organization Raised Goal Year Platform
KickSat Cornell University $74,586 $30,000 2011 Kickstarter
Sampling Space - $880 $20,000 2011 Kickstarter
ArduSat Nanosatisfy (Spire) $106,330 $35,000 2012 Kickstarter
SkyCube Southern Stars $116,890 $82,500 2012 Kickstarter
LunarSail - $15,817 $11,000 2013 Kickstarter
CAT Thruster University of Michigan $67,865 $200,000 2013 Kickstarter
ARKYD Planetary Resources $1,505,366 $1,000,000 2013 Kickstarter
PocketQube PocketQube Shop $3,900 $3,700 2013 Kickstarter
Fox-1C AMSAT $26,661 $25,000 2014 Fundrazr
Ex-Alta 1 University of Alberta $36,681 $30,000 2014 Useed
UW Race to Moon University of Washington $16,541 $50,000 2015 Useed@UW
Caelus - $4 $3,800 2015 Kickstarter
OzQube-1 - $2,330 $50,000 2015 GoFundMe
BroncoSat 1 - $0 $100,000 2015 C3Funding
LightSail The Planetary Society $1,241,615 $200,000 2015 Kickstarter
Mayak Moscow State University $3,157 $45,000 2015 Kickstarter
CubeSat Spaceport Indiana $63 $60,000 2015 Kickstarter
CubeSat 4 Disclosure - $13,280
$62 (running)
KitCube Lunar Orbiter MIT $124,125 $100,000 2016 Crowdfund MIT
Irazú ACAE $81,369 $75,000 2016 Kickstarter
Cu-REO UPES $165 $40,000 2016 Indiegogo
HyperQube Weebill Space Systems $1,712 $230,000 2016 Kickstarter
Cislunar Explorers Cornell University $3,048 $50,000 2016 Kickstarter
SPOC Sat University of Georgia $5,377 $25,000 2016 GeorgiaFunder
Project DaVinci North Idaho STEM Charter Academy $1,175 $250,000 2016 Kickstarter

Feel free to connect at any time. Always glad to receive your questions and feedback.

Created by Erik Kulu


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