SmallSats and CubeSats

Small spacecraft (SmallSats) focus on spacecraft with a mass less than 180 kilograms and about the size of a large kitchen fridge. Even with small spacecraft, there is a large variety of size and mass that can be differentiated.

  • Minisatellite, 100-180 kilograms
  • Microsatellite, 10-100 kilograms
  • Nanosatellite, 1-10 kilograms
  • Picosatellite, 0.01-1 kilograms
  • Femtosatellite, 0.001-0.01 kilograms

CubeSats are a class of nanosatellites that use a standard size and form factor. The standard CubeSat size uses a “one unit” or “1U” measuring 10x10x10 cms and is extendable to larger sizes; 1.5, 2, 3, 6, and even 12U. CubeSats now provide a cost effective platform for science investigations, new technology demonstrations and advanced mission concepts using constellations, swarms disaggregated systems.

CubeSat missions benefit Earth in varying ways. From Earth imaging satellites that help meteorologists to predict storm strengths and direction, to satellites that focus on technology demonstrations to help define what materials and processes yield the most useful resources and function best in a microgravity environment, the variety of science enabled by CubeSats results in diverse benefits and opportunities for discovery.

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