Executive summary

CUBESAT is a project intended to contribute towards the learning and skills development objectives inherent in a personal interest in scientific, technical, engineering and mathematical subjects; and to provide framework for personal development in an advanced technological environment with an emphasis on developing technical skills to a high standard sufficient for the participant to lead to career opportunities in engineering, and engineering management.

The CUBESAT project is intended to be rich in opportunities for the development of skills and knowledge relevant, among other things, to the systems engineering, telecommunications and the emerging field of interconnected, communicating devices; and rich in professional networking and professional network development opportunities. The CUBESAT project is open to receive contributions from participants whereever they are located and may adopt approaches to communications relevant to the participants including electronic communications models.

Whereas many academic and commercial CubeSat development projects rely on integration of commercial off-the-shelf ("COTS") components; the substantial costs involved in physical launch and deployment of CUBESAT in Low Earth Orbit are such that personal learning and skills development opportunties represented by the project over an extended, and a comparatively open-ended time frame is of significantly greater value than the limited experience that may be gained from mere integration of components, commercial and open source software, and payloads of dubious scientific value. Accordingly, the CUBESAT project is intended to emphasize the development and integration of technologies at levels of abstraction that (i) limit the expense involved in purchasing COTS components specialized to the CubeSat industry; and (ii) satisfy participants' appetite for research and development work in their respective fields of interest. The open standards-based approach and architecture of CUBESAT is intended to avoid unnecessarily binding any particular development contribution to the CUBESAT platform, thereby protecting personal investments in the technological field of interest: project participants are open to participate or contribute their work to other CubeSat projects without restriction.


CubeSat Standard   refers to the CubeSat standard, as published and as amended from time to time by the California Polytechnic State University;
Deployment Detection Switch   refers to the deployment detection switch provided by the CubeSat Standard;
Diagnostics Port   refers to the diagnostics port provided by the CubeSat Standard;
Eclipse Duration   refers to the period of time CUBESAT is expected to be in darkness, being behind the Earth, and is assumed to be a period of between 0 and 30 minutes during every orbit;
Low Earth Orbit   refers to the altitude of between 400 and 600 kilometres;
Orbit Period   refers to the period of time CUBESAT is expected to take to orbit Earth once, and is assumed to be a period of approximately 90 minutes;
Remove-Before-Flight Switch   refers to the remove-before-flight switch provided by the CubeSat Standard;

Work streams

Mission control

{ objectives, project management }


SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.

  1. development of CUBESAT technology from the ground upwards with the principal objective being to allow project participants to develop specific fields of knowledge in -
    1. analog, radio-frequency, digital and power electronics;
    2. computer science as it relates to highly-reliable embedded systems, real-time operating systems, computer communications networks and service-oriented architecture ("SOA") as it might apply to embedded systems;
    3. national and international aerospace and space law;
    4. scientific payload development;
    5. industrial design;
    6. testing, qualification and acceptance methodologies;
    7. scientific method, mathematics and physics;
  2. adherence, so far as possible, to established physical design and construction standards, and established electronic, network bus and software standards to avoid unnecessary coupling between subsystems and payload, thereby enabling engineering work produced by participants in through the CUBESAT project to be contributed to other CubeSat projects;

Electro-mechanical interfaces

Standards compliance

The electro-mechanical standards compliance work stream refers to work required to ensure that CUBESAT complies with the relevant CubeSat design standards which include physical, mechanical standards, electrical standards; any project-specific standards and any regulatory standards.

Physical standards

  1. the physical size of a single-unit CubeSat must be 10cm on all sides;
  2. the maximum mass of a single-unit CubeSat is 1kg;
  3. the Deployment Detection Switch, referenced below, must be in a specific location provided by the CubeSat Standard;
  4. the Remove-Before-Flight Switch, referenced below, must be in a specific location provided by the CubeSat Standard;
  5. the Diagnostics Port, referenced below, must be in a specific location provided by the CubeSat Standard;
  6. the construction of CUBESAT must be sufficiently robust to withstand the physical demands of launch and deployment, and of the thermal stresses to which the device may be exposed while in Low Earth Orbit; and
  7. the design and construction of CUBESAT must be appropriate having regard to the expectation that the device will fall back to Earth within a period of around three months;
  8. the design and construction of CUBESAT may provide for the recovery of certain payload.

Electrical standards

  1. the Deployment Detection Switch must physically break the circuit for all CUBESAT power sources present, a key requirement of the CubeSat Standard being that no CubeSat circuits may be energized during integration and launch;
  2. the Remove-Before-Flight Switch, if provided, must comply with the relevant CubeSat Standard; and
  3. the Diagnostics Port, if provided, must comply with the relevant CubeSat Standard.

Regulatory standards

Legal regulations provided by national and international law
  1. CUBESAT must comply with any national and international legal regulations provided for the launch and operation of a satellite operating in Low Earth Orbit, including any regulations relating to the insurance of such devices; and
  2. CUBESAT must comply with any national and international legal regulations provided for the transmission of radio signals;
CubeSat-specific regulations
  1. CUBESAT is not permitted to commence deployment of any external device, or to commence transmission until after a certain delay specified by the CubeSat Standard.

Project specific standards

Project specific standards refers to the body of standards developed for CUBESAT which may include work on testing methodologies, referenced below.

Environmental and radiation hardening standards

Identification and development of standards relating to hardening CUBESAT for exposure to the harsh environment represented by Low Earth Orbit including the exposure to radiated heat in vacuum, and particle radiation.


The control subsystem refers to the systems provided to manage the core CUBESAT subsystems including the power and communications; and, importantly, to manage and regulate the power budgets for the device, the individual subsystems and experimental payload.


The power subsystem refers to the systems provided to power the core CUBESAT subsystems and experimental payload.



Internal communications refers to the approach to communications between the central control functions for CUBESAT, the external communications functions, any attitude control functions and any other subsystems present including those relating to management and control of the payload.


External communications refers to communications between CUBESAT and base stations and, so far as it may apply to the needs of the relevant payload, communications between CUBESAT and other satellite, airborne, maritime or land-based endpoints. For each subsystem identified, below, it may be necessary to specify, design and implement an appropriate radio frequency transmitter / receiver, modulation or demodulation standard.


A number of separate external communications subsystems, or functions have been identified for CUBESAT.


The beacon subsystem refers to the need for a form of continuous transmission on a particular frequency at particular intervals in time, the object of which is to enable CUBESAT to be located in space and time.

Management and control

The management and control subsystem refers to the need for a means of communication for the purpose of managing and controlling the CUBESAT operation including, for example, reset, sleep, and shutdown functions that may be required for CUBESAT to comply with international treaties and regulations relating to the operation of satellite systems.

Uplink / downlink

The uplink / downlink subsystems refers to the need for a general means of communication for the purpose of uploading and downloading instructions, telemetry, and information to and from CUBESAT; and may constitute part of a combined subsytem comprising management and control functionality with general communications functionality, or it may be an independent subsystem.

Radio frequency transmitter / receiver design

Band selection

Selection of appropriate bands for the purpose of supporting the communication systems identified above.

Transmitter / receiver design

Design and implementation of one or mor transmitter / receivers for the purpose of supporting the systems identified above.


Design and implementation of one or more antennae to support the bands selected for the relevant transmitters, receivers supporting the communications subsystems identified above.

Modulation and demodulation

Identification of modulation and demodulation techniques for the purpose of supporting the communications subsystems identified above.

Data transfer protocol

Identification of appropriate data transfer protocols for the transmission and flow control of data for the purpose of supporting the communications subsystems identified above.


Identification and development of appropriate CUBESAT payload.

Biology Germination / conception of plants

Radio Astronomy

Infrared-spectrum Astronomy

Visible-spectrum Astronomy

Electronics / Space Systems Engineering

Attitude control systems

Space propulsion systems

Communications systems


Spacetime experiments

Nuclear physics


Geographical features


Weather systems

Climate change


Identification and development and implementation of an appropriate testing methology for the device.



Vibration acceptance