Tiny satellites have made space accessible to a new generation of university students, private companies and even helped cash-strapped government agencies like NASA. Generally known as nano-satellites (nanosats) or cube-satellites (cubesats), this technology has been made possible by the semiconductor driven miniaturization of electronic and electro-mechanical systems. In recognition of the trend, the IEEE has even launched a new journal on, “ Miniaturization for Air and Space Systems (J-MASS).”
Mass is a premium consideration when placing anything into space. That’s why the names of tiny satellites depends upon their mass. Nanosats are the general category for any satellite with a mass from 1 kg to 10 kg. Nanosats include the categories of well-known cubesats and perhaps less well known PocketQubes, TubeSats, SunCubes, ThinSats and non-standard picosatellites. Chipsats – cracker-size, gram-scale wafer miniprobes – are not considered nanosats but have been called attosats by some.
Cubesats (cubesatellite, cube satellite) are a type of nanosatellites defined by the CubeSat Design Specification (CSD), unofficially called the Cubesat standard.
The original goal of all these tiny, miniature satellites was to provide affordable access to space for the university science community. Many major universities now have a space program, as do several private company startups and even government agencies like NASA and the DoD.
The focus of this slideshow is to show nanosat technologies, from the carriers and launch mechanisms to several NASA cubesats performing a variety of missions. We’ll end with an example of a chipsat. Let’s begin!
John Blyler is a Design News senior editor, covering the electronics and advanced manufacturing spaces. With a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering, he has years of hardware-software-network systems experience as an editor and engineer within the advanced manufacturing, IoT and semiconductor industries. John has co-authored books related to system engineering and electronics for IEEE, Wiley, and Elsevier.