Non-children's cubes: how cubesats will make space accessible to everyone


Cubesat is a small spacecraft or nanosatellite. The smallest cubesat

looks like a cube, the dimensions of which are10x10x10 cm, or one "unit" (1U), and the weight does not exceed 1.5 kg. But more often the devices are connected "cubes". For example, such devices come in 3U, 6U, 12U dimensions.

Despite their size, satellites can solve differentscientific and research tasks. For example, cubesats are used for remote sensing of the Earth's surface, surveying from space areas of floods, forest fires and other emergencies, studying the state of infrastructure, atmosphere, ecology and climate.

Modern cubesats are equipped with solarbatteries, sensors for data collection and an antenna for their transmission to Earth. They may have a camera, a modem for the operation of Internet of Things systems, devices for fixing and monitoring temperature or cosmic radiation. Additionally, the cubesat can be equipped with a mini-display with a selfie camera, for example, for broadcasting advertisements from space, a solar sail, information storage devices for remote storage, ship navigation signal receivers (AIS signal) and signal receivers (ADS-B) for traffic control planes and even a container with ashes.

“Basically, nanosatellites are manufactured beforeseveral months from relatively simple and not very expensive components. Most of them do not have active control, orientation in space, and many other complex and expensive subsystems, like large devices. But they perform a useful and meaningful role, and their functionality is gradually increasing. Thanks to cubesats, it is possible to solve the problem, get the desired result an order of magnitude faster and 20 times cheaper than when launching conventional satellites, ”said Roman Zhits, head of the NTI AeroNet department for private astronautics.

Cubesat is a small spacecraft or nanosatellite

Subject to the schoolboy

The first nanosatellites were developed in 1999specialists from the California Polytechnic and Stanford Universities. With the help of cubesats, students conducted scientific experiments and tested new technologies. Today, these satellites are still used for educational purposes.

In Russia, the development, creation and studycubesats are taught not only by students and graduate students, but even by schoolchildren within the framework of various programs and circles. Such lessons teach children to work in a team, attention to detail, improve their professional skills and knowledge, and also help create new highly specialized and motivated specialists.

Making cubesats from scratch is complex andan expensive procedure. Therefore, they are assembled mainly with the help of special kits-constructors. To do this, you need to know about the structure of cubesats, as well as equipment and a laboratory in which you can test them before launch. For example, in Russia, such kits are produced by AeroNet, an NTI market participant, the Sputniks company (part of the SITRONICS Group).

“Assembling a cubesat from a set is quite feasibletask for a technically literate person. This is how we are now working with schoolchildren and students under the Space-π program of the Innovation Promotion Foundation. We supply construction kits, and schoolchildren and students come up with their own payload, assemble the satellite itself and launch it into space,” said Vladislav Ivanenko, Sputniks CEO.

Another program works with students under this program.a company participating in the NTI AeroNet market is Geoscan. It delivers ready-made cubesats immediately with the installation of the customer's payload on them. In the future, the company plans to produce educational kits for the market and offer separate parts for the manufacture of nanosatellites.

“There are universities that, thanks to the existingfacilities are able to create their own CubeSat platforms and payloads by teachers and students, which provides a valuable experience for all participants. But if the main goal is to conduct an experiment in orbit or test a payload, then universities also acquire a ready-made satellite platform,” said Alexander Khokhlov, head of the Geoscan space nanosatellite project.

With the help of cubesats, students conducted scientific experiments and tested new technologies. Today, these satellites are still used for educational purposes.

Run and get

To launch a cubesat into space, you need to participate in the state program for educational launches or order its release from a private space provider.

Cubesats are launched in several ways.Sometimes they are taken out manually from the International Space Station (ISS), but more often - along the way when launching a heavy rocket. The devices are placed in a special container on the upper stage of the rocket, after launching into orbit, the lid of the container opens, and the cubesats “scatter” in space. With such a launch, there is a nuance: cubesats are not launched into specific, planned orbits, but into arbitrary ones.

The world is gaining popularity in launching devices using ultralight launch vehicles that can launch cubesats into their target orbits.

"Ultralight missiles can be sent tothe space of dozens of cubesats is not a passing, but a targeted launch. At the same time, they will be launched into a specialized, precise orbit at a much lower cost and much faster. This business model is developing successfully.” Roman Zhits.

Once the cubesats are in orbit, theyget to work: they communicate with receiving stations on Earth, collect the necessary data and transmit them in coded form. Devices communicate strictly at a certain and limited time.

Despite the fact that such devices usually dofrom inexpensive components, modern "cubes" can work in space for up to several years. As a rule, they are launched into low orbits of 250–500 km, where, due to aerodynamic braking, they gradually slow down and burn up in the atmosphere.

Despite their size, satellites can solve various scientific and research tasks. For example, cubesats are used for remote sensing of the Earth's surface.

And business also wants cubesat

If small cubesats are adapted for simpleexperiments and their capabilities are limited, then large versions are capable of serious missions with complex technical tasks. This advantage attracts business representatives to the cubes.

“First and foremost, cubesat is an educationalplatform, it will be relevant for learning for a long time to come. But gradually the platform is becoming popular among entrepreneurs. Private companies need monitoring from orbit, and for this they order their spacecraft. Cubesats are in demand due to their low weight, size and cost,” said Alexander Khokhlov.

Already in 10-20 years, many companies will be able to solvespace tasks with the help of turnkey cubesats, says Roman Zhits. “Most of the commercial spacecraft will become small spacecraft. Maybe not with cubesats, but with devices up to 50–100 kg,” he believes. - What today satellites weighing 200 kg can do, devices weighing 20-30 kg will be able to do. Commercial space exploration is becoming more efficient in terms of "price-quality". In 20 years, even small businesses will be ordering turnkey cubesats.”

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