To explain what a CubeSat is, first we should define a small satellite. A small satellite is any satellite that is under 300kg – in comparison, “traditional” satellites can reach some tons. A CubeSat, of course, is much lighter than 300 kg and for this reason is categorized by many as a nano satellite.
CubeSats come in various final forms, but they all rely on the simplest form, that is the “elementary unit” which can make all the other final forms. This unit is called 1U (Unit) and is a cubic layout of 10x10x10 cm with a mass of about one kilogram. By combining two elementary units you make a 2U CubeSat, combining three elementary units you can make a 3U, and so on.
The so-called CubeSat Standards were developed for the first time in 1999 by California State University (CalPoly), in order to allow university students to have access in space in a standardized and inexpensive way. However, the simplicity and formalism of CubeSat standards, combined with their cheap manufacturing costs, has revolutionized the space industry. Today, CubeSats are manufactured not only by universities, but also by government agencies and companies, in order to cover either commercial or research needs.
Until now, more than 1000 CubeSats have been launched from 61 countries in space. It is estimated that over 3,000 new CubeSats will be launched in the next 6 years. One of those will hopefully be ASAT’s CubeSat, AcubeSAT, a 3U CubeSat (30x10x10 cm) designed and manufactured by students of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. The mission of our team’s nano satellite is the conduction of a bioengineering experiment. If our project eventually gets launched, it will be the 3rd CubeSat to be sent to space by Greece and the 1st one to be constructed by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.