6th Responsive Space Conference RS6-2008-4006

Standardization Promotes Flexibility: A Review of CubeSats’ Success

Alexander Chin, Roland Coelho, Lori Brooks, Ryan Nugent Dr. Jorgi Puig-Suari Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

6th Responsive Space Conference April 28–May 1, 2008
Los Angeles, CA

Aerospace Engineering jpuigsua@calpoly. One of the main keys to the success of the CubeSat Program has been its strict adherence to the initial standard. and other organizations are looking to incorporate similar standards to larger satellites in an effort to bring lowcost access to space for a wider range of spacecraft. Cal Poly. The PPOD protects the launch vehicle and the primary payload as well as the CubeSats. The P-POD can group multiple CubeSats to provide a competitive basis for launch as a viable secondary payload. The P-POD was developed with seven primary goals to meet1: 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) Protect the primary payload Protect the launch vehicle Protect the CubeSats Safely group multiple CubeSats for launch Eject CubeSats for safe deployment Increase Access to Space for CubeSats Provide standard interface to launch vehicle 1 AIAA/6th Responsive Space Conference 2008 . while the development of the payload comes second. the research at the CubeSat level offers a unique shift in design operations.edu (805)756-5087 Roland Coelho Graduate Student rcoelho@calpoly.edu (805)756-5087 Lori Brooks Graduate Student lorikix@hotmail. The P-POD provides a framework for developers to design around. A review of the P-POD flights over the past 5 years. Since most satellite manufacturers must coordinate directly with the launch vehicle provider. making integration repeatable and cost-efficient. and an outline of future launches consistently show the value of a standard and the benefits of flexibility. In addition. CA 93407 ABSTRACT The initial creation of the P-POD was driven by the need for consistency and increased frequency in both pico-satellite development and access to space. developers can devote their focus on meeting the CubeSat standard and developing satellites and not on launch logistics and integration.AIAA-RS5-2008-4006 Standardization Promotes Flexibility: A Review of CubeSats’ Success Alexander Chin Gradate Student achin@calpoly. manufacturing and testing costs. and enforces adherence to the CubeSat specification. secondary and tertiary payloads find it difficult to acquire launches. and is compatible with many launch vehicles. The P-POD can accommodate picosatellites that meet the 1kg mass and 10 centimeter cubic dimensional CubeSat standard. In turn. Mass producing a stock deployment device creates reliability in flight heritage and decreases design. Background The Poly Pico-satellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD) started as a collaboration between Cal Poly and Stanford University. This means that the structure and hardware are designed first. This has allowed CubeSat developers to develop their system without a preset launch. NASA Ames.com (805)756-5087 Ryan Nugent Dr. Jordi Puig Suari Graduate Student Professor.edu rnugent@calpoly. the P-POD is designed with the capability to integrate onto multiple launch vehicles. These efforts will utilize the efficiency of the P-POD and will incorporate outside influence in developing future standards. The advantages of this system are most evident in creating flexibility for CubeSat developers to launch on multiple rockets as secondary payloads.edu (805)756-5087 (805)756-5087 Aerospace Engineering Department California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo. This deployer would supplement the need for consistency in the design and launching of picosatellite class CubeSat satellite systems. CubeSats provide a unique flexibility in the aerospace industry opening up quicker and cheaper mission opportunities than ever before. In addition.

and as a secondary payload. The CubeSat Standard The CubeSat specification states that a single CubeSat should not be larger than approximately a 10 cm cube. This also makes the CubeSats act as a more competitive payload with other larger secondary payload satellites. and hard anodized to prevent welding from the launch environment and minimize friction interference while deploying Thermal expansion of the CubeSats should be similar to that of the P-POD aluminum material (7075-T73) CubeSat design tolerances are based on PPOD tolerances and specifications Figure 3: Schematic of the CubeSat Standard The P-POD as a Bridge from Developer to Launch Vehicle Decreases in Cost Launch costs are expensive. respectively. From these specifications. In addition. repetition in building multiple P-PODs decreases manufacturing and development costs with systems that are not mission specific.AIAA-RS5-2008-4006 The design of the P-POD is relatively simple consisting of an aluminum box with a spring along with a door that is controlled by a release mechanism. and have a total mass of no more than 1 kg. the P-POD can launch double and triple CubeSats that occupy the same volume and weight as two and three CubeSats. allowing for a large level of versatility in search for launch opportunities. minimize tumble and spin rates at deployment from the P-POD The location of the access ports on the P-POD determines where CubeSats should have diagnostic ports and remove before flight (RBF) pins Rails on CubeSats must be smooth. The P-POD can group multiple CubeSats together and provide feasible launch costs by combining them together as a larger payload inside of a P-POD. CubeSats can find difficulty in paying for launches on their own. • • • • Figure 1: P-POD Mk II The P-POD is able to mount to multiple launch vehicles. flat. In addition. Figure 2: MEROPE Satellite Developed by Montana State University4 The following are specifications to standardize CubeSats as a result of the P-POD interface1: • The center of mass of a CubeSat must be within 2 cm of its geometric center to 2 AIAA/6th Responsive Space Conference 2008 . up to three CubeSats can be deployed from a single P-POD.

and are not driven by launch dates. CubeSats need not be developed with a firm launch in place. In addition. As long as developers adhere to the CubeSat P-POD standard. launch vehicles still maintain the final authority on which CubeSats they will allow for their launch.AIAA-RS5-2008-4006 Flexibility in Access to Space Since CubeSat developers need only design to the CubeSat standard. CubeSat developers can develop their satellites. their mission is independent of the launch vehicle itself. The P-POD has shown flexibility in past missions through accommodating for different screw and mounting hole patterns for attachment to surfaces. Developers need only focus on finishing a quality product. Since the P-POD attaches to the launch vehicle. However. aside from a desired orbital altitude or trajectory. Figure 4: Assembled P-PODs for Dnepr Launch Simplify interaction between multiple developers and launch provider It is not necessary for the launch provider to directly communicate with multiple CubeSat Developers on exact mounting setups and requirements. the Mk I. rather they only need to be compatible with the P-POD. the CubeSat is given more flexibility on launch availability and access to space. As the P-POD increases in compatibility with multiple launch vehicles. Once these conditions are met. Figure 6: P-POD Mounted on Minotaur LV Shift in Satellite Development Since CubeSat Developers must design to the CubeSat standard to fit inside the P-POD. launch providers would only concern themselves with mounting the P-POD to their rocket. they need only communicate with Cal Poly. and launch when they are ready. As long as the CubeSats do not interfere with launch operations. By designing to the “standard”. was designed to meet the basic requirements of protecting the CubeSats and launch vehicle. the actual mission of the CubeSat can be focused on. and Cal Poly will communicate directly with the launch providers. 3 AIAA/6th Responsive Space Conference 2008 . the P-POD acts as an intermediary mounting device for CubeSats. the structure of the satellite is paramount and must be designed first to ensure its compatibility with the P-POD. If a launch slips. the P-POD has been flexible enough to consider design changes to better accommodate the needs of CubeSat Developers. The mounting holes can be modified to multiple rockets by using compatible helicoils for varying launch vehicle interfaces. the CubeSats and their mission can switch to another available rocket as a secondary payload. The first P-POD. Revisions of the P-POD Although CubeSat developers must strictly adhere to standards enforced by the P-POD. The Mk I used a burn wire deployment Figure 5: Diagram P-POD Coordination5 Flexibility in Mounting CubeSats will not need to be compatible with different launch vehicles.

which provides support for the payload as shown in figure 9. Although the actual P-POD has changed. and bracket modifications to also accommodate release mechanisms developed by NEA. Therefore. the launch vehicle experienced an anomaly during the first stage engine firing and the onboard avionics terminated the flight shortly thereafter. but the CubeSat Developer community as well. which took approximately 30 seconds. The P-PODS were mounted on the Space Head Module (SHM) on the lower shelf. This was the first ever launch of CubeSats. July 2006 The Dnepr launch during the summer of 2006 consisted of 5 P-PODS with 14 CubeSats from 10 universities and one private company. except for the standard launch vehicle deployment signal. This was of fundamental importance for the P-POD itself to adhere to maintaining the standards to ensure continued compatibility for future payloads and launches. The PPODs were mounted to the outer edges of the payload support structure as shown in figure 8. Unfortunately. These P-PODs were the original Mk. Using either of these two space qualified release mechanisms reduced risk and increased the reliability of the P-POD.Belka. The Mk III P-POD offers increased access to CubeSats after integration. Figure 8: P-PODs Mounted on Rockot LV Dnepr Launch. the CubeSat standard and launch vehicle bolt pattern remains the same and has not affected developers or the launch vehicles. The power needed to burn through the Vectran line was all contained within the P-POD Mk.AIAA-RS5-2008-4006 system to open the door and release the satellites. One valuable benefit of the P-POD and the CubeSat standard was realized during the months leading up to integration for this Dnepr launch. June 2003 4 AIAA/6th Responsive Space Conference 2008 . The P-POD evolved into the Mk II to provide an instantaneous release after the launch vehicle deployment signal. To this day. has been one of the most successful CubeSat missions providing data for early detection of earthquakes. I system and did not require any resources from the launch vehicle. To accomplish this. Rockot Launch. The first Dnepr launch with Figure 7: P-POD Mark III Application of This Philosophy in Past Missions The concept of standardizing CubeSats to allow for flexibility in finding launches and developing satellites with the expectation and ability of launching on multiple launch vehicles is further discussed in the following launches coordinated with the inclusion of PPODS as a secondary payload. I design with a Planetary Systems Corporation Line Cutter Assembly. The latest generation of P-PODs are the Mk III. the Mk II was compatible with the Starsys Qwknut and NEA release mechanisms. Originally the Dnepr launch with the Belka primary payload was the second of the two Dnepr launches. and it was determined that all CubeSats were deployed successfully from NORAD object tracking data. The Rockot launch vehicle launched a total of two PPODS with four different CubeSats inside. QuakeSat-1. larger spring plungers for easier satellite integration. valuable integration and procedural experience was gained. which burned through a Vectran line 30 seconds after receiving the signal from the launch vehicle. P-PODS are responsive to the needs and requirements of not only the launch providers. a triple CubeSat from this launch. Even though these 14 CubeSats never made it into orbit.

Cal Poly requested to swap the payload manifest between the EgyptSat and Belka launches. the P-POD is only inches away from the fairing’s dynamic envelope. providing Cal Poly with its first two satellites in space. it was in the best interest of all the parties to pursue the manifest swap between the two Dnepr launches because of the unknown EgyptSat launch date. it was confirmed that all CubeSats were ejected and contacted with successfully. and interface requirements. The P-POD’s form factor created launch opportunities 5 AIAA/6th Responsive Space Conference 2008 . The P-PODs were integrated without any problems and the two primary spacecraft were comfortable with having these picosatellites rest only inches away. the request for the CubeSat manifest swap was granted. TacSat2. To minimize risk to the primary payload. April 2007 The second Dnepr launch consisted of a total of three PPODs with 7 different CubeSat payloads. This swap proved the flexibility of the P-POD’s standard interface and the CubeSat’s transparency to the launch vehicle. EgyptSat and SaudiSat. Typically this can not be accomplished for a traditional spacecraft due to varying mass. a near impossibility to fit within this volume. This unique mounting location was made possible by the robust design of the P-POD to withstand the harshest launch environments and prevent premature deployment of the CubeSats. This was a large milestone for the P-POD and the CubeSat standard as it proved the transparency of the CubeSat payloads to the launch vehicle and the P-POD’s standard interface to the launch vehicle. However. GeneSat-1 was 100% successful and demonstrated to the satellite community that real science can be achieved on such a small platform. it was critical to the CubeSat Program that these picosatellites reach orbit. the P-POD was mounted below the payload interface plane and deploying in the aft direction of the launch vehicle. This was an unusual mounting location.AIAA-RS5-2008-4006 the EgyptSat primary payload was scheduled to launch before Belka. However. Figure 9: P-PODS Mounted on Dnepr LV Minotaur Launch: December 2006 NASA Ames developed GeneSat-1. Initially the launch vehicle provider was reluctant to pursue this request because of payload to launch vehicle interfaces and administrative filings with the Russian Space Agency. but it was later proven to be a nonissue. volume. Virginia. but multiple launch delays pushed it farther out. This time the P-PODs were mounted to a bracket on the upper shelf between the two primary payload satellites. With the temperature sensitive e coli onboard. It was unfortunate for the 14 CubeSat payloads that were originally manifested for this launch. The P-POD was mounted on the fourth stage motor casing of the rocket as shown in figure 10.2 in locations that would be impossible for other spacecraft. With the failure of the first Dnepr launch. Figure 10: P-POD Mounted on Minotaur LV Dnepr Launch-EgyptSat. Since the first set of CubeSat payloads were now waiting over 2 years for a flight. On April 17th 2007. In this location. creating a unique launch capability only for CubeSats. and for typical spacecrafts. initially there were concerns of back radiation from the fourth stage firing. This was the first US launch of a CubeSat onboard a Minotaur I launch vehicle from Wallops Island. a triple CubeSat with a biological experiment testing the growth of e coli in space. as shown in figures 11 and 12. about three months prior to shipping hardware to the launch site.

In October 2005. two P-PODs are now mounted on the fourth stage motor casing. The third launch is on an Air Force Minotaur 1 out of Wallops Island. A conceptual drawing of the ride share adapter is shown in figure 13. One P-POD will contain a triple CubeSat (PharmaSat) by NASA Ames. Following the successful GeneSat1 launch on the TacSat2 mission. This adapter is also compatible with multiple rockets with a standard 38 inch interface.AIAA-RS5-2008-4006 and is funded by Astronautic Technology (M) Sdn Bhd (ATSB). CUTE 1. Figure 12: P-POD Mounted on Dnepr LV Other CubeSat Launches Other CubeSats have launched that used similar concepts as the P-POD. There will be two P-PODs onboard. The first is a SpaceX Falcon 1 launch out of the Kwajalein Atoll in the beginning of June 2008. Eastern Shores (HawkSat 1). Virginia and scheduled for September 2008 with the primary payload being TacSat3. N-Cube-2. The P-PODs will me mounted to the Rideshare Adaptor (RSA) developed by Space Access Technologies (SAT) 6 AIAA/6th Responsive Space Conference 2008 .7 with the payload of Avalanche Photo Diode Sensor module was successfully launched on board the T-POD. both of them will contain two triple CubeSats (InnoSAT and CubeSAT) built by ATSB. gives the opportunity for up to 6 P-PODs to be mounted on the exterior of the adapter and the upcoming SpaceX Falcon 1 flight will demonstrate its capability. the SSETI Express launched CubeSat XI-V. There will be two P-PODs onboard. who also owns the primary spacecraft. and University of Maryland. with a triple CubeSat (PreSat) from NASA Ames and a triple CubeSat (NanoSail-D) from NASA Marshall. The second launch is also on a SpaceX Falcon 1 out of Kwajalein Atoll approximately 2 months after the preceding launch. This launch will not utilize the Rideshare Adapter. therefore P-PODs must be mounted directly to the payload interface cone. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (CP6). In February of 2006. the opportunity to fly a second PPOD was realized. and UWE1 on board the T-POD (Tokyo Picosatellite Orbital Deployer) developed by Tokyo Institute of Technology. Since much of the P-POD engineering analysis was complete for the previous Minotaur 1 flight. and the other P-POD will contain three single CubeSats from the Aerospace Corporation (AeroCube 3). Future Missions There are five upcoming launches with CubeSats manifested as payloads. Figure 11: P-PODs Mounted on the Dnepr LV Figure 13: Rideshare Adapter Illustration6 The Rideshare Adapter.

such that it can be interchangeable with existing mounting configurations for two P-PODs. This launch is planned to be the first of many. The six pack design fully encloses the satellite to protect both the satellite and the launch vehicle meeting the same goals and purpose as the PPOD. CubeSat-based Science Missions for Space Weather and Atmospheric Research. Currently the Naval Post Graduate School (NPS) in Monterey. This structure is designed to take the place of two P-PODs side by side. The actual ESPA ring is shown in figure 17. Figure 14: Picture of six pack preliminary design The value of versatility is expanding as the P-POD becomes compatible with more and more rockets. Consequently. CubeSats were only known for providing students with educational training. AAUsat-2 from Denmark. UTIAS developed their own version of a CubeSat deployer called the XPOD and will launch 5 of them on this flight with another deployer developed by the Cute1. NPS is developing the NPSCuL CubeSat Launcher. The ESPA Ring The Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) ring was developed by the United States Air Force to accommodate multiple secondary payloads. Alaska and scheduled for December 2009 with the primary payload being STP-S26. and Delfi-C3 from the Netherlands. P-POD and CubeSat Growth In response to growing demand for access to space for larger satellites. The following are a few highlights of P-POD mounting concepts for future launches. CA has begun preliminary studies and research projects in developing CubeSats for launches using the ESPA ring concept.7+APD II and SEEDS from Japan. The fifth launch of CubeSats is on a Minotaur IV out of Kodiak. P-POD mounting systems have been designed to be compatible with mounting onto the ring as a one of its secondary payloads. The P-POD clusters would mount into one of the six satellite mounting holes on the ring.AIAA-RS5-2008-4006 The University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) is also coordinating a launch of five CubeSats aboard the India Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) which is scheduled to launch at the end of April 2008. Cal Poly is working with NASA Ames to develop the P-POD philosophy for application into larger systems and satellites. This six pack P-POD can hold a satellite that is approximately equivalent to the size and mass of 6 CubeSats.7.3 A conceptual design for this project is shown in figure 14. Several conceptual models have been developed to support the P-POD’s compatibility with the ESPA ring as shown in figures 15 and 16. giving CubeSats the opportunity to demonstrate a potential for large science return. Cute1. COMPASS-1 from Germany. This research is looking at creating a deployer system capable of holding a larger satellite. This system will be compatible with the ESPA ring and hold multiple PPODs for launch. The CubeSat participants are CanX-2 from Canada.7+APD II team. This launch was a result of a new National Science Foundation (NSF) Program. however the recent CubeSat launches and this NSF Program proves otherwise.8 7 AIAA/6th Responsive Space Conference 2008 . In the past.

the Cal Poly CubeSat program hopes to continue to improve the P-POD and increase its compatibility with more launch vehicles. the standard CubeSat philosophy not only leads to flexibility. This picture was taken by another CubeSat developed by the Aerospace Corporation. Figure 16: ESPA Launch Concept Figure 18: CP4 Successfully Deployed in Space Figure 17: ESPA Ring 8 AIAA/6th Responsive Space Conference 2008 . one of Cal Poly’s own satellites. but also educates the next generation of scientists and engineers. programmatic goals include: • • • • • Further develop US and international launch opportunity Increase number of participating organizations Continue to demonstrate CubeSats as a viable platform for research and low cost missions Continue to educate students Continue to contribute valuable data to science and industry Conclusion Figure 15: NPSCuL CubeSat Launcher ESPA ring Concept The CubeSat community now consists of over 90 universities from all around the world and 40 different companies and organizations. Figure 18 show a picture of CP4. Therefore. In addition. The philosophy of “Standardization equals flexibility” has shown to be successful and continues to rapidly grow as it offers access to space to more and more developers. but contributes to the ultimate goal of accessible and responsive space for all.AIAA-RS5-2008-4006 Future Objectives Looking ahead. including six different NASA centers. The CubeSat program not only provides contributions to knowledge for research in science and industry.

Conference on Small Satellites. Simon et. Riki. 7 Sakoda. Leach. 9-12 August 2004 2 Brown. Hamzah. July 2007. CA. Huntington Beach. the authors would like to thank Wenschel Lan for her support and knowledge base on the development of the Mk III P-POD. Panholzer. “CubeSats as Responsive Satellites.” CubeSat Summer Workshop at Small Sat Conference. Mohd Suhaimi. Jonathan. 8 6 Newman.” Conference 2007. References 1 Toorian. 4 3 Brooks. Jordi. Munakata.” 18th Annual AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites. “Dnepr 2 Satellite Identification and the Mk III P-POD.”” 5th Annual CubeSat Developers’ Workshop.” Naval Post Graduate School. Rudolf. CA. 2007 CubeSat Developers’ Workshop.AIAA-RS5-2008-4006 Acknowledgements The authors would like to thank Riki Munakata and Jonathan Brown for their thorough review of this paper and insight in adding information and details.” Paper no. ESPA-rings. and Education at the Naval Post Graduate School. Lori. RideShare 5 Puig Suari. 26. Al. 25-28 April 2005 Lee. Sakoda. Dan. August 2007. Los Angeles. 9 AIAA/6th Responsive Space Conference 2008 . AIAA 3rd Responsive Space Conference. Al. “CubeSat Launchers. Norhizam. San Luis Obispo. Armen et. “Cost Effective access to Space for Research & Education Payloads. “History of CubeSats. Logan Utah. April 2007. “A Low Cost Pico-Satellite Standard for Education and Research. CA.” Utah State University. “Cal Poly Coordination of Multiple CubeSats on the DNEPR Launch Vehicle. AIAA-RS3 2005-3001. 2006. Cal Poly. August. Rachel. James. “A Path to ESPA-Class Multiple Cubesats/P-PODs. In addition. Ibrahim. Daniel. April 9th-11th 2008. Monterey.” Presentation to Naval Post Graduate School.

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