September 5, 2008 Vol. 1, Issue 8
The National Science Foundation has begun a program to develop very small satellites that can further the study of space weather.
A main factor currently limiting our knowledge of space weather is the inability to observe conditions directly from multiple points of view in tandem. The CubeSat program has been initiated as a means of using small, low-cost satellites to obtain key measurements that will help address this challenge.
The CubeSat project began at the California Polytechnic State University and Stanford University’s Space Development Labs. Its main goals are twofold: to support the development, construction and data analysis of these small satellite science missions for space weather and atmospheric research, and to help train the next generation of space scientists and aerospace engineers. With over 60 universities involved, the project offers enormous potential for hands-on learning experiences.
The CubeSat program will use a standardized deployment system, the Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD), to launch its satellites as secondary payloads on existing missions, either through NASA or Department of Defense launches, or though commercial means. The National Science Foundation aims to launch two to four P-PODs per year, with each P-POD potentially carrying multiple CubeSat satellites.