Satellites: The Very Small

Small satellites are roughly classed as follows:

minisatellites 100 to 500 kg (220 to 1,100 lb)
microsatellite 10 to 100 kg (22 to 220 lb)
nanosatellite 1 to 10 kg (2.2 to 22 lb)
picosatellite 0.1 to 1 kg (0.22 to 2.2 lb)
femtosatellite 0.01 to 0.1 kg (0.022 to 0.22 lb)

This page focuses primarily on micro-, nano-, and picosatellites.  An example of femtosatellites are KickSat Sprites (“chipsats”), but their launching container is a nanosatellite.

Reference Materials

Below are selected references on different aspects of very small satellites.

CubeSat Software Architecture

Manyak, Greg D. 2011 June.  Fault Tolerant and Flexible CubeSat Software Architecture.  Master’s Thesis at Cal Poly San Luis Obipso.  Discusses experience gained from Cal Poly’s PolySat project, which launched five CubeSats, and adoption of a Linux-based software architecture for new generation of spacecraft avionics.  (Thanks to LinkedIn CubeSat group for reference.)

Manyak, Greg; Bellardo, John M.  2011.  PolySat’s Next Generation Avionics Architecture.  Proceedings of the 2011 IEEE International Conference on Space Mission Challenges for Information Technology (SMC-IT 2011), Aug. 2011.  Abstract: “The CubeSat platform provides a unique challenge for flight software design due to the incredible size and power constraints. A number of tradeoffs must be made to balance effectiveness, fault tolerance, and cost. These basic requirements have been combined with the lessons learned from Cal Poly’s past 8-bit avionics system to design a significant revision based around a 32-bit microprocessor running Linux. This work analyzes both generations of avionics design, including a discussion of major design principles that are relevant to other CubeSat missions.”

Satellite Ground Stations

Griffin, Robert C. 2011 Sept. Mobile CubeSat Command and Control (MC3).  Master’s Thesis at Naval Postgraduate School.  Abstract: “The Mobile CubeSat Command and Control (MC3) program will become the ground segment of the Colony II satellite program. The MC3 ground station contains Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) hardware with Government Off-the-Shelf (GOTS) software making it an affordable option for government agencies and universities participating in the Colony II program. Further, the MC3 program provides educational opportunities to students and training to space professionals in satellite communications. This thesis analyzes the MC3 program from the program manager’s point of view providing a Concept of Operations (CONOPS) of the program as well as initial analysis of MC3 ground station locations. Also included in this thesis is a future cost analysis of the MC3 program as well as lessons learned from the NPS acquisition process” (Thanks to the SkyCube project.)

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