Big Interest in Little CubeSats
August 8, 2014
Two news items showed that CubeSats are moving beyond
devices created by academic institutions and amateur radio groups into
commercial and military applications.
Langley Research Center recently issued a request for vendor
quote for a deployable CubeSat antenna. The specifications:
The antenna shall have two dipole antennae, linearly
polarized and capable of a 1MHz band selectable between 400MHz and 480MHz.
The antenna shall receive 3.3V power interface; have a 50
Ohm impedance load and be capable of 2W transmission power.
Command and Control Interface:
The antenna shall operate through I2C interface, use a 7bit
addressing architecture, and receive a deployment command. The antenna also shall
monitor deployment status and temperature Mechanical interface; connect with an
SMA connector; have a 10cm cable length, and mount on the end face of a
standard CubeSat chassis.
The antenna shall operate over a temperature range from -30
Pretty impressive for a shoebox-sized satellite!
As CubeSats move into commercial and military applications,
not only do CubeSat antennas have to become more reliable, operators need a
ground network that can track a CubeSat as it orbits the Earth. This week, at a
meeting of 20 CubeSat industry leaders from academia, industry and government,
Universal Space Network led an effort to develop a standardized
communications package for CubeSats.
At the meeting, USN CEO John Williams explained, “Today, the
ground infrastructure supporting SmallSat/CubeSat communications is not guided
by any standard. This results in higher costs to everyone due to varied designs
from UHF networks to higher-end government and university networks. By
encouraging an industry-wide standard, SmallSat/CubeSat missions will be able
to focus more on the operational, technological and science part of their
missions. USN’s goal is to help facilitate an industry-wide ground network
communications standard so costs for fielding SmallSats/CubeSats can be
significantly reduced and more technology can be delivered to consumers around
More information on Universal Space Network can be found on
its parent company's website, www.sscspace.com.