Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

Experimental 'Cubesats' Designed for Range of National Security, Science Missions
by Staff Writers
Laurel MD (SPX) Nov 22, 2013

A Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory technician prepares the twin Multimission Bus Demonstration satellites - the first cubesats designed and built at APL - for testing. Photo credit: JHU/APL

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., introduced a new generation of small satellites with the launch of two experimental "cubesats" designed for a range of national security and space science operations.

On Wednesday, the cubesats were among 29 satellites lifted to orbit aboard a Minotaur I rocket from Wallops Flight Facility, Va., at 8:15 p.m. EST, as part of the U.S. Air Force ORS-3 mission. APL mission operators confirmed radio contact with the two satellites just before 10 p.m.

The shoebox-sized satellites, part of APL's Multimission Bus Demonstration (and designated ORS Tech 1 and ORS Tech 2 for today's launch), represent a new capability for the military and intelligence and science communities - a small satellite that can get to space inexpensively and be tough enough for long-term use.

"The Multimission Bus Demonstration could revolutionize the field of small satellites and their potential uses," says Joe Suter, APL's mission area executive for National Security Space. "There are applications for DoD agencies that want quick access to space, with durable satellites you can launch for a fraction of what it costs to launch larger spacecraft. MBD can be very significant contribution to those missions."

Because they cost relatively little to build, launch and operate, small satellites (commonly known as cubesats or "microsats") are especially popular among university researchers looking to study the space just above Earth. But the spacecraft are effectively science projects, not dependable or durable enough for military or intelligence community use.

The APL cubesat tackles this challenge, drawing from five decades of APL experience in building rugged spacecraft for harsh environments near and far from Earth - and from the Lab's deep, unique understanding of spacecraft, aerospace engineering and applied engineering techniques. The satellites have all the subsystems of a standard orbiter - command and data handling, communications, navigation, power and payload - scaled to fit into a 34-by-10-by-10 centimeter (about 13-by-4-by-4 inch) package that weighs less than five kilograms (11 pounds).

The satellites also have other touches of APL ingenuity and resourcefulness. For example, engineers had to invent solar-panel release mechanisms that didn't include pyrotechnics, since microsats, as secondary or "piggy back" payloads on other launches, aren't permitted to carry explosives.

Once deployed, the solar panels themselves have three jobs. Besides supplying power, they act as reflectors for the satellite's antennas, and the magnetic field produced from the internal torque coils are used to align the spacecraft. "We are leveraging decades of APL space systems experience to make these spacecraft more reliable than typical cubesats," says APL's Philip Huang, the MBD technical lead.

A critical feature is that the satellite can be customized to fit mission needs, and instrument builders can add any payload that fits within the spacecraft's size, power and interface specifications.


Related Links
Applied Physics Laboratory
Military Space News at

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Next generation USAF satellite goes through compatibility test
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. (UPI) Nov 21, 2013
The next generation of Global Positioning System satellites developed by Lockheed Martin has tested successfully for compatibility with previous craft in orbit, a major advance that's set to save costs and improve operability. The company said its GPS III prototype "recently proved it was backward-compatible with the existing GPS satellite constellation in orbit." Analysts said t ... read more

NASA Spacecraft Begins Collecting Lunar Atmosphere Data

Big Boost for China's Moon Lander

Rediscovered Apollo data gives first measure of how fast Moon dust piles up

NASA's GRAIL Mission Puts a New Face on the Moon

Winter Means Less Power for Solar Panels

Unusual greenhouse gases may have raised ancient Martian temperature

How Habitable Is Mars? A New View of the Viking Experiments

Rover Team Working to Diagnose Electrical Issue

NASA Advances Effort to Launch Astronauts Again from US Soil to Space Station

Israeli experts launches space studies course for teachers

Success of 'New Space' era hinges on public's interest

NASA Issues 2014 Call for Advanced Technology Concepts

China shows off moon rover model before space launch

China providing space training

China launches experimental satellite Shijian-16

China Moon Rover A New Opportunity To Explore Our Nearest Neighbor

Russians take Olympic torch on historic spacewalk

Russia launches Sochi Olympic torch into space

Spaceflight Joins with NanoRacks to Deploy Satellites from the ISS

Crew Completes Preparations for Soyuz Move

Spaceflight Deploys Planet Labs' Dove 3 Spacecraft from the Dnepr

Arianespace orders ten new Vega launchers from ELV

NASA Commercial Crew Partner SpaceX Achieves Milestone in Safety Review

ASTRA 5B lands in French Guiana for its upcoming Ariane 5 flight

NASA Kepler Results Usher in a New Era of Astronomy

Astronomers answer key question: How common are habitable planets?

One in five Sun-like stars may have Earth-like planets

Mystery World Baffles Astronomers

Overcoming Brittleness: New Insights into Bulk Metallic Glass

SlipChip Counts Molecules with Chemistry and a Cell Phone

NASA Instrument Determines Hazards of Deep-Space Radiation

$3.3 billion Canadian mining project scrapped

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement