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What is a CubeSat?

A CubeSat is a square-shaped miniature satellite (10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm—roughly the size of a Rubik's cube), weighing about 1 kg. A CubeSat can be used alone (1 unit) or in groups of multiple units (maximum 16 units).

Commonality

Just like any satellite, CubeSats are custom built to the specific requirements of their mission and have at least three things in common:

Antenna and Radio Communications System

Sends and receives information to and from Earth.

Power Source

Powers the CubeSat. Can be a solar panel, or simply a battery

Computer

Executes instructions to ensure proper functioning of the satellite.

How are CubeSats launched into space?

CubeSats tend to hitch a ride into space using extra space available on rockets. They are packed in a container which, with the push of a button, activates a spring that ejects the CubeSats into space. CubeSats can also be deployed from the International Space Station by using the same technique from the airlock in the Japanese module. Like other satellites, they can be flown alone or in a constellation network.

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Why Size Matters

Artificial satellites come in a variety of sizes ranging from one you can hold in your hand to the size of a school bus. Their dimension and costs are mostly determined by the complexity and type of their instruments (commonly known as payloads). In recent years, thanks to the miniaturization of space technologies, satellites have become smaller for a number of reasons, the first being the cost associated with assembly and launch.