LOGAN, Utah – The 36th Small Satellite Conference at Utah State University has changed over the years with commercial interest steadily growing. But at its heart, and in its roots, is the vision to make space more accessible, and in particular small satellites, including CubeSats, to students.

At first much of the emphasis was on spreading the word on what CubeSats could do the colleges and universities across America. Today, the word is spreading globally, and in the first talk on the 2nd day of the conference, Hazuki Mori an Expert, Space Applications Section, at the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), and a former Associate Administrator at JAXA, spoke of the success of the Access to Space for All initiative.

Many of our readers will be familiar with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, however it’s likely a lot less are familiar with the Access to Space for All initiative.

United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and its programs. Credit: UNOOSA/NASA.
United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and its programs and initiatives. Credit: UNOOSA/NASA.

Access to Space for All initiative, sometimes referred to as Access to Space 4 All, has at its goal “to provide research and orbital opportunities for UN Member States to access space and to ensure that the benefits of space, in particular for sustainable development, are truly accessible to all.”

This is facilitated through three tracks including; The Hypergravity/Microgravity track which helps build capacity for conducting experiments in space; the Satellite Development track which helps build capacity that enables the development, deployment and operation of satellites; and the Space Exploration track which enables the engagement of space exploration.

Mori spent most of the talk focused on the Satellite Development track.

Within the Satellite Development track are several opportunities. The one opportunity that is currently open is the Post-graduate study on Nano-Satellite Technologies (PNST) Rounds which is accepting applications until January 9, 2023.

But it is some of the recent successes which are worth noting. With support from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), the KiboCube program was started in 2015. The program “aims to provide educational or research institutions from developing countries with opportunities to deploy 1U CubeSats from the Japanese Kibo module of the International Space Station.

To date three CubeSats have been deployed from from Kenya, Guatemala, and Mauritius with another four more under development. Another CubeSat, the “TUMnanoSAT” from the Technical University of Moldova is scheduled for deployment this week.

The Mauritius MIR-SAT 1 was deployed from the International Space Station on June 22, 2021. Credit: UNOOSA.
The Mauritius MIR-SAT 1 was deployed from the International Space Station on June 22, 2021. Credit: UNOOSA.

List of completed KiboCube missions;

  • Kenya: University of Nairobi – Satellite: 1KUNS-PF. Objective: To monitor agriculture and coastal areas. Partnership: University of Rome (Italy). (Deployed: May 11, 2018)
    • Achievements: More than 300 images downloaded, surpassing initial expectation. Accelerated the creation of the Kenya Space Agency, which led to more KSA participation in other Access to Space for All opportunities such as the Bartolomeo and ISONscope programme.
  • Guatemala: Institute: Universidad del Valle de Guatemala – Satellite: Quetzal-1. Objective: To test the acquisition of EO data. Partnership: Universitat Wurzburg, University of Alabama, University of Colorado Boulder, LASP, NASA, ESAC, UKSA, ASTROSAT, and more. (Deployed: April 29, 2022)
    • Achievements: In operation for 211 days with 84,976 data packages received globally, involved more than 100 students in the project, developed 70% of the CubeSat in-house. Conducted successful outreach activities involving the media, workshops for young students (especially girls) & publishing books/documentaries.
  • Mauritius: Institute: Mauritius Research and Innovation Council – Satellite: MIR-SAT 1. Objective: To collect images and to test onboard communication. Partnership: SSC Clyde Space. (Deployed: June 22, 2022)
    • Achievements: One of the first Small Island Developing Nations (SIDs) to develop a satellite. Downloaded images of Mauritius and neighboring areas. Conducted successful outreach activities involving the amateur radio society and providing antenna workshops to over 100 students in 12 schools and 5 universities in the country.

List of ongoing KiboCube missions;

  • Indonesia: Surya University – “SS-1” satellite. Objective: To demonstrate remote communication Development. Status: Completed and waiting for launch in fall 2022.
  • SISTEMA DE LA INTEGRACIÓN CENTROAMERICAN (Central American Integration System): “MORAZAN-SAT.” Objective: To monitor weather variables in remote areas providing early warning during extreme weather events. Status: Concluded CDR and currently under development.
  • Mexico: Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla – “Gxiba-1.” Objective: To observe active volcanoes in Mexico and analyze the ash dispersion. Status: Currently under development.
  • Tunisia: Private Higher School of Engineering and Applied Technology of Tunisia –  “TUNSAT.” Objective: To demonstrate ground- space communication using self-build technologies. Status: Currently under development.

Another partner offering another launch opportunity is Avio S.p.A. of Italy who joined the initiative in 2018. Their goal is “to provide educational and research institutions with opportunities to deploy a CubeSat of maximum 3U using the Vega-C launcher.” Currently the first round of application is closed and the choice will between a team from Kenya and a team from Malaysia.

The other current partner in the Satellite Development track is the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) who joined in 2021. Their goal is “to provide opportunities for hosting a payload (up to 5U) on a 12U PHI modular satellite platform developed by MBRSC.” Selection is currently underway after the first round closed in April 2022.

While the Access to Space for All initiative has had some success, Mori stated they are working with limited funding and are in need of more partners.

SpaceRef co-founder, entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, nature lover and deep thinker.