Status Report

Novel CubeSat Payloads for Naval Space Missions

By SpaceRef Editor
May 20, 2012
Filed under , ,

Novel CubeSat Payloads for Naval Space Missions
Navy SBIR 2012.2 – Topic N122-146
SPAWAR – Ms. Elizabeth Altmann –
Opens: May 24, 2012 – Closes: June 27, 2012

N122-146 TITLE: Novel CubeSat Payloads for Naval Space Missions
ACQUISITION PROGRAM: Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), ACAT I

RESTRICTION ON PERFORMANCE BY FOREIGN CITIZENS (i.e., those holding non-U.S. Passports): This topic is “ITAR Restricted”. The information and materials provided pursuant to or resulting from this topic are restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120 – 130, which control the export of defense-related material and services, including the export of sensitive technical data. Foreign Citizens may perform work under an award resulting from this topic only if they hold the “Permanent Resident Card”, or are designated as “Protected Individuals” as defined by 8 U.S.C. 1324b(a)(3). If a proposal for this topic contains participation by a foreign citizen who is not in one of the above two categories, the proposal will be rejected.

OBJECTIVE: Develop novel CubeSat payloads for Naval space missions.

DESCRIPTION: Nano-satellites are popular among universities and gaining momentum with commercial and government organizations. Standards based satellite buses and deployment mechanisms, such as the CubeSat and Poly Pico-satellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD), have stimulated growth in the area. Small satellites have proven capable and cost effective in many areas traditionally dominated by large satellites, however many challenges remain.

Beyond state of the art research is needed to drastically reduce the size, weight and power of payloads that have traditionally performed Naval space missions on much larger satellites. Traditional Naval space missions include narrowband communications (UHF Follow On, Mobile User Objective System), astrometry (Joint Milli-Arcsecond Pathfinder Survey), and ocean sensing (GEOdetic SATellite, GEOSAT Follow On). Other missions of Naval interest will also be considered. Smaller, more cost effective satellites will enable the Navy to continue vital space missions despite limited resources.

One important consideration in developing a new CubeSat payload technology is mission life. Most CubeSats are deployed in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) where atmospheric drag is considerable. Since they generally do not carry propellant for station keeping, atmospheric drag is often a mission life limiting factor. The technology’s impact on mission life must be weighed in the design process. Novel technologies will enable CubeSats to expand from university experiments to operational missions. It can be assumed that approximately two thirds of the 3-U spacecraft size, weight and power will be used for power management, attitude control, communications and other basic spacecraft functions. In general, proposed payloads should:

* Meet the CubeSat Design Specifications
* Fit within approximately 10x10x10 cm and have 1.33 kg or less mass (fit within 1-U of a CubeSat)
* Generate less than 32 kilobits per second of data to be transferred to the ground
* Survive the LEO space environment for at least two years
* Operate with significant power constraints, either very low duty cycle or very low instantaneous power

PHASE I: Develop a novel payload design for CubeSats to support a Naval space mission. Payloads of interest include:

* UHF Satellite Communications
* Ocean sensing and/or radar altimetry
* Astrometry
* Maritime Domain Awareness

Tasks under this phase could include:

* Develop the technology design
* Predict payload performance using modeling and simulation or other tools
* Estimate mass and volume requirements
* Estimate the design’s impact on atmospheric drag

PHASE II: Build a prototype payload and test it in the space environment.

* Optimize the payload design
* Demonstrate operation of the prototype in a space environment such as thermal vacuum.
* Evaluate measured performance characteristics versus expectations and make design adjustments as necessary.

PHASE III: This phase will focus on integrating the technology into potential Naval CubeSat missions.

PRIVATE SECTOR COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL DUAL-USE APPLICATIONS: The technologies developed under this topic can be applied to a variety of commercial, military and space exploration CubeSat missions.


1. Naval Open Architecture.
2. CubeSat Design Specification REV. 11,
3. “The Navy’s Needs in Space for Providing Future Capabilities”, 2005, National Academies Press,
4. PEO Space Systems programs.
5. GFO overview.

KEYWORDS: CubeSat; communications; nano

TPOC: Alan Hermansen
Phone: (619)553-7770
2nd TPOC: Phillippe Reed
Phone: (843)218-2655

SpaceRef staff editor.