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Cubesats explained and why you should build one

Ever wanted to make your own satellite? Now you can. Building a Cubesat is affordable and you may even qualify for a free ride from NASA.

What are Cubesats?

A CubeSat is a small satellite in the shape of a 10 centimeter cube and weighs just 1 kilogram. That’s about 4 inches and 2 pounds. The design has been simplified so almost anyone can build them and the instructions are available for free online. CubeSats can be combined to make larger satellites in case you need bigger payloads. Deployable solar panels and antennas make Cubesats even more versatile. The cost to build one? Typically less than $50,000. CubeSats are carried into space on a Poly-PicoSatellite Orbital Deployer or P-POD for short. The standard P-POD holds 3 Cubesats and fits on almost any rocket as a secondary payload. Over 100 Cubesats have been launched into space since they were first introduced by CalPoly and Stanford in 1999. To reduce space debris they are usually placed in low orbits and fall back to earth in a few weeks or months.

Why Are They Popular?

Cubesats are popular with schools and governments because they are cheap and relatively easy to build. Because a lot of the hardware has been standardized, you can even buy Cubesat hardware online. NASA is offering free rides for science missions through their Cubesat Launch Initiative. If you don’t qualify for a free ride, launching a CubeSat is much cheaper than traditional satellites but still costs over $100,000. They might be small but you can do a lot with them. Including...Taking Pictures from space, Send radio communications, Perform Atmospheric Research, Do Biology Experiments and as a test platform for future technology. Cubesats have become THE standard microsatellite thanks to their Open Source Hardware design and will become even more popular as we find new uses for them. If launch costs can become more affordable in the next few years...we can see a new era of personal satellites. Only a few years ago you needed a degree in Engineering or millions of dollars to build a satellite. Now all you need is a credit card and some hard work. Launching another story. Would you want your own personal satellite? Let us know in the comments below.

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