‘CubeSats’, co-founded at Cal Poly, inducted into Space Technology Hall of Fame

Cal Poly Professor John Bellardo, far right, measures a 3U satellite in the Cal Poly CubeSat Lab assisted by, left to right, Jordan Ticktin, a Cal Poly alumnus who works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, and Ryan Luke, an electrical engineering student from Santa Maria. Cal Poly students designed and built 12 CubeSats that were launched into space. Photo credit: Joe Johnston, Cal Poly.

Over 1,660 CubeSats have been launched into space as of January 1, 2022

– Mini-satellite technology co-created at Cal Poly, which has significantly contributed to the expansion of space exploration and research around the world, will be inducted into the Space Technology Hall of Fame at the 37th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs April 4-7.

Jordi Puig-Suari, former Cal Poly professor of aerospace engineering and retired Stanford University professor Bob Twiggs, created the CubeSat platform, a class of research spacecraft built to standard dimensions ( units or U) of 10 cm (about 4 inches) per side, as an educational tool in 1999. Originally intended to give students experience in the functionality of satellites, the standardization of the invention – they can be any size 1U, 2U, 3U, or up to 16U, and typically weigh less than 3 pounds per unit – made it relatively simple and affordable for other schools, governments, and private organizations to create satellites that could be launched into space and used for research.

Puig-Suari likened the invention to a sandbox, where industry learned to conduct space work in a different way.

“Faster, smaller, taking more risks and taking advantage of technological developments in non-space industries, such as the commercial electronics sector – these new ways of doing business that have been introduced by CubeSats form the basis of good many of the new missions being developed by space companies,” said Puig-Suari, who retired from Cal Poly in July 2018.

CubeSats have become a regular feature of major space missions and developments, including the twin 6U MarCO communications relay satellites that were launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in 2018 as part of the Mars lander mission. Insight and the two Planetary Society 3U LightSail projects that demonstrated feasibility. solar sail propulsion. CubeSats are also regularly launched from the International Space Station.

“Not only have thousands of students around the world been able to launch a satellite, but it has grown into a billion-dollar industry and played a major role in renewing the enthusiasm for space that didn’t exist since the Moon landing,” said Ryan Nugent, director of the Cal Poly CubeSat Lab.

According to the Nanosats database, the largest organized collection of information on launched, planned and canceled CubeSat missions, more than 1,660 CubeSats have been launched into space as of January 1, 2022. The database estimates that more than 700 are planned for this year. alone, including more than 300 from businesses. And it all started with Cal Poly.

“Any discussion of the evolution of CubeSats should include the leading role of Cal Poly,” said John Bellardo, computer science professor and program advisor.

The Space Foundation induction, whose leadership includes a former NASA astronaut and several space industry executives, does just that — and more.

“This accolade is also a validation of the idea that the ‘traditional way of doing things’ isn’t always the best and can be a barrier to innovation, which we hope will continue as we strive to deliver. give our students hands-on experience with cutting-edge space technologies,” said Nugent, who worked on CubeSats as an undergraduate and graduate student at Cal Poly.


Jordi Puig-Suari, a retired Cal Poly aerospace engineering professor, co-created the CubeSat platform, a mini-satellite that dramatically expanded space exploration and research for students and the space industry . Puig-Suari owns a 1U CubeSat, a mini-satellite that is a 4-inch cube. Photo credit: Cal Poly.

Last year, a CubeSat launched on a Virgin Orbit rocket launched from the wing of a Boeing 747 was the 12th mini satellite designed, assembled and tested at Cal Poly to be launched into space. One of CubeSat’s current projects will involve new heatsink technology.

“Radiators are an essential component of spacecraft because they help to reject waste heat from the vehicle, a process necessary both for higher power missions and for missions that operate in a warmer environment for an extended period of time” , Bellardo said.

To help future missions, an upcoming partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory will provide access to new equipment, facility upgrades and experts in the field.

“While we proudly claim a major role in bringing the CubeSat to life, we want to stay relevant with this important technology,” said Associate Dean Eric Mehiel, a faculty member of aerospace engineering who plans to attend the award ceremony. enthronement with Puig-Suari. “This partnership will help Cal Poly continue to propel CubeSat innovation into the future.”

Visit www.polysat.org for more information on the Cal Poly CubeSat Lab.

About the Author: News Staff

The Paso Robles Daily News news team wrote or edited this story based on local contributors and news releases. The press team can be contacted at [email protected]

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