PocketQubes: Even Smaller Than a CubeSat

Qube

Over one hundred CubeSats have been launched by hundreds of organizations and universities from around the globe. These have proven very useful in technology demonstration, Earth imaging, and other applications. There is, however, one large downside to the CubeSat platform. Even though it is designed to hitch a ride on launches of larger satellites, they’re still very expensive to develop and launch – somewhere between $60,000 and $125,000.

PocketQubes are a new design of satellite that bring the cost of personal satellites down to what Universities and amateur radio enthusiasts can actually afford. Instead of spending $125k on a 10cm cube CubeSat, the PocketQube, a 5cm cube, can be launched to a 700 km orbit for about $20,000.

Already, four PocketQubes are scheduled for launch in November to a 700km solar synchronous orbit, including $50SAT, a small radio transceiver put together by some ham guys, and The WREN a very impressive PocketQube with 3-axis reaction wheels and plasma thrusters.

Right now, the PocketQube kickstarter is only for aluminum structures that will become the skeleton of a small, 5cm cube satellite. There’s also the PocketQube Shop that provides a little more background on the project.

Comments

  1. Jeremy Cook says:

    Hackaday satellite anyone?

  2. Hack Man says:

    amateur radio enthusiasts… about $20,000….. Um?

    • Dudecallednick says:

      Exactly… unless I’m missing something, shouldn’t $50SAT be $20050SAT?

      Re $50SAT: is this the first time that a satellite is being launched just to see if some hardware works AT all? In this case “HOPE RFM22″ seems like an appropriate name for a rx/tx…

      • Kris Lee says:

        I know that EstCube-1, a student satellite did exactly this (beside being a student satellite). It was launched to test that one spring mechanism to release the solar sail would work in space. I do not know about the results.

      • AB2S says:

        Unlike the presidents hope, this one really works ! $50sat is on orbit and can be heard on 437.505 MHz with a handheld ad a directional antenna. As of today, Nov.27,2013 it has been transmitting for almost a week. Not bad for the worlds least expensive (and maybe smallest) operational satellite..

  3. KR0SIV says:

    ugh another shot in the dark launch

  4. macona says:

    Its kind of neat and all, but why? 20k is a lot to bounce a radio signal off.

    Funny, the kickstarted compares these little sats to the start of the pc revolution. I cant figure how he came up with that.

  5. Ted R says:

    That was an incredibly weak version of Crockett’s theme running in the background of the video.

  6. fartface says:

    What I dont understand is Why these groups dont get someone that has a clue about Video to do their video recording and editing. The WREN video is atrocious.

    Second why are they using hard wire antennas? simply repurpose a small measuring tape as antennas so you can have self deploying antennas. roll them up andslide the whole sat inside a tube then on deploy all you do is push it out of the tube and the antennas will deploy.

    That said, trivial to make what they are making, the hard part is to get it into space.

  7. Hi Guys,

    Thanks for the comments on our Kickstarter. Will try and cover some points:

    Dudecallednick: Yes we are not sure how they missed the launch fee out on the name, as we understand it, its cost $50 for all the on board components. It think the intention was to prove you could build one on a tiny budget.

    KR0SIV: Sorry you feel that way. Could you tell us why you think that so we can address it: :)

    macona: the analogy is probably a bit stretched, but relative to traditional satellites in terms of costs and rapid improvement in the technology.

    Re:why, the most solid answer would be to help students get experience building a satellite that makes orbit, before they graduate to work for Astrium or Intelsat. Those satellites cost in the regions of $100’s of millions so it definitely better to have experience.

    fartface: sorry you don’t like the video, was done on a shoestring. The music is probably a bit on the loud side. re:trivial, it is more a way to gauge interest and raise awareness. If 10 teams want to build pocketqubes, rather than the current 4 then we can start working on more technical stuff like EPS, comms etc. If no one build them then there is no reason too. Its all chicken and egg.

    If you have any feedback, positive or negative please drop me a line at contact (at) pocketqubeshop.com and I will try my best to get back to you ASAP.

    Thanks
    Tom

  8. Jeremy says:

    Their tagline is “Want to build a satellite but dont have a NASA sized budget?” but I think technically I currently have a budget larger than NASA’s.

  9. CMOS says:

    So.. their answer to cubesat’s being too expensive is that they take the 1U design and cut in half? How is this supposed to save costs?

  10. Josh Malone says:

    Kinda seems like we’re cluttering up our orbit pretty needlessly these days…

  11. pet says:

    C’mon people, what’re you talking about??? 20K cheap???
    THIS IS (relatively) CHEAP sat for hackers.

    http://www.interorbital.com/interorbital_080513_002.htm

    8000$ for kit including launch for 0.5kg Tubesat
    15000$ – 1kg Cubesat kit including launch
    check this out

    https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://www.interorbital.com/Downloads/CubeSat+Specifications+and+Pricing+Publish+1.1.pdf

  12. Drone says:

    Huh? A standard Cubesat has a volume of 1 litre (1000cu. cm volume or a cube with 10cm per side). Cubesats cost $60K in-orbit. These have have 1/8 the volume (125 cu. cm for a cube 5 cm on a side) and cost $20K in-orbit. They should cost 1/8 of $60K or $7.5K in-orbit. You can pack 8 of these in the same launch volume as a single Cubesat. Sounds like a bad deal to me.

    • bobtwiggs says:

      Unfortunately, the cost to launch a 1U CubeSat is $80-$125k. A design is in the works to make a version of the PocketQube that can actually have 8 of them take the place of a 1U CubeSat. The latest launch used a single PocketQube deployer called MR-FOD.

  13. CMOS: To launch an object to orbit costs more than gold per gram. Going smaller can be a huge advantage. It is not a half its and eighth.

    Josh: The pocketqubes are going into Low orbits and don’t last very long. Atmospheric drag pulls them down and therefore there is no ‘clutter’.

    pet: We wish IOS well, but the numbers are in 16 year since they started, 0 launch attempts at orbit and 0 successes. The PocketQube vehicle, the Russian Dnepr rocket has had 18 attempts and 17 successes. There are also more vehicles coming online for pocketqube which should reduce the risk of having all the eggs in one basket.

    Drone: $60k is not a current market figure for a Cubesat launch (maybe was a few years back). The cheapest launches are Russian and probably closer to $100k. You actually have a whole bunch of integration costs which don’t scale down linearly. You can’t fit 8 inside a 1U as they use separate deployment systems.

    Thanks
    Tom

    • bobtwiggs says:

      Regarding deorbit time, the latest PocketQubes were launched into a sun synchronous 700 km orbit. There was kapton patches installed on the antennas for Eagle-1, now called T-LogoQube and $50Sat. This was done to decrease the orbit life to less then 25 years. Which is a requirement of the FCC.. Estimate orbit life of Eagle-1 is 17 years,.

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