The winners are in for the GrabCad CubeSat Challenge, which asked designers to rethink the way that CubeSats are built. These tiny 10 cm square satellites are the hot thing in orbit, and the competition was looking for new ways to build and pack more into this tiny space. The winners offered some fascinating new approaches to building CubeSats, and some excellent design lessons that anyone can use.
The winner was FoldSat, by [Paolo Minetola]. His excellent design is a 3D printed folding case for a satellite that is built from just two 3D printed parts. The case can be snapped together and offers multiple ways to mount electronic components and sensors inside. [Paolo] estimates that it could save 40% time and 30% materials from existing CubeSat casings, which means more space inside and more time to build. It is an excellent example of how 3D printing can make things cheaper, easier and better, all at the same time.
My personal favorite was the eighth place Cube Brick from [Ridwan Septyawan], which uses a series of stackable PCB holders to make the cube. It’s like a Lego set for orbit, or an Ikea bookshelf for space: Each of the layers snaps into the one below, creating a firm hold without using screws or bolts. With a maximum weight of 1.6kg (about 3.5lbs), every little bit counts on a CubeSat, so [Ridwan’s] minimal but strong design might be the thing that allows you to squeeze another sensor onto your next space probe.
All of the winners have their own merits, and anyone who has struggled to build something to a tight target weight or size will appreciate the inventiveness they offer. Hopefully, we will see some of them in orbit soon, alongside other CubeSats like the amateur radio satellite SO-50, currently speeding through the skies above your head.