CubeSats & FUNcube
CubeSats are a popular format of small satellite used by radio amateurs and university groups. A good example is FUNcube-1 conceived by AMSAT-UK and supported by the Radio Communications Foundation (RCF).
What is a CubeSat ?
It is a standardised format of miniature satellite (termed a nanosat) first introduced in 1999 (and the first one launched in 2004). The form factor is 10x10cm wide with heights of either 10cm (for a single unit or ‘1U’ cube), or longer 20cm(2U) or 30cm(3U). The small size still enables a significant amount of on-board electronics, but does limit the area available for solar cells, power and payload.
Why a CubeSat?
Their standard small size leads to greatly reduced launch costs and enables up to three cubes be launched from a single 3U ‘Pod’ dispenser. Several companies now also support the CubeSat ‘standard’. Altogether, this greatly eases their construction and the ability of groups around the world to conceive their own – enthusing a new generation. The use of Pod dispensers make them easier to integrate as auxiliary payloads on smaller rockets (or deployment from the ISS).
The FUNcube project is intended to enthuse, excite and educate young people about radio, space, physics and electronics. It will also support other educational Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths (STEM) initiatives. FUNcube-1 is a 10cm single unit (1U) cube, weighing just under 1kg. It was launched on 21-Nov-2013 on a Dnepr rocket along with many other cubesats. It has an uplink on 435MHz and downlinks in 145MHz including beacon telemetry and a linear transponder. The satellite is also known as AO-73.
Standard VHF/UHF equipment can be used along with a knowledge of the satellites orbit. The FUNcube project is also notable for its creation of a USB dongle that enables laptops to receive the frequencies and data as well.
Further Reading & Links:-
- FUNcube satellite website
- FUNcube dongle receiver
- AMSAT-UK website
- Radio Communications Foundation (RCF) website
- National Radio Centre (NRC), Bletchley Park website
- RadCom Nov-2013 (Note members-login required for full access)
- BBC News: Tiny satellite aims to inspire school children