The Most Popular CubeSat Buses in the Global Market

CubeSat Bus
CubeSat Bus - Photo from Nasa's Flickr page

Learning more about space and, even more importantly, about our planet using the opportunity to observe it from above is a challenge satellites help us with a lot. CubeSats, in particular, have made it even more accessible due to their relatively low costs and small size. And, with a quality CubeSat bus, their life span in orbit is much longer than before. But before we learn about CubeSat buses and what makes them irreplaceable in the modern space market, let's see what exactly a CubeSat is.

What Is a CubeSat Satellite?

CubeSats are small satellites, generally measuring 10 centimetres per side (hence the name "CubeSat"). They're commonly used in space research, technology demonstrations, and for educational purposes due to their compact size and affordable price.CubeSats can be employed for various missions, such as Earth observation, scientific research, technology testing, and even interplanetary exploration.

Their size allows multiple CubeSats to be launched together, which reduces launch costs and enables collaborative missions.

What Is the Most Common CubeSat?

There isn't a single most common one, as there are numerous models designed and launched by various entities. CubeSats come in different configurations (number of units) and can vary significantly in their intended purposes, payloads, and designs.

However, some studies tend to see a 3-unit CubeSat as the most popular. Its volume allows more needed components to be installed.

What Is the Largest CubeSat Launched?

For now, as we know, the largest CubeSat launched is a 16-unit satellite. Though some sources claim the biggest reasonable number of units would be 27, the industry develops fast, and new endeavours are on schedule daily, so keeping track of events is necessary. Especially, considering CubeSat buses, manufacturers constantly improving their products to make launches more cost and performance-effective.

Main Direction of Development for CubeSat Bus Providers

CubeSat Bus System
CubeSat Bus System - Photo from Nasa's Flickr page

What challenges do modern satellite bus providers face? The main one is to find the much-needed balance between efficiency and costs. The solution requires working in multiple directions. Let’s break them down:

Size issue: Designing smaller, lighter, and more efficient components without compromising performance is crucial for CubeSat bus providers. Shrinking components while maintaining functionality can be challenging.

Power Management: Efficient power systems are essential due to limited space and power availability. Developing reliable power sources and energy-efficient systems is a significant focus area.

Communication and Data Transmission: Establishing strong communication links and data handling capabilities for CubeSats remains challenging.

Cost Reduction: While CubeSats are more affordable than traditional satellites, cost reduction is still a priority. Providers aim to lower production costs while maintaining quality and reliability.

Launch Opportunities: Access to launch opportunities and finding suitable launch windows can be challenging. Collaborating with launch service providers for timely deployment is essential.

While every satellite bus provider handles the aforementioned issues in their unique way, some go further than just focusing on a satellite bus as the only solution. Consider Dragonfly Aerospace as an example. While they do offer satellite buses, mainly designed for Earth observation, they also work on satellites and optical payloads for them. And speaking of satellite buses, the offer comes with 100 kg-class and 150 kg-class platforms for high-resolution imagery satellites, allowing a life span of 5–8 years.

So What Is the Best CubeSat Bus System?

We are yet to find out. The more tasks we need to be performed from space, the more intricate bus systems may be required. Even now, there’s no one model perfect for every purpose, as they vary significantly. Considering the goal of the deployment, different characteristics would be of more importance, altering the whole bus structure.

Luckily, modern CubeSat bus providers offer various features, sizes, power capabilities, and functionalities tailored to specific mission requirements. Factors such as payload capacity, power generation, communication systems, and cost-effectiveness can vary among different models, making each suitable for particular mission goals or budgets. As a result, the choice always depends on the specific needs and goals of the mission in question.

With the modern space market being very dynamic and competitive, we believe there will be a suitable bus for each future mission, helping us achieve the main goal of improving life on Earth with the help of responsible space exploration.