Student and amateur CubeSat news roundup – June.9.2019

A sampling of recent articles, press releases, etc. related to student and amateur CubeSat / SmallSat projects and programs:

** Crowd-funding chip-sats released into orbit on second try: Inexpensive chip-size satellites orbit Earth | Stanford News

A swarm of 105 tiny satellites the size of computer chips, costing under $100 each, recently launched into Earth’s orbit. Stanford scientist Zac Manchester, who dreamed up the ChipSats, said they pave the way for cheaper and easier space exploration.

Each ChipSat is a circuit board slightly larger than a postage stamp. Built for under $100 apiece, each ChipSat uses solar cells to power its essential systems: the radio, microcontroller and sensors that enable each device to locate and communicate with its peers. In the future, ChipSats could contain electronics tailored to specific missions, Manchester said. For instance, they could be used to study weather patterns, animal migrations or other terrestrial phenomena. Spacefaring applications might include mapping the surface features or internal composition of asteroids or moons orbiting other planets.

In 2009, while studying with Cornell professor Mason Peck, Manchester envisioned how to engineer the electronic essence of a satellite into a device even cheaper and easier to build than a CubeSat. In 2011, he crowdfunded his project by putting it on, quickly raising about $75,000 from 315 contributors, and what he initially called the KickSat project was born. “I want to make it easy and affordable enough for anyone to explore space” is how Manchester put it at the time.

Prof. Zac Manchester sent a swarm of postage-stamp sized satellites into orbit. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

The first attempt in 2014 failed when the CubeSat containing the ChipSats did not open before de-orbiting. The re-designed KickSat-2 was attached along with other smallsats to a Northrop-Grumman Cygnus cargo vehicle launched to the ISS last November.  After the Cygnus departed from the ISS, the small satellites were deployed into orbit. Then on March 18th, the 105 ChipSats were released from their CubeSat mothership.

That moment finally came, when the deployment commands were transmitted from the 60-foot dish behind the Stanford campus. Another anxious day passed before Manchester learned that the sensitive dish antenna had detected the faint signals from the ChipSats, which meant they were operational. Manchester worked with collaborators around the world to track the ChipSats as they transmitted data until reentering the atmosphere and burning up on March 21.

More about the project:

** HuskySat-1 is a student project at the University of Washington. The CubeSat is booked for launch aboard a Cygnus cargo vehicle (NG-12) on an Antares rocket that is currently set to lift off from Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia on October 19, 2019.

The Husky Satellite Lab  is a student-run aerospace research club working on establishing a space presence for the University of Washington. We are currently working on our first mission, HuskySat-1. The HS1 is currently undergoing flight model integration testing.

Our Mission is to foster interdisciplinary student participation in space systems research, to inspire and train future space scientists and engineers, and to advance spacecraft capabilities at the University of Washington.

Our Team is composed primarily of UW undergraduate and graduate students, as well as mentors from the local aerospace industry. Our lead principal investigator is Professor Robert Winglee.

“Almost all of HuskySat-1 is being developed at the UW. The satellite is broken up into different subsystems. Each component is designed to be modular so that they can be most easily developed independently from each other and reused for future missions.” – Husky Satellite Lab

** More about the Chinese amateur radio satellite mentioned here last week: CAS-7B (BP-1B) amateur radio satellite now ready for launch | Southgate Amateur Radio News

CAS-7B (BP-1B) satellite
Testing of the CAS-7B (BP-1B) satellite built by CAMSAT (Chinese Amateur Satellite Group).

** AMSAT news on student and amateur CubeSat/smallsat projects: ANS-160 AMSAT News Service Special Bulletin

  • AMSAT Field Day on the Satellites
  • Final Call for Nominations – AMSAT Board of Directors
  • AMSAT President Awarded Russian E.T. Krenkel Medal
  • 37th Annual AMSAT Space Symposium, October 18-20, 2019
  • Dollar-for-Dollar Match on your ARISS Donation Thru June 17, 2019
  • AO-85 Back in Operation
  • VUCC Awards-Endorsements for June 2019
  • 2019 Edition of Getting Started with Amateur Satellites Available
  • Upcoming Satellite Operations
  • Upcoming ARISS Contact Schedule
  • CAMSAT Announces Upcoming Launch of CAS-7B
  • Satellite Shorts From All Over

See AMSAT (@AMSAT) | Twitter for more AMSAT news.

General CubeSat/SmallSat info:


The Case for Space:
How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up
a Future of Limitless Possibility