An ISS CubeSat Laboratory – Your vote can help launch this idea to space

CASIS, the Center for the Advancement of Space in Science, is currently holding a contest on “Your Idea in Space: What Would You Send to the ISS?” HySpeed Computing submitted an entry to the contest for sending a user-configurable CubeSat Laboratory to the International Space Station. There are lots of other great ideas submitted to the contest and we encourage you to read through the various entries.

If you like our idea, then we’d appreciate your vote as well on any feedback on how to improve the concept. Voting is open from September 20 through October 4 and each voter can cast up to five votes. The contest is accessible here: http://www.iss-casis.org/contest/voting-public.html

See below for a summary of our entry:

CASIS ISS contest

We would send a user-configurable CubeSat laboratory to the ISS that would allow on-demand creation and deployment of customized nanosatellites to address opportunistic and time-critical Earth observation tasks. This laboratory would have scientific, societal and commercial benefits. Key components of this laboratory include:

  • A space-qualified 3D printer for on-demand manufacture of the CubeSat framework.
  • A collection of pre-assembled Arduino components configured for different Earth observation tasks.
  • Communication through standard ISS channels to allow for user-customization.
  • Launch achieved via Japanese Experiment Module using the Small Satellite Orbital Deployer.
  • Satellites de-orbited so as not to contribute to space debris.

Earth observation is pervasive throughout our society, with important roles in both government and private sectors, including utilities, natural resources, agriculture and consumer product markets. The demand for this data also continues to grow, with many companies now looking to apply big-data analytics to Earth observing data for use in business enterprise. While there are numerous government and commercially operated Earth observing satellites currently in orbit, sensors are not always available, not always positioned appropriately and not always affordable for particular events and applications.

CubeSats offer a relatively low-cost option for addressing specific Earth observing needs, but are still limited by traditional launch requirements for achieving orbit. As an alternative, however, the ISS represents a space-based platform for CubeSat deployment, and as of the 2012 installation of the Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (SSOD) now has the capability for launching small satellites into Earth orbit via an airlock and robotic arm.

Arduinos, which consist of open-source electronic hardware, and 3D printers, which can generate three-dimensional objects based on a digital model, are both user-configurable technologies that can be applied to a host of different design and manufacture applications. Additionally, configuration does not require hands-on modification but can instead be implemented remotely through software.

Integrating these different concepts converges to a space-based CubeSat laboratory, which uses Arduino components and 3D printing to manufacture CubeSats that are deployed into Earth orbit from the ISS.

In addition to providing scientific and commercial benefits, the CubeSat laboratory would offer unique opportunities for educational initiatives, both with respect to creating the laboratory itself and the subsequent design, deployment and application of different CubeSat missions. This would also be a valuable resource for the entire Earth observing community.

For more information on CASIS: http://www.iss-casis.org/

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