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The CubeSat form factor of nano-satellite (a satellite with a mass between one and ten kilograms), has grown in popularity due to its ease of construction and low development and launch costs. In particular, its use as a student-led payload design project has increased due to the growing number of launch opportunities. Increasingly, CubeSats are deployed as secondary or tertiary payloads on U.S. commercial launch vehicles or from the International Space Station (ISS). The focus of this study will be on CubeSats launched from the ISS.
From a space safety standpoint, the development and deployment processes for CubeSats differ significantly from those of most satellites. For large satellites, extensive design reviews and documentation are completed, including assessing requirements associated with re-entry survivability. Typical CubeSat missions selected for ISS deployment have a less rigorous review process that may not evaluate aspects beyond overall design feasibility. CubeSat design teams often do not have the resources to ensure their design is compliant with re-entry risk requirements.
An analysis examined methods to easily identify the maximum amount of a given material that can be used in the construction of a CubeSat without posing harm to persons on the ground. The results demonstrate there is not a general equation for determining the maximum amount of mass that can be used for a given material. It is possible, however, to set a limit based on the object’s heat of ablation that can be used to decide if reentry analysis is needed for an object. In addition, the specific limits found for a number of generic materials, used previously as benchmarking materials for re-entry survivability analysis tool comparison, will be discussed.
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Mehrparvar, A., Pignatelli, D., Carnahan, J., Munakat, R., Lan, W., Toorian, A., Hutputanasin, A., & Lee, S. (2014). CubeSat Design Specification Rev 13, The CubeSat Program, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, U.S.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA-STD-8719.14A/Process for Limiting Orbital Debris. Available at: http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/codeq/doctree/871914.pdf. Accessed: 10/1/2014
Dobarco-Otero, J., Smith, R. N., Bledsoe, K. J., De Laune R. M. (2006). JSC-62861/User’s Guide for Object Reentry Survival Analysis Tool (ORSAT) – Version 6.0, Vol. I.
- Cubesat Material Limits for Design for Demise
R. L. Kelley
D. R. Jarkey
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