CubeSats and SmallSats
A New Revolution in Spacecraft
Big Ideas, Small Satellites
The CubeSat revolution is coming, and JPL is at the forefront of helping redefine the way we do science in space. Some of the most elusive and important questions–from distant galaxies to our own planet's climate–need to be solved with space-based instruments. But, the high cost of designing and launching traditional spacecraft is a hurdle that limits both what can be accomplished, and who can do it.
Small, modular, and inexpensive to build and launch, CubeSats are opening up space exploration like never before. They offer a new world of possibilities in research and technology development to everyone: students, universities of all sizes, technology pioneers, and crowd-sourced initiatives.
Power in Numbers
With CubeSats, there's strength in numbers. Entire constellations of CubeSats, flying in formation and working together, could make powerful observations analyzing everything from the nature of Europa's icy shell to the extremely low-frequency energy of far-away galactic nuclei and black holes .
For more complex missions, swarms of CubeSats could be anchored by a single "hub" -- a powerful central spacecraft that can handle complex computational tasks and data transmission back to Earth. Keeping each CubeSat simple and focused will allow for more inexpensive deployment, greater reliability, and the incremental ability to add new CubeSats or replace malfunctioning units.
JPL at the Forefront in Several Categories of Exploration
The immense promise of CubeSat technology has created an explosion in new ideas and initiatives. JPL is at the forefront of developing CubeSats that can analyze and answer some of our most important scientific questions.
More About CubeSats and SmallSats
The Interplanetary NanoSpacecraft Pathfinder In Relevant Environment (INSPIRE) project will demonstrate the revolutionary capability of deep space CubeSats by placing a nanospacecraft in Earth-escape orbit.Explore