10 CubeSats Ready for NASA’s First Venture Class Launch

Electron It’s Business Time lift-off (Credits: Kieran Fanning & Sam Toms)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — RNASA will enable the launch of 10 small research satellites, or CubeSats, selected through the CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) for launch on Rocket Lab’s first mission for NASA. The CubeSats were built by three NASA centers, seven universities, and a middle school as part of the Educational Launch of Nanosatellite XIX (ELaNa-19) mission.

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — More than 250 students have been involved in the design, development and construction of the CubeSats scheduled to be flown as payloads on Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket. This mission will be the first launch under NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) contracts, which aims to provide a dedicated launch capability for smaller payloads such as CubeSats on smaller rockets.

Rocket Lab is now targeting the ELaNa-19 launch Dec. 15 with a launch window opening at 11 p.m. EST from the company’s launch complex on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Urbana, Illinois

CubeSail is a technology demonstration mission jointly developed with CU Aerospace to demonstrate in-space propulsion using solar sail technology. It will significantly reduce risk for the “UltraSail” concept proposed for interplanetary and interstellar missions and take the UltraSail technology to Technology Readiness Level 7.

Compact Radiation Belt Explorer to Study Charged Particle Dynamics in Geospace
Goddard Space Flight Center – Greenbelt, Maryland

CeREs is a scientific investigation mission to advance understanding of the radiation belt electrons energization and loss processes (a goal of the Geospace program), as well as characterizing solar electrons and protons by making high-cadence, high-resolution measurements of the energy spectra of electrons and protons over a broad energy range. It will also provide flight validation for a new, small lightweight instrument with future applications in magnetospheric, planetary and interplanetary space studies.

New Mexico Tech Nanosatellite
New Mexico Institute of Mining – Socorro, New Mexico

The NMTSat CubeSat is an educational mission to provide graduate and undergraduate students with hands-on experience designing and building flight hardware. It hosts three space weather instruments, plasma probe, magnetometers and GPS occultation experiment. In addition it contains an electrical health monitoring system and an optical status beacon experiment.

CubeSat Handling of Multisystem Precision Time Transfer
University of Florida – Gainesville, Florida
NASA Ames Research Center – Moffett Field, California

CHOMPTT is a technology demonstration of precision ground-to-space time-transfer using a laser link to an orbiting CubeSat. The mission uses a satellite laser ranging facility located at the Kennedy Space Center to transmit short infrared laser pulses to the CHOMPTT CubeSat. These pulses are timed with an atomic clock on the ground and by one of the two chip-scale atomic clocks (CSAC) on board the CubeSat. A retroreflector on the CubeSat returns the transmitted beam back to the ground. By comparing the transmitted and received times on the ground and the arrival time of the pulses at the CubeSat, the time difference between the ground and space clocks can be measured with an accuracy of 200 ps (6 cm light-travel time). This compact, power efficient and secure synchronization technology will be useful for future space navigation, communications, networking and distributed aperture telescopes.

Advanced eLectrical Bus
NASA Glenn Research Center – Cleveland, Ohio

The ALBus CubeSat is a technology demonstration mission of an advanced, digitally controlled electrical power system capability and novel use of Shape Memory Alloy technology for reliable deployable solar array mechanisms. It will demonstrate power management and distribution of 100 watts of electrical power to a target load, system performance of a high power density CubeSat and successful deployment of solar arrays and antennas using resettable shape memory alloy mechanisms.

Simulation To Flight
West Virginia University– Fairmont, West Virginia
NASA’s Independent Verification and Validation Facility

The primary objective of the STF-1 mission is to demonstrate the utility of the NASA Operational Simulator for Small Satellites (NOS3) across the CubeSat development cycle, from concept planning to mission operations. It demonstrates a highly portable simulation and test platform that allows seamless transition of mission development artifacts to flight products. This environment decreases the development time of future CubeSat missions by lessening the dependency on hardware resources. Additionally, STF-1 is equipped with a set of diverse science experiments developed by WVU. The instruments include a cluster of Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) Inertial Measurement Units to produce attitude knowledge; a space-weather experiment including a Geiger counter and Langmuir probe; a III-V Nitride-based materials optoelectronics experiment; and a Novatel OEM615 GPS coupled with advanced algorithms for precise orbit determination.

Ionospheric Scintillation Explorer
SRI International – Menlo Park, California
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California

The Ionospheric Scintillation Explorer (ISX) CubeSat is a space weather investigation to better understand the multi-frequency radio wave interference produced by the atmosphere at sunset near the equator. The spacecraft will receive multiple broadcast digital television channels to probe the ionospheric irregularities. SRI is responsible for the payload design and construction, and the interpretation of mission data. Cal Poly is responsible for the CubeSat design and construction, and ground station operations.

United States Naval Academy – Annapolis, Maryland

RSat is a technology demonstration to potential future missions that may be able to provide an in-orbit mobile platform to survey and possibly repair a much larger, conventional spacecraft. The satellite has two 60 cm, 7 degree-of-freedom robotic arms fitted with claws and is intended to operate in constant contact with a host spacecraft. It will be equipped with a suite of equipment, including cameras at end-effectors to provide any diagnostic information. This iteration of RSat mission will test out performance of robotic arms in space as a free-flyer.

Langley Research Center – Hampton, Virginia

Shields-1 is a technology demonstration of environmentally durable space hardware to increase the Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) of new commercial hardware through performance validation in the relevant space environment. It incorporates three experiments: vault electronics, charge dissipation film resistance and vault shielding development.

North Idaho STEM Charter Academy – Rathdrum, Idaho

DaVinci is an educational mission that will provide education for students worldwide about radio waves, aeronautical engineering, space propulsion and geography, as well as inspiration to enter STEM careers, thus feeding the pipeline for future engineers and scientists. DaVinci will send communication signals to schools across the globe, utilizing amplified radio frequencies to deliver inspirational Morse Code messages to Space Ambassadors with the theme of “Lighting Up Minds Around the World.”


Ten CubeSat projects were selected for the ELaNa XIX mission. They will be placed in RailPODs aboard the Electron rocket that will ferry them to space. The RailPOD was designed and manufactured by the California Polytechnic State University of San Luis Obispo, California, to integrate CubeSats onto launch vehicles. After the main payload deploys, the CubeSats will separate from their RailPODs. After 45 minutes in orbit, the CubeSat transmitters will turn on and university ground stations will listen for their beacons, determine their small satellites’ functionality and announce operational status. CubeSat mission durations and orbital life vary, but are anticipated to last at least three years. Upon mission completion, the CubeSats fall to Earth, burning up in the atmosphere.


Each CubeSat developer verified that its satellite complied with the RailPOD, Launch Range and Launch Vehicle requirements. Each ELaNa CubeSat complies with U.S. and NASA orbital debris mitigation standard practices.


 CubeSat Facts:

  • Built to standard dimensions of 1 unit (1U), which is equal to 10x10x10 cm
  • Can be 1U, 2U, 3U or 6U in size
  • Generally weigh less than 1.33 kg (3 lbs) per U – 6U may be up to 12 kg

The CubeSat Launch Iniative

CSLI enables the launch of CubeSat projects designed, built and operated by students, teachers and faculty. CSLI provides access to space for CubeSats developed by the NASA Centers and programs, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations giving all these CubeSat developers access to a low-cost pathway to conduct research in the areas of science, exploration, technology development, education or operations. ELaNa Missions, managed by Launch Services Program at KSC, launch the CubeSats selected through CSLI into space. ELaNa mission managers and their team reach students by introducing educational spaceflight in schools and colleges across the United States through the preparation of payloads that are flown in space. Since its inception in 2010, the initiative has selected more than 160 CubeSats and launched 74 CubeSats missions from primarily educational and government institutions around the U.S. These miniature satellites were chosen from a prioritized queue established through a shortlisting process from proposers that responded to public announcements on NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative. NASA will announce another call for proposals in mid-August 2019.


For additional information about the NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative, visit:


For additional information about the ELaNa XIX CubeSats, visit:

CubeSail: www.cubesail.us/videos

STF-1: www.stf1.com

ISX: http://www.polysat.org/in-development/

DaVinci: www.projectdavincicubesat.org

  • SamuelRoman13

    Pegasus can launch 1000lbs. Electron can launch 500lbs for 1/5 the cost. So unless it gets bigger it cannot launch what Pegasus does unfortunately. Maybe F1 will return and be reusable and replace Pegasus. F1 old price I think was 10 m$ 1/3 price of Pegasus. Why didn’t they use it and save a lot of money? Shotwell said of course they could build and launch F1. I guess they do not want the profit. So no 1000lb cheap launch. I think all of the new small lauchers are way below that. Maybe a look through N-G rocket motor catalog and check prices might find a combination and buy motors and launch and make a profit at 10m$, 1/3 cost of Pegasus.

  • duheagle

    The Firefly Alpha is being designed to put 2,200 pounds into LEO and about 1,400 pounds into a 500 km sun-synchronous orbit.