Move over CubeSats! A New Type of Small Satellite is Preparing to Fly

Credit: The Aerospace Corporation

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The CubeSat format has dominated the small satellite industry for many years. Their small size – a 1U Cubesat measures a mere 10 x 10 x 10 cm (3.94 x 3.94 x 3.94 in) – has made spacecraft cheaper and easier to build. The ability to combine these units into larger spacecraft has given satellite makers a variety of options. CubeSats can be launched in large numbers on rideshare missions or as secondary payloads to larger satellites.

However, CubeSats do have limitations in terms of mass, power and other key aspects. Engineers at The Aerospace Corporation believe it’s time for small satellites to go in another direction. Instead of a cube, they are modeling their new spacecraft on a compact disc. They hope their design, known as DiskSat, will become a new standard for small satellites.


Thinking Outside the Cube: Engineers Developing Disk Shaped Satellites

DiskSat is a plate-shaped satellite (1 meter in diameter, 2.5 centimeters thick) that could provide the required power and aperture needed for future missions. (Credit: Aerospace Corporation)

In response to growing interest in capable SmallSats, a team of engineers and scientists are thinking outside the (CubeSat) box with DiskSat, a new circular satellite design.

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (Aerospace Corporation PR) — A defining feature of a standard CubeSat is its containerization—the shape, volume and design—which makes it rideshare-friendly. This quality was historically important since these devices comprised a minor part of the total payload. Containerization ensured that CubeSats could not endanger the launch vehicle or primary payload.

Now, Aerospace engineers and scientists have reevaluated whether the standard CubeSat may be the best shape for a mission.