In Part 1 of our series on COTS components for space applications, we discussed why the government is increasingly turning to “commercial off the shelf” parts for spacecraft, satellites and more. COTS parts have already been successfully adopted in many military applications, but when it comes to space, COTS adoption has been much slower.
Space exploration has never been cheap. In the days of the Apollo program, the cost of sending payloads into space was such that only government agencies with billions of dollars to spend could afford it. Over time, those costs have begun to come down, but even with advances in launch technology, funding for such activities ebbs and flows. In the wake of budget cuts for military and aerospace Research and Development, there has been much pressure to develop systems and designs that meet the needs of space projects and reduce costs without sacrificing quality. This is where COTS (Commercial Off-The Shelf) products offer a potential solution.
Welcome to the new world of CubeSat Manufacturers! These small satellites are becoming more and more popular in today’s new space industry. Their increasing popularity is mostly because of their small, lightweight, and inexpensive designs. The standard 1U Cube Satellite is 10cm x 10cm x 10cm in size. However, since their inception in 1999, new Cube Satellite companies have developed more variations in size to meet desired payload levels. A 1.5U, 2U, 3U, 6U, 8U, 12U etc. are now offered to meet customer's growing specifications.