Although the development of nano-satelites has vastly reduced the costs of conducting basic, and in some cases more advanced scientific research in Low Earth Orbit in recent years, the $50 000 or more involved in constructing a cubesat is still prohibitively high. To date, no private initiatives have led to the launch of a cubesat mission, even though the actual launch can be had for free under certain conditions.
However, the relatively low cost of conducting cubesat-based research has opened up many opportunities for schools, universities, and other organizations to send their own cubesats that are four inches square, and only weigh a few pounds, into space to conduct high-level research into subjects as diverse as metal corrosion, yeast cell growth, the detection of forest fires and many more.
To illustrate the versatility and adaptability of cubesat technology, we have compiled a list of ten random examples of cubesat missions that are either ongoing, or had been concluded successfully.
1.) Earth Observation – Flock 1b
Launch date: September 7, 2014.
Organization: Planet Labs.
Research objective: Earth Imaging.
In conjunction with a previous mission known as Flock-1, Flock 1b enables a more continuous imaging of the entire globe to aid in humanitarian efforts. Primary areas of interest include monitoring deforestation, melting rates of the ice caps, and investigation of soil conditions to improve crop yields in developing nations.
Planet Labs provides global access to information gathered to all interested researchers to ensure optimal utilization of relevant data sets.
2.) Plant Seed Growth.
Launch date: September 30, 2012.
Organization: Valley Christian Schools.
Research objective: Investigation of plant seed growth in microgravity.
Although the primary objective of this mission is to provide a teaching platform to students, a secondary objective is the investigation of the effects of microgravity on plant growth. This module employs a self-contained seed-growth capsule in which the various stages of seed germination is monitored by an internal camera in the pressurised environment of the International Space Station.
3.) Symbiotic Nodulation.
Launch date: September 2, 2014.
Organization: Limerick Institute of Technology.
Research objectives: Formation of symbiotic nodes in reduced gravity.
The primary objective of the mission is to investigate the effects of microgravity on the manner in which symbiotic bacterial colonies on the roots of plants supply some plants with nitrogen. Reduced gravity is known to effect living organisms on the cellular level, and new insights into …