Kits, Components, and the Design, Manufacture, and Testing of Small Satellites

Living reference work entry


The “NewSpace” revolution has changed the world of satellite applications, science, and experimentation. The design, manufacture, testing, and operation of small satellites in the age of “NewSpace” (or “Space 2.0”) have altered dramatically – especially so in the past decade. Today is a time when small satellites (i) are still shrinking in size; (ii) are being designed and built more economically; (iii) are being tested more efficiently; (iv) are being subtly upgraded through multiple generations with minor improvements; (v) are being produced at a much more rapid pace: and (vi) are definitely being launched at lower cost. All of these shifting factors that might be called “efficiency factors” make the field of small satellite design and construction fairly dynamic. Nevertheless construction standards for cubesats and now pocketQubes help to acquire smallsat components and structural elements from a competitive global market via the Internet with increased efficiency and competitive costs. There are also Internet sites that provide useful description of qualified suppliers and their products with clarity and useful background information.

Clearly the small satellite market is divided into truly diminutive units (i.e., femtosats, picosats (including pocketQubes), and nanosats (including cubesats)) that are typically for academic experiments and investigations and the larger smallsats for commercial services (3U cubesats and up to microsats and minisats). Although the suppliers of kits, components, and smallsat sensors are largely attuned to academic institutions and student small satellite experiments and proof-of-technical-concept missions, some of these same suppliers can also support commercial market satellite programs as well.

This chapter is focused on providing some advice and guidance on more effective ways to design, obtain key parts and components, integrate, test, and arrange for the launch of what is often called the academic smallsat market. Nevertheless, this chapter may also provide useful information to commercial smallsat programs, especially those whose spacecraft are of the 3U to 6U cubesat variety.


Chipsats Components Cubesat Femtosat Independent verification and validation (IV&V) Kits Launch services Mother ships Nanosat Picosat Qubesat Resiliency Smallsat Smallsat components Smallsat kits Swarms of smallsats Testing and verification 


  1. Alba Orbital, Pocketqube kit, Last accessed 22 July 2019
  2. A. Bukley, J. Connolly, T. Kaya, K. Yoshida, Systems and spacecraft (chapter 8), in The Farthest Shore, ed. by J. N. Pelton, A. Bukley, 2nd edn., (Apogee Books, Burlington, 2018)Google Scholar
  3. IFL Science, “Sticker-Sized Satellites Will Soon Get to Orbit” IFL Science. Last accessed 25 July 2019
  4. NASA SPOON Database, Smallsat parts on-orbit now (SPOON) database, NASA, request for information, solicitation number: NNA17S3VI001 Issued: July 31, 2017 and Modified: July 02, 2018.
  5. Satnews, SENSE meteorological Smallsat for U.S. Air Force by Boeing. Last accessed 22 July 2019
  6. STRaND-1, Surrey training research and nanosat demonstrator. Last accessed 21 July 2019
  7. STRaND-1 Smartphone Cubesat. Last accessed 21 July 2019
  8. R. Walker, P. Hager, “ESA Small Satellite Efforts” ESA presentation, IPPW small satellite course, June 2018.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Executive BoardInternational Association for the Advancement of Space SafetyArlingtonUSA
  2. 2.International Space University (ISU)StrasbourgFrance
  3. 3.University of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  4. 4.Baylor UniversityWacoUSA

Personalised recommendations