A CubeSat, not a regular satellite.
CubeSats appear to be the most simple and yet adequate answer to the demands and constraints of space exploration. But what is a CubeSat ?
A CubeSat is a Nano satellite : Typically 10 centimeter cube and weighing a mere 1 kilogram. The structure design is so simple that some have even been manufactured quite easily by advanced amateurs. What about the cost ? Relatively cheap compared to regular satellites. Freightage wise, they were usually carried aboard a Poly-PicoSatellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD), a standard P-POD being able to hold up to three CubeSats. But now, other companies provide CubeSat deployment systems. The choice is ours to make.
Over a hundred of CubeSats have been launched into space since their first application towards the beginning of the Second millenium. They are now rather popular, especially among schools and governments, because they are cheap and relatively easy to build. Environmentally speaking? Once launched, most of them come back due to the friction within the higher layers of the atmosphere, which enables them to dissolve quickly.
Small, but very useful. Indeed, space photography has been considerably eased by the application of such a revolutionary concept. In addition to this, it is able to communicate its measures, with an outreach that extends from Biological experiments to atmospheric research, and of course technology proof testing. CubeSats are thus a concrete test platform for future technology. And now that it has become THE standard microsatellite, it may become even more popular thanks to new objectives - and this is exactly where Birdy can write a piece of history - as well as an increasing affordability in the years to come. “Only a few years ago you needed a degree in Engineering or millions of dollars to build a satellite. Now all you need is a credit card and some hard work. Launching it…is another story.”
But what exactly makes our CubeSat "Birdy" so special ?
Our CubeSat is a 10x10x30 centimeter cube structure, weighing about 4 kilograms. Such a size fits perfectly into the P-POD platform, filling all the space at our disposal.
So what is Birdy's X factor? Something that a CubeSat has never had to endure : a trajectory that will take it all the way to Mars (and back). Its main goal is to measure radiations in the way to Mars for scientific research. He will be able to communicate with us on in his approach to a Martian orbiter, just before leading off its return trajectory.
But "Never Before" implies a true lack of precise documentation, as well as an absence of standardization. This is why the preparation of such a mission is the key to success. Different teams, mainly based in Taiwan and France for the moment, are now working on specific parts of the project. Thanks to time, coordination and motivation, we are now on our way to providing the scientific community with a pertinent and precise experiment. So tune in on the latest news right here !
Video credit : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50_AntgK8ZA