Boeing’s highly advanced nanosatellite technology; CubeSat (CSTB1) has today surpassed 10,000 Earth orbits since its launch on 17 April 2007.

After completing its original goal of operating for six months in space and supporting three months of tests, the spacecraft continues to operate, providing engineers with data that is increasing the industry’s knowledge and validation of various miniature satellite designs, technologies and systems.

The advantage of NanoSats is that they can potentially perform functions similar to larger satellites, while requiring significantly less time and cost to produce. Their low cost allows for more innovative approaches to be used due to the higher tolerance for risk.

Programme manager for Boeing nano-satellite programmes, Scott MacGillivray said that CSTB1 was doing wonders to advance the development of NanoSat capabilities.

“We’ve downloaded more than a million data points to date, including dozens of photographs by CSTB1’s small camera with a lens the size of a pencil’s eraser head,” MacGillivray said.

CSTB1 weighs less than 2lb and consists of four microcontrollers as the brains, redundant communication systems with two independent radios, two high-capacity lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, a deployable antenna, a sophisticated control system that determines the attitude of the spacecraft using sun and magnetic-field sensors, a simple attitude control system that uses magnetic torque coils, and multifunctional boards containing sensors and electronics.

The miniature spacecraft are quickly deployable to launch sites and remote areas and can be integrated into a launch vehicle where they can ‘piggyback’ on a rocket carrying other payloads.

Boeing’s next CubeSat demonstration mission, CSTB3, will be the first of a family of spacecraft designs representative of Boeing’s new Tensor small-spacecraft avionics architecture, which will be the core of a wide array of missions.

By Daniel Garrun.