Small Satellites: A Revolution in Space Science

July 16-20, 2012
California Institute of Technology - Pasadena, CA 91125

Final Report

Workshop Overview:

Technology advances in small spacecraft development, the growing numbers of launch opportunities, and the short turn-around time from mission conception to science return has drawn increased attention in the potential of small satellites to perform leading edge science from low Earth orbit. In particular, the CubeSat platform (< 10 kg) is driving new thinking regarding low-cost high-payoff Earth science observations that are largely inaccessible to more traditional spacecraft. Now that discoveries are being made this has motivated us to consider a much deeper problem: Can SmallSats (< 200 kg) advance a new era of unique, high-risk, moderate cost explorations in space science for observations unachievable via any other platform?

This workshop will bring together space scientists, technologists, and mission designers across two workshops to conceive novel scientific observations and to resolve the technical roadblocks for new observations that are inaccessible to traditional spacecraft systems, yet enabled by small satellite systems. Investigations will span heliophysics, NEOs, and other small bodies, planetary exploration, and deep space science based on remote and in-situ observations. The driving theme is to push the boundaries of space science where the cost and risk would be unacceptable for Flagship-style billion dollar missions, yet the science return could fundamentally redefine our knowledge of the observed phenomenon.

This program will be driven by revolutions in thinking, as well as science and technology, at all levels from observations, to mission concept design, to instruments, where the impact must advance our knowledge and accessibility to space at a fundamental level. Operational success may not be realized for many years, but this workshop will lay the groundwork for the next revolution in space science driven by the smallest possible platforms to achieve a particular science objective.

Workshop Participants:

  • Vassilis Angelopoulos - UCLA/JPL
  • Manan Arya - Caltech
  • Julie Castillo-Rogez - JPL
  • James Cutler - University of Michigan
  • Dan Erwin - USC
  • Jason Hyon - JPL
  • Rebecca Jensen-Clem - MIT
  • Michael Johnson - JA
  • Laura Jones - Cornell University
  • Andrew Klesh - JPL
  • Janice Lee - Space Telescope Science Institute
  • Paulett Liewer - JPL
  • Edgar Lightsey - The University of Texas at Austin
  • Neil Murphy - JPL
  • Stephen Murray - Space Telescope Science/John Hopkins Univ.
  • Philip Nicholson - Cornell University
  • Charles Norton - JPL
  • Sergio Pellegrino - Caltech
  • Christopher Shaffer - UCLA
  • Sara Spangelo - University of Michigan
  • John Springmann - University of Michigan
  • Robert Staehle - JPL
  • John Steeves - Caltech
  • Stephen Unwin - JPL
  • Austin Williams - Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, Inc.

Short Course Presentations

Shri Kulkarni


Andrew Kalman
Pumpkin Inc.

Nine Years And Counting - A Nanosatellite Designer's Perspective
(1.6 MB .pdf)

James Cutler
U of Michigan

Science and CubeSats the NSF Experiment
(23.6 MB .pdf)

Glenn Lightsey
UT Austin

Capabilities of the SmallSat Platform
(3.4 MB .pdf)

Julie Castillo-Rogez

SmallSats Mission Concepts for Planetary Exploration

Panel on Small Satellite New Exploration Concepts in Astrophysics

  • Ranga Ram Chary
    (Caltech - IPAC)
  • Chris Martin
    (Caltech - GALEX)
  • Phil Nicholson
  • Vassilis Angelopoulos
    Magnetospheric Constellations: The Natural Next Step in Heliophysics Exploration
    (1.9 MB .pdf)
Moderator: Sterl Phinney

Workshop Presentations

Charles Norton

Introductions and Goal Setting
(3.1 MB .pdf)

Sara Seager

Planetary Science Unique Space Science from Small Satellites
(7 MB.pdf)

Manan Arya

Poster: AAReST Project- Ae105 Class Involvement
(1 MB.pdf)

Rebecca Jensen-Clem

Poster: ExoplanetSat- The Search for Earth-Sized Planets
(4.4 MB.pdf)

Laura Jones
Cornell University

Poster: The Technological Development of
Flux-Pinned Interfaces for Spacecraft
(1.9 MB.pdf)

Chris Shaffer

Poster: Study of the Need for Solar Panel Coverglass for CubeSat Missions
(448 KB.pdf)

Sara Spangelo
U of Michigan

Poster: Optimizing Satellite Operations: Near-Earth to Interplanetary Missions
(10.4 MB.pdf)

John Springmann
U of Michigan

Poster: Design and Calibration Techniques for Improved Small Satellite Performance
(2.3 MB.pdf)

John Steeves

Poster: AAReST Technology Development
(1.3 MB.pdf)

Austin Williams

Poster: PolySat
(7.7 MB.pdf)

Steve Unwin

Recap of July 2012 Cubesat-Based Low Frequency Radio Astronomy Missions Workshop

Stephen Murray
STScI and Johns Hopkins U.

Can Small Satellites Be Used to do Astronomy?
(13.2 MB.pdf)