What makes Alpha special?

Alpha CubeSat’s main mission objective is to deploy a light sail. But the CubeSat itself has a lot of innovation to offer!

Alpha CubeSat uses easy-to-obtain components, and its structure is almost entirely 3D-printed. These aspects make Alpha a trendsetter for low-cost CubeSat technologies.

Check out the CubeSat in AR!

Alpha's Innovations

Action shot of Alpha team members Josh, Ally, and Andy assembling the CubeSat (at right) based on its prototype (at left).

As soon as Alpha CubeSat deploys from the International Space Station, it will stabilize and align itself with the Earth’s magnetic field. This will help us easily contact the CubeSat, and allow for a smooth deployment of the light sail. The CubeSat will stabilize itself using only magnetorquers—coils that produce their own magnetic field, which then interacts with Earth’s.

Action shot of the electronics stack being integrated into the CubeSat. The RockBLOCK is the shiny metal box at left; one of the copper magnetorquers can be seen on the CubeSat’s right side.

Another innovation is the use of a RockBlock transmitter with an Iridium modem. This modem allows us to communicate with the CubeSat over a satellite network. We don’t need to build any receiving or transmitting stations for the CubeSat on Earth—we can just send commands by connecting over the Internet!

After we release the light sail, the CubeSat will take a picture to make sure all went well. From then on, the sailing portion of the mission will rely on the light sail’s ChipSats.

Getting Technical: CubeSat Components

Alpha CubeSat’s parts are low-cost and commercially available—making space much less of a giant leap!



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