CubeSat Database

[Note: With Planet and Spire contributing more than 300 CubeSats between them, their missions dominate any chart that I could produce. Therefore, for the sake of readability, many of my charts will exclude them; I will indicate those with "No Constellations" in the title.]

This is my working list of all CubeSats that have flown or have firm manifests. Note that any information about any future launch should be regarded with healthy skepticism: launch dates slip, the identities of the CubeSats that will fly on future missions change, and, occasionally, launch providers will surprise us with after-the-fact announcements that they carried CubeSats. (I'm looking at you, SpaceX. Among others.)

About This Web Page

This page has four sections
  • I have put many plots on subpages.
  • Definitions for all the terms used in the database.
  • The database itself.
  • The list of primary references used to compile the database.
Special topics get their own, separate pages:
  • A (short) history lesson regarding exciting satellite constellations.
  • A discussion of CubeSats and their (comparatively small) orbital-debris threat

Standard Plots

  • Basic census data (number of missions, mission classes, identity of organizations participating)
  • Levels of mission success for university-class and professional-class CubeSats

Definitions

  • CubeSat. When we talk about "CubeSats", we're really talking about "containerized spacecraft"; so many CubeSats have flown because it is (comparatively) easy to qualify the containers for launch. Why? The container decouples the spacecraft from the launch vehicle; more so than any other launch system, the CubeSat restrictions and the container protect the launch vehicle from the secondary spacecraft. (And vice versa, but that's of lesser concern to the launch vehicle). So, as far as I'm concerned, a CubeSat-class spacecraft is any situation where the spacecraft is launched in a standardized container - or is compatible with such containers. Example containers:
    • The Opal ejector system. Opal is where the CubeSat idea was conceived and first executed.
    • The Space Shuttle Picosat Launcher (SSPL).
    • Any of the ejectors that are (mostly) compatible with the Cal Poly CubeSat Design Specification:
      • Cal Poly's P-POD.
      • The ISIPOD and QuadPack
      • JAXA's ejector for the International Space Station (J-SSOD), brokered by NanoRacks.
      • NanoRacks has its own dispenser, the lengthily-named NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD).
      • The Pico Satellite launcher (PSL), by Astro- und Feinwerktechnik, which comes in Single,  Double and Triple variants; all variants will be labeled as PSL in the database. 
      • NASA's NLAS.
      • Planetary System Corp.'s Canisterized Satellite Dispenser.
      • [contact me with more variants]
  • Mission Status. We have defined levels of mission success, based on what fraction (if any) of the mission objectives have been achieved. Mission status is distinct from spacecraft functional status; mission status is only concerned with how much of the primary mission has been achieved. An otherwise-functional spacecraft with a broken primary payload would be stuck at Level 3. A spacecraft that cannot downlink its mission data, for whatever reasons, would be stuck at whatever Level it achieved at the point of failure. A spacecraft that achieved its mission success and then died is still at Level 5.
    •  0  (Manifested): A launch date has been published. We don't keep track of missions until a launch date has been published. (And even then, we usually don't include them on the public database, below. Too much variability in launch dates/mission definitions before launch.)
    •  1  (Launched): The rocket began liftoff. (Launch failures usually stop at Mission Status 1.)
    •  2  (Deployed): The spacecraft is confirmed to have released from the launch vehicle.
    •  3  (Commissioning): The spacecraft has had at least one uplink and downlink. 
    •  4  (Primary operations): The spacecraft is taking actions that achieve primary mission success (i.e., receiving commands, downlinking mission data)
    •  5  (Mission success): Primary mission objectives have been met. The spacecraft may continue to operate, run secondary missions, etc.
  • Mission Type. Missions are categorized as follows:
    • C (Communications): The primary mission is to relay communications between two points. Amateur radio service and AIS tracking are common examples.
    • E (Educational): The primary mission is the education/professional training of the participants in the spacecraft design lifecycle. To be and E-class mission any science returns or technology demonstrations must be of secondary value to the education. Typically, E-class missions have no science or technology value, except to the mission developers themselves. E-class missions are also called "Beepsats", as they don't do anything but "beep" health & status data back to the ground.
    • I (Earth Imaging): The mission is to return images of the Earth for commercial and/or research purposes. Planet Labs' Dove constellation is the primary example.
    • M (Military): The mission has military relevance that does not properly fit in the other categories.
    • S (Science): The mission collects data for scientific research, including Earth science, atmospheric science, space weather, etc. To be S-class, there must be a clear connection between the data collected and end-user researchers; a spacecraft that measures the Earth's magnetic field and publishes the data on the web, hoping that some scientist will find the data useful, is not an S-class mission. (It's probably an E-class mission.)
    • T (Technology Demonstration): The mission involves the first flight of a new technology or capability, such that it is advanced one or more Technology Readiness Levels (or equivalent indicator). As with S-class missions, it is not enough to simply try out some new technology in space; there must be a clear, obvious process by which the behaviors of this new technology in orbit are validated.
  • Functional Status. This status is solely concerned with the present-day functional capabilities of the spacecraft
    • D (Deorbited/pre-orbit): The spacecraft is not in orbit (either pre-launch, or it has de-orbited).
    • N (Non-operational): No activity can be detected.
    • S (Semi-operational): The spacecraft has one or more key functions disabled (e.g., no uplink, battery failure).
    • A (Active): The spacecraft is capable of all baseline functions. 
  • Class. The spacecraft class is the type of organization responsible for the design/construction/operation.
    • Civil (civ). Civilian government organization (e.g., NASA, JAXA, ESA).
    • Commercial (com). A private organization. If a contractor builds the spacecraft for another organization, then the satellite is classified as civil/military. And though Amateur satellites are by definition not commercial, AMSAT missions are classified here. (Sorry for the confusion.)
    • Military (mil). A government military/defense organization (e.g., the US Air Force).
    • University (uni). A university or other educational institution (including high schools). To be considered university-class, student education must be part of the core mission. Otherwise, if the university is contracted to build the spacecraft as if it were a professional organization, it will be classified under that organization.

Database

   Help us improve our database!aa

  • If you are involved with one of the missions, below, and want to correct/update our information, please contact me directly.
  • If a mission is missing from our database, use this form to notify us.

References