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NASA’s Cubesat Launch Initiative
CubeSat This image is an artists rendition of Montana State University's Explorer-1 [Prime] CubeSat. Source: Montana State University, Space Science and Engineering Laboratory.

NASA is announcing a new initiative to launch small cube-shaped satellites. CubeSats are a class of research spacecraft called picosatellites, having a size of approximately four inches, a volume of about one quart, and weighing no more than 2.2 pounds. The CubeSats are planned as auxiliary payloads on launch vehicles already planned for 2011 and 2012.

NASA made our first open announcement to create an agency-prioritized list of available CubeSats in April this year.

From that first announcement a total of 12 CubeSat payloads were down-selected for launch opportunities. The down-selected proposals include contributions from the following educational institutions: Auburn University, California Polytechnic State University, Medgar Evers College - City University of New York, Montana State University, Regents of the University of Colorado, University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of California, University of New Hampshire, University of Michigan, Utah State, and Vermont Technical College.

"We're anticipating some exciting proposals for this pilot program with hopes to break down the barriers to the launching of CubeSats," said Jason Crusan, chief technologist for NASA's Space Operations Mission Directorate in Washington. "There are organizations that have been waiting a long time for a chance to see their satellites fly in space."


Investigations proposed for this pilot project must address an aspect of science, exploration, technology development, education or operations encompassed by NASA's strategic goals and outcomes as identified in the NASA Strategic Plan and/or NASA's Education Strategic Coordination Framework.

Collaborators may be required to provide partial reimbursement of approximately $30,000 per CubeSat. NASA will not provide funding to support CubeSat activity or development. Selection does not guarantee an availability of a launch opportunity.

Additional CubeSat launch capacity is still available in 2011 and 2012, so a second announcement of CubeSat integration and launch opportunities is being released. This second announcement will relieve the requirement that development efforts be conducted under existing NASA‐supported activities. However, proposers must still be educational institutions and contribute to NASA strategic goals and outcomes.

Under this new announcement proposals must be submitted electronically and be received by 4:30 p.m. EDT November 15, 2010. Submissions will be evaluated by NASA personnel. Selection is anticipated by January 31, 2011.

Download the PDF of the CubeSat Launch Initiative Announcement (176KB PDF)


For more information concerning the CubeSats launch opportunities please visit:
NASA HQ Business Opportunities page.