Forum Abstract

An international study team of scientist and engineering leaders under the auspices of COSPAR has embarked on a 2-year activity to develop an international scientific roadmap on Small Satellites for Space Science (4S), focusing particularly on CubeSats and CubeSat-technology enabled small satellites. CubeSats are small satelites built in increments of 10 cm cubes (1 cube is called 1U or „unit,“ two 10 cm cubes together are known as 2U, and so on). The report is motivated by recent progress and results summarized in a published report (Zurbuchen, von Steiger et al, Performing High-Quality Science on CubeSats, Space Research Today, Vol. 196, pp. 10-30, August 2016) and a study by the US National Academies (Zurbuchen, Lal, et al., Achieving Science with CubeSats: Thinking Inside the Box, The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2016).

The scientific roadmap will address six specific questions:

1) What are the status and use of CubeSats for science, their technological capabilities, and their key successes to date?

2) What is the scientific potential of small satellites both as stand-alone targeted missions, but also as secondary payloads, and as constellations and swarms?

3) What is the role of participating agencies and industry in developing standardized approaches to the development of spacecraft (hardware and software), and also ground-systems, etc. that enables this science?

4) What are the policies that support the growth of the number and types of CubeSats and CubeSat technology enabled small satellites, related to communications and frequency allocation, orbital debris, and launch vehicles?

5) What are successful models for international collaboration between teams developing and operating small missions, and how are data being shared and preserved for the future?

6) How can participating international universities learn from each other to share lessons learned and drive international collaborations in this rapidly moving field?

These questions should be addressed in a roadmap that is of value to space agencies internationally and their supporting governments. The roadmap is to be developed by a study team that covers a broad range of scientific disciplines, composed of scientists and engineers working in universities, public research institutions and industry. The Team is co-led by Robyn Millan (Dartmouth College, NH, USA) and Rudolf von Steiger (ISSI) and has met in a first Forum meeting on 23–24 May, 2017. An intermediate report of the progress was given at the 3rd COSPAR Symposium on Jeju Island, Korea, in September, 2017, and the second ISSI Forum will take place on 10-11 April, 2018. The final Roadmap document should be presented to the 42nd COSPAR Assembly in Pasadena in July, 2018.

Last update: February 6, 2018