Communications type 6U CubeSats

 | Post date: 2021/07/12 | 

1. M6P 1,2

M6P is a 6U-CubeSat project being developed by the Lithuanian NanoAvionics as a pathfinder mission for their M6P cubesat platform. It is a ride-share mission for two customers.


During the mission NanoAvionics will be testing their 6U (called M6P – Multipurpose 6U Platform) platform based on a modular and highly integral design which extends payload volume. The M6P will be 4th Lithuanian built Cubesat and a lot of knowledge and experience will be used gathered from still active LituanicaSat-2 mission.

The M6P will be equipped with active stabilization: integrated magnetorquers and momentum wheels. There will also going to be installed in house build EPS, Flight computer with integrated ADCS, and COMMs. Satellite will also include 2 UHF transceivers (for redundancy purposes) that will work with deployable dual dipole turnstile type antennas.

The M6P platform also includes propulsion system capable to perform maneuvers such as orbital deployment, orbit maintenance, atmospheric drag compensation, precision flight in formations, orbit synchronization and atmospheric drag compensation resulting in extended satellite orbital lifetime. The propulsion unit also provides satellites with decommissioning utility at the end of mission, meeting the space debris mitigation requirements of ESA and NASA. So called “green” chemical propulsion system to reach TRL7 was previously launched with PSLV C-38 and successfully tested in orbit during LituanicaSat-2 mission. Propulsion experiment onboard M6P will bring propulsion system developed by NanoAvionics to TRL9.

To ensure the practical reliability of the platform, radiation-resistant components and design implementations have been incorporated to support critical systems such as the Flight Computer, Payload Controller, Electric Power System and Communication System. The platform is optimized to have a nominal 5 years operational lifetime in a Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) environment.

The M6P satellite carries ride-share payloads for two customers:

  • SpaceWorks Orbital will be testing their IoT (Internet of Things) radio technology by demonstrationg ground to space communications for their low-cost IoT archtecture for their Blink Astro business line
  • Lacuna Space will demonstrate the receiving of LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) signals from terrestrial IoT devices to relay the data through the company's cloud-based Lacuna Network

Additionally, the satellite will demonstrate NanoAvioncs' M6P nanosatellite technology.

The satellite was released into a lower than planned orbit due to a delayed deployment, reducing the orbital life time slightly.

A second satellite, R 2 or M6P 2 will be launched in 2020. It is also a hosted payload rideshare mission. The payloads are one of OMS’s miniaturized passive microwave sensors, a Hall-Effect propulsion system demonstrator from Exotrail (?) and another Lacuna Space payload. The software developed by Exotrail (ExoOPS) for mission design and operation will serve as a key propulsion ground segment element for the mission.

2. Kepler constellation

Kepler Communications, a small satellite startup, is designing a constellation of CubeSats for Internet of Things (IoT), machine-to-machine (M2M) and inter-satellite communications services.

Kepler offers two primary communications services. The first is a global data transfer service that will securely relay gigabytes of data in a high-bandwidth store-and-forward solution via a Ku-band high-data-rate communications system aboard each satellite. The second service will provide cellular-quality, standardized Internet of Things (IoT) connections linking sensors and devices anywhere on Earth with their service provider.

After the first initial prototypes, KIPP and CASE and TARS, Kepler needed a mass producible design for the operational constellation.

Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) and Kepler Communications have entered into a satellite development and manufacturing agreement that could serve as a blueprint for future collaboration between microspace and newspace organizations. SFL has designed and built the first fully operational Gen1 nanosatellite in Kepler’s constellation of commercial communications satellites. The design of this satellite will be used by Kepler in mass producing 140 satellites. SFL personnel are assisting with the start up of production at a Kepler-owned and operated manufacturing facility where duplicate satellites will be mass produced. For Gen1, 15 satellites are planned.

SFL's 6U-XL CubeSat platform called Spartan features deployable solar arrays, software defined radios (SDR), a narrowband communications payload and high gain antennas.

3. Hydra Constellation

Hydra is a costellation 6U CubeSat developed by Aistech to provide thermal images of the Earth and also help with maritime and aeronautical tracking.


For imaging a multispectral imaging system able to take pictures in thermal, infrared and visual spectrum, is on board, for uses in forest management, fire detection, gathering data for agriculture like identifying the health of the plant, analysing land for expansion. It can also detect energy consumption and loss of buildings.

The satellites provide aircraft tracking tracking via an ADS-B receiver. Also a bidirectional communication system is on board to send and receive automatic information from the vessel or remote asset worldwide.

The first four satellites are to be launched in 2020. Aistech plans a constellation of 30 such nanosatellites encircling the planet.

4. Hyber 1 , 2

The Hiber 1 and 2 are 6U CubeSat pathfinder missions for Hiber Global's (formerly Magnitude Space) planned communications Cubesat constellation.


The Hiber constellation is to consist initially of 18 to 24 cubesats, later to expanded to 50, which are designed to provide connectivity for IoT (Internet of Things) sensors and devices that run on very limited power and are not latency-sensitive.

The 6U CubeSats are being built by ISIS. The payload is built by Hiber Global and integrated at ISIS into the satellites.

The Hiber 1 satellite was launched as a secondary payload on an Indian PSLV rocket in late November 2018. The second satellite, Hiber 2, was launched on Spaceflight Industry's SSO-A multi-satellite launch on a Falcon-9 v1.2 (Block 5) rocket. In 2019, a Hiber satellite was planned to be launched on a dedicated Vector-R rocket, but did not take place due to Vector dropping out of business.

The company plans to start their services with the initial prototype satellites, and more cubesats are planned to launch in 2019 and 2020, increasing service quality. The second generation Hiber satellites are smaller 3U CubeSats.


5. MarCO A, B (Wall-E, Eva)

MarCO (Mars Cube One) is a two spacecraft mission to accompany the InSight Mars lander to provide real-time data relay during the landing phase, as the MRO, MAVEN, and Mars Odyssey orbiters will not be in position to receive InSight data. The probes are nick-named Wall-E and Eva.


The MarCO space craft were built at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory to the 6U-cubesats form factor. They feature two deployable solar arrays and a deployable X-band antenna and an UHF antenna. These provide an 8 kbps UHF link from InSight to MarCO and an 8 kbps X-band link: MarCO to the Deep Space Network (DSN).

A color wide-field engineering camera on each MarCO will be used to confirm high-gain antenna deployment. The wide-field camera has a 138-degree diagonal field of view. Each MarCO also carries a color narrow-field camera with a 6.8-degree diagonal field of view pointed in the direction of the UHF antenna (the opposite direction from the high-gain antenna). Both cameras can produce images 752 by 480 pixels in resolution.

Both MarCOs carry a self-contained propulsion system featuring a system-in-a-tank design with propellant storage and feed system, thrusters and a controller and sensor suite. It has four 4 axial and four RCS 25 mN thrusters using R236FA hydrofluorocarbon gas as propellant.

The MarCO satellites were deployed from the Atlas-5(401) launch vehicles upper stage and fly on their own to Mars, performing trajectory correction maneuvers.

Depending on remaining fuel, the MarCO crafts may continue on to visit a small body.


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