Minimize CubeSat - Launch 4

CubeSat - Launch 4

Launch: The fourth multiple-launch CubeSat mission from the territory of the former Soviet Union (today Russia and Kazakhstan) took place on April 17, 2006 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on a Dnepr launch vehicle (launch provider: ISC Kosmotras). The launch involved 7 CubeSats as secondary payloads. The CubeSat launch had been arranged by CalPoly and included 3 CubeSat P-PODs (Poly-Picosatellite Orbital Deployer) - which were deployed after the primary payload in the predetermined deployment sequence (see Table 1 and Figure 1). All three P-PODs deployed the CubSats successfully. 1) 2)

Note: The launch represented the first Dnepr vehicle flight after the severe launch failure on July 26, 2006 (the flight ended 2 minutes after launch). The latter one involved the following CubeSats: ION (University of Illinois), Sacred (University of Arizona), KUTESat (Kansas University), ICEcube-1, -2 (Cornell University), Rincon (University of Arizona), SEEDS (Nihon University), HAUSat-1 (Hankuk Av. University), nCube-1 (Norsk Romsenter), Merope (Montana St. University), AeroCube-1 (Aerospace Corp.), PolySat-1, -2 (CalPoly), and Voyager (University of Hawaii). - Additional smallsats on the flight were: Belka (RKK Energia, Russia, 250 kg), Baumanets (NPO Mash, Russia, 80 kg), UniSat-4 (University of Rome, Italy, 12 kg), and PicPot (University of Torino, Italy, 3 kg).
The launch failure was due to a malfunctioning hydraulic drive unit in a combustion chamber on the booster's first stage.

The other payloads on this flight (April 17, 2007) were:

1) EgyptSat-1 (primary payload, about 100 kg), a collaborative microsatellite project of NARSS (National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Science) of Egypt and the State Design Office "Yuzhnoye", Dnepropetrosvk, Ukraine.

2) SaudiSat-3 (12 kg), RSRI (Riyadh Space Research Institute), Saudi Arabia. The Earth observation satellite (providing imagery) was built by SunSpace of Stellenbosch University, South Africa for KAST (King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology).

3) SaudiComsat-3 (12 kg), RSRI, Saudi Arabia

4) SaudiComsat-4 (12 kg), RSRI, Saudi Arabia

5) SaudiComsat-5 (12 kg), RSRI, Saudi Arabia

6) SaudiComsat-6 (12 kg), RSRI, Saudi Arabia

7) SaudiComsat-7 (12 kg), RSRI, Saudi Arabia



P-POD Allocation

PolySat-4 (CP4)

CalPoly (California Polytechnic State University), San Luis Obispo, CA, USA



The Aerospace Corporation, El Segundo, CA, USA


The Boeing Company (1.36 kg), USA
CSTB-1 (CubeSat TestBed-1)

PolySat-3 (CP3)

CalPoly (California Polytechnic State University), San Luis Obispo, CA, USA



University of Louisiana, Lafayette, LA, USA
CAPE-1 (Cajun Advanced Picosat Experiment-1)


University of Sergio Arboleda, Columbia


Stanford University, Stanford, CA; TUI (Tethers Unlimited Inc.),
MAST (Multi-Application Survivable Tether)

P-POD-C (triple CubeSat)

Table 1: Overview of CubeSat allocations on launch 4 3)

Orbit: Sun-synchronous orbit, average altitude of ~ 700 km, inclination = 98º, LTAN (Local Time on Ascending Node) is at 22.30 hours UTC.

CubeSatL4_At Anchor3

Figure 1: Illustration of the three P-PODs for the seven CubeSats (image credit: CalPoly)

The lack of published information about the various CubeSats, as well as of the other EO missions, permits only the description of one project, namely MAST.

MAST (Multi-Application Survivable Tether)

MAST is a collaborative CubeSat project of TUI (Tethers Unlimited Inc.) of Lynnwood, WA and SSDL (Space Systems Development Laboratory) of Stanford University, Stanford, CA. The overall objective of the tether demonstration mission is to obtain data on tether performance, survivability, and dynamics. The data is crucial to the development of operational tether systems for propellantless propulsion and deorbit, formation-flying, and momentum-exchange transportation applications. In particular, detailed on-orbit data on the survivability of space tethers and other gossamer spacecraft structures in the micrometeorite/orbital debris (M/OD) environment is of prime importance. 4) 5)

The MAST experiment consists of three picosatellites, i.e. a triple CubeSat configuration, stacked into a single P-POD. The MAST experiment deploys three standard CubeSats (1 kg mass, 10 cm cube) along a 1 km "Hoytether" (a tether structure composed of multiple lines with redundant interlinking that is able to withstand many impacts) that incorporates both conducting and nonconducting materials. Each end of the tether will be anchored with a picosatellite. After deployment, the middle CubeSat, referred to as "Gadget", will slowly crawl up and down the tether, inspecting and scanning it for damage due to M/OD impacts and AO (Atomic Oxygen) degradation. The imagery of the tether will be transmitted periodically to a ground station for analysis. In addition, all three picosatellites contain GPS receivers, and data from these receivers will be collected to provide information on the dynamics of tethered formations of spacecraft and the performance of the tether deployment technologies. 6)

CubeSatL4_At Anchor2

Figure 2: Illustration of the various MAST spacecraft (image credit: TUI)

CubeSatL4_At Anchor1

Figure 3: MAST launch configuration (left) and deployed configuration (right), image credit: TUI)

CubeSatL4_At Anchor0

Figure 4: Block diagram of the MAST configuration (image credit: TUI, Stanford)

The MAST program has been funded through a combination of private and government research funds. The development of the underlying technologies was funded by a NASA Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) contract, with Stanford University's SSDL collaborating as the non-profit Research Institution.


2) "Russian booster puts batch of small satellites into orbit," April 17, 2007, URL:


4) R. Hoyt, J. Slostad, R. Twiggs, "The Multi-Application Survivability Tether (MAST) Experiment," Proceedings of the 39th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit, July 20-23, 2003, Huntsville, AL, USA, AIAA-2003-5219, URL:

5) "The MAST Experiment: A Low-Cost Picosat Experiment to Demonstrate Space Tether Technologies," URL:

6) M. McKee, "Inspector Gadget to star in space tether test," New Scientist Space, March 28, 2007, URL:

This description was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" - comments and corrections to this article are welcomed by the author.