The CubeSat standard was created by California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and Stanford University’s Space Systems Development Lab in 1999 to facilitate access to space for university students. Since then the standard has been adopted by hundreds of organizations worldwide. CubeSat developers include not only universities and educational institutions, but also private firms and government organizations.
The CubeSat standard facilitates frequent and affordable access to space with launch opportunities available on most launch vehicles.
Until 2013, university education and research activities accounted for the majority of CubeSat launches. Since then, over half of CubeSat launches have been for non-academic purposes. Today, most newly deployed CubeSats are used for commercial or amateur projects.
CubeSat applications usually involve experiments which can be miniaturized and provide services for Earth observation and amateur radio applications. Some CubeSats are used to demonstrate spacecraft technologies or as feasibility demonstrators that can help to justify the cost of a larger satellite.
In some cases CubeSats may be used for low-cost scientific experiments that may verify underlying theories. In many cases, CubeSats represent a first national satellite for non-spacefaring nations. Finally, several future missions to the Moon and beyond are in the planning stages for CubeSats.
CubeSats have allowed the creation of an entire spaceflight subculture. Since it only takes one or two years to build and launch these tiny spacecraft, and the cost is only a small fraction of money spent on traditional satellites, many more people have entered the space exploitation community. For example, university students can see the results of their work while still working on degrees. Of course, these advantages have also led to important innovations.
It all started in 1999, when professors Jordi Puig-Suari of Cal Poly and Bob Twiggs of Stanford proposed a reference design for the CubeSat. Their goal was to enable graduate students to design, build, test and operate limited capabilities of artificial satellites within the time and financial constraints of a graduate degree program.
The first launched CubeSats were placed into orbit in June 2003 on a Russian Eurockot.
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