in English : | 1 | 2 | 3 |

in Japanese : | 1 | 2 | 3 |

Q. What is the competitive edge of satellite developments at Stanford?

I don't believe we have a competitive edge. The work that the Japanese universities are doing is extemporary. That is proven by the success of the CubeSats from University of Tokyo and Tokyo Institute of technology. The success of the universities is more dependent upon the guidance of the program from the faculty advisor. Success in orbit is better achieved if the complexity of the CubeSat is kept simple.

prof. Twiggs

Q. What do you think is the special recipe with which a student satellite project leap?

I believe there are two factors. The first challenge and excitement about doing space projects. The second is having a student managed project. When the students are allowed to have autonomy in their work, most tend to really excel. Also because the students do not have a lot of experience they tend to be more innovative.

Q. What do you think makes the Japanese and the US student projects successful? And what are obstacles if any?

I believe the advantage that the Japanese and US students may have over students from other countries is the availability of new technology. The new innovations with wireless communications, low power - high capability micro controllers and new battery technologies are ideally suited for use in CubeSats.

The biggest obstacle that the US faces is launch availability by the US ITAR restriction making it difficult to export CubeSats for launches, ie with the Russians. There is a lot of excess launch capacity on US launch vehicles, but the launch providers do not see any value in using this capacity for secondary payload such as the CubeSats. We continue to work on this issue with the US launch providers.

It is interesting that the Japanese universities do not have the export ITAR problem, but still do not seem to be able to get launches with the Japanese launch providers.

An obstacle that all universities that want to launch CubeSats or a number of small satellites is the debris issue. These small satellites are difficult for the US NORAD debris tracking organization to track in orbit. What is needed is a way to deorbit CubeSats once they have completed their useful life. This is an issue that should be of prime importance to all CubeSat developers. When a CubeSat is in a 650km orbit it can take 25-50 years to deorbit.

There are now two known possible ways of deorbiting CubeSats that have not been tested. The first is with an electrically conducting tether. Dissipating the energy generated in the tether will deorbit the CubeSat. The second is to extend some type of device that has a large surface area such as a balloon or fan type device that significantly increases the atmospheric drag and cause the CubeSat to deorbit in less than one year.

I would expect that there may be a requirement that one of these deorbiting devices would have to be a part of all CubeSats launched in the future.


I believe that one of the aspects about the global CubeSat program that we have tried to promote is the free exchange of design and lessons learned information. We have always encouraged universities doing CubeSats to share what they learn. We have seen this happen not only between universities but also with government and industry aerospace organizations.

If we can encourage this generation of new engineers that get experience from the CubeSat programs to be more globally conscious and sharing information the whole aerospace and space business will benefit.

in English : | 1 | 2 | 3 |

in Japanese : | 1 | 2 | 3 |