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University of Arizona School of Business final report on Cubesats as disruptive technologies.

University of Arizona School of Business final report on Cubesats as disruptive technologies.

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  • 1. Industry Description and Strategic Recommendations for CubeSat Market By The NewSpace Business Group Eller College of Management, University of Arizona Jonathan Card John Fawkes Erin Forsyth
  • 2. Table of Contents Table of Contents ................................................................................................................ ii Table of Figures ................................................................................................................. iii 1 Executive Summary ...................................................................................................... 1 2 Disruptiveness of CubeSat Market ............................................................................... 2 1.1 Description of Christensen Model ......................................................................... 2 2.1 Overview of Interview Results .............................................................................. 4 2.2 Interpretation of Secondary Research .................................................................... 6 3 Parties Showing Interest ............................................................................................... 8 3.1 Interested Industry Members ................................................................................. 8 3.2 Interested University Members .............................................................................. 8 4 Value Network Overview ............................................................................................. 9 4.1 Description of Value Network Model.................................................................... 9 4.2 Launch Providers ................................................................................................. 10 4.3 Component Vendors ............................................................................................ 13 4.4 CubeSat Communications .................................................................................... 14 Appendices ........................................................................................................................ 16 List of Interested Parties ............................................................................................... 17 List of Launch Providers ............................................................................................... 20 ii
  • 3. Table of Figures Figure a. Characteristic profile of disruptive innovation versus the status quo in relation to the market. Chart generated by authors to demonstrate relationships, not from particular data.............................................................................................................. 3 Figure b. CubeSat component vendors .......................................................................... 14 iii
  • 4. 1 Executive Summary In this paper, the NewSpace Business Group explores the question of whether CubeSats are positioned to be a disruptive innovation to the traditional satellite market. The specific innovation under consideration is to approach satellite construction based on: 1. Off-the-shelf-parts and 2. The extensive use of standards to constrain design. As the study progressed, it became clear that it may have missed the key point, which is whether the design principles listed above are themselves the disruptive innovation and whether the traversal up-market of that innovation would consist of those principles being used in traditional satellite construction, rather than studying whether CubeSats in particular could be a disruption to the traditional satellite market. There is evidence to suggest that this is possible; the Iridium satellite constellation used many of these approaches in the late 1990s. However, that conclusion will have to wait for another study. This study concludes that CubeSat technology may on some level be disruptive to traditional satellites, but there is still a great deal of noise surrounding the emergence of the new technology. Upon analysis of the technology itself, there is still a dearth of data points to effectively analyze its emergence. The intent of this study is to outline methods of further analysis that could be pursued to resolve these questions. The main concern is still that there are no commercial customers that use CubeSats in a commercial setting. The market still seems dominated by research organizations. This could be because there still remain elements of the value chain that do not have candidate disruptions. The launch provider market has speculated about a number of launch paradigms, namely Interorbital, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR, but these have not yet begun in earnest and the existing launch platforms may not be able to serve CubeSats effectively in their own paradigm. The component vendors are still ambiguous whether they fit a new value network, and the existing regulatory structure surrounding space communications poses a difficult hurdle for this new paradigm. CubeSats could represent a new way of moving forward with spacecraft production It is interesting, important, and potentially profitable to watch this phenomenon unfold in the marketplace and we attempt here to outline the important factors to monitor of the next several years. 1
  • 5. 2 Disruptiveness of CubeSat Market The writers have taken as their belief that the CubeSat market is potentially disruptive not because the size of the CubeSat is itself important, but that the standardization of parts and protocols allows for a different paradigm of satellite design. By standardizing on shape, weight and dimension, the satellite designer is able to make inefficient design decisions based on decent assumptions and indirect sales channels to suppliers and complementary services rather than efficient design decisions based on extensive, and expensive, research and direct sales channels. Our principal interest is in this design paradigm, but we have adopted the disruptive nature of CubeSats themselves as an easier proxy for the disruptive nature of the paradigm. In conversations with our sponsor, we are questioning whether a better comparison would be whether the CubeSat market is capable of disrupting the traditional approach when applied to other kinds of nanosats. We cannot yet conclude whether CubeSats are capable of disrupting the satellite market. In some cases our limited resources prevent us from applying the model to the current market due to a lack of information. However, one of the key factors in the study is the complete lack of an identified initial market for CubeSats. The question of disruption of a given innovation is determined by its capability to transcend from a “toy” technology to replacing the existing technology paradigm. CubeSats have not demonstrated that they are even a toy in the commercial market. There are at least two statements that can be taken as null hypotheses that have not been rejected and it is not clear which should be taken as the null hypothesis to our problem: 1. CubeSats are not disruptive to the satellite market; 2. The CubeSat paradigm could be disruptive, but the particular standards adopted are incorrectly specified; 3. The CubeSat paradigm could be disruptive, but less than the entire value network (discussed below) has yet had the new paradigm applied to it, erecting a barrier to the development of any CubeSats. Belief in hypothesis 2 may be driving the development of the TubeSat standard being driven by Interorbital Systems and questions whether the new paradigm should be applied to larger satellites as an extension of the work begun by Iridium in the late 1990s. Belief in hypothesis 3 is a valid source for further inquiry that could be very rewarding. 1.1 Description of Christensen Model The fundamental profile of a disruptive innovation, as described by Dr. Christensen of Harvard University, is when the trajectory of improvement of an inferior, or simplified, technology that has non-traditional benefits is steeper than the trajectory of increasing technology requirements by the majority of the consumers of the technology. The principal characteristics, therefore, of a disruptive innovation are not of the innovation itself, but of the consumers of the innovation. These characteristics are: 2
  • 6. 1. The disruptive innovation is currently perceived as inferior to the traditional innovation, 2. The disruptive innovation is improving according to the characteristics used to evaluate the traditional way of doing business faster than the marketplace is demanding improvement in the traditional way of doing business, and 3. There exists a current market that is underserved or not served by the traditional technology This last characteristic is to provide a market for the disruptive technology to sell into until it disrupts the traditional way of doing business. The typical representation of a disruptive technology is a graph like in Figure a. Growth of a Disruptive Technology Traditional Innovation Demand, Technology capability Std Dev High Demand, Median Demand, Std Dev Low Disruptive Innovation 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 Year Figure a. Characteristic profile of disruptive innovation versus the status quo in relation to the market. Chart generated by authors to demonstrate relationships, not from particular data. The market demand is characterized by a distribution because not all customers desire the same level of technological complexity; currently, they are likely served by buying technology similar to the state-of-the-art in form and function, but at reduced functionality. In year 0, this is their only option as the best incarnation of the disruptive innovation has even less capability than the low-end incarnation of the traditional way of doing business. However, the rate of improvement of the disruptive innovation’s capabilities is greater than the increase in the customers’ needs and, in year 2, the best the disruptive innovation can offer surpasses what the median of the market requires. This does not constitute a “tipping point” except insofar as there is often a moment when the 3
  • 7. larger market becomes aware of the encroachment of the new innovation; the disruptive technology has been increasing its ability to serve more and more of the market gradually for the entire period, serving the “long tail” of customers whose needs are far below the median. Note: Despite Figure a, we do not assume that the distribution of the market’s demand for technological complexity is normally distributed. As we are principally interested in market share and number of sales, the measure of the center of the distribution that we will be using is the median of the distribution, not its mean. Notice that the disruptive innovation does not necessarily disrupt the entire market. It is not necessary for the innovation to have any particular rate of improvement relative to the traditional technology, and the traditional technology can be assumed not to increase faster than there are any customers who desire that level of sophistication. In Figure a, the rate of improvement of the disruptive technology is equal to the increase in demand for technological complexity of those customers one standard deviation from the mean. Neither these customers nor the technology vendors who serve them will be disrupted by the new technology. For example, while the desktop computer was disruptive to the majority of the minicomputer and mainframe markets, manufacturers who manufacture very high-end computers to serve very particular customers continue to exist, such as Cray. It does not negate the disruptiveness of the desktop to admit that Cray will never go the way of Digital, because Digital served the median niche and Cray served the undisrupted high-end niche. By the same token, transistors disrupted vacuum tubes from the bottom in a similar way, but with a trajectory of improvement that was greater than the improvement of vacuum tubes; there is no high-end vacuum tube market remaining. What are not depicted in Figure a, are the factors that create value for those customers who do not value the typical market measures of value; that is, those customers who demand technology that performs significantly below the market median. To establish the disruptiveness of CubeSats, therefore, we will be charting the technological demand in the major drivers of value in traditional satellites, as measured by the median capability purchased in a given year, against the increase in capability in those measures that CubeSats have demonstrated in that year. 2.1 Overview of Interview Results We established the following characteristics as integral to determining the sophistication of a satellite system: 1. The power system, 2. The precision of the attitude control (that is, the ability to reliably focus the satellite along a particular vector in 3-dimensional space), and 3. The complexity of the propulsion system. These results were gathered through interviews with high-ranking executives of companies that manufacture mid-range satellite systems and operate significant satellite 4
  • 8. constellations. Given that the manufacturers and the satellite operators were remarkably similar in their characterization of the important factors in assessing satellite systems, we decided to move forward with the secondary research. We did not have the ability to conduct a survey to quantify the extent of industry agreement that these characteristics were important due to our limited budget and access to industry members. Therefore, we can only testify to the existence of these characteristics as a concern; the significance of these characteristics, the relative importance of these characteristics, and the possible existence of other important characteristics are left to the reader to establish to their satisfaction One source of value that was raised by the interview subjects was attitude control. The degree of reliable accuracy when directing the satellite to a particular orientation, usually with respect to a point on the surface of the Earth, was a large source of value in a satellite. This extended to the level of vibrations caused by moving parts, or “jitter”. An example of a high-value satellite in this respect was commercial remote sensing satellites like Digital Globe’s satellites. They required a high degree of precision so that they could generate full coverage of the Earth in as few orbits as possible with a high resolution, which limited the footprint of the orbit on the surface of the Earth. This combination of requirements led to the functional requirements that subsequent orbits must have minimal overlap, leading the orientation precision of the camera to have very tight tolerances, and the camera must be capturing continuously as the solar panels reorient to track the sun, leading the bearings and actuators controlling the solar panels to offer sufficiently low vibrations that they do not blur the photographs taken in high telephoto. Another source of value that was raised by the interview subjects was propulsion. The sophistication of the propulsion system grew in a non-linear fashion as the requirements of the system grew in complexity. That is, it did not grow by a metric such as thrust per kilogram of satellite mass. Some satellites can be placed in orbit and left alone without propulsion. Some require the ability to relight, but are not interested in efficiency and thus can use hypergolic propellants, which do not require an ignition system. Some may require the ability to change orbits completely on their own and therefore need greater efficiency; these may upgrade to LOX-hydrocarbon systems that require an ignition system. Still others may require such high efficiencies that they use cryogenic fuel systems, which store propellants at near 0 Kelvin and thus have complex cooling systems. A third source of value that was raised was power. Some satellites, such as telecommunication satellites have large power requirements. The data transmission speed from a telecommunications satellite is governed by the frequency upon which they transmit, the width of the frequency band, and the strength of the signal on the Earth’s surface when transmitted down. Improving each of these increases the power needs of the satellite. As the only source of energy to a satellite in space is solar power, this puts a heavy burden on the designers to increase solar power efficiency and decrease power requirements from other systems. 5
  • 9. We expected weight to be a significant factor in the design of a satellite. However, the results were mixed. Those in manufacturing said that weight was usually given to the manufacturer as a design constraint set by the customer’s budget, which had dictated the model of launch vehicle to be used. This decision set the maximum weight limit of the satellite with very low marginal cost for variations in the weight below that maximum. Therefore, the weight of the satellite was not considered to be a major consideration within that constraint. The satellite operator, which designed and manufactured a great deal of their satellites internally, started with industry cost-per-pound estimates for the various launch vehicles and a rule-of-thumb which said that 50% of the budget of a satellite is in launch. This in combination with their budget generated the weight target for each satellite in the constellation, which settled the question of the launch vehicles. This then drove the maximum weight limit and the other concerns asserted themselves. These different methods do not necessarily conflict if we assume that the operators contracting the manufacturing firms had gone through a similar process before contracting with them. 2.2 Interpretation of Secondary Research Having identified the factors that establish value in traditional satellites, we can establish whether CubeSats may be disruptive by analyzing trends in CubeSats’ capabilities in these areas to see if they overtake the market median. Power System Our initial belief that this will be the easiest factor to measure was mistaken. While we were able to form a survey of traditional satellites launched in the last 10 years, we were not able to determine the wattage of their power systems. However, the solar panel industry has experienced radical improvements in recent years due to government subsidies and growing markets in the third- and second-world countries. These improvements in the off-the-shelf equipment that CubeSat manufacturers are likely to purchase in the dominant design pattern gives strong reason to believe that it is possible. It seems unlikely that, with the exception of telecommunication satellites and their increasing desire for increased bandwidth, the power needs of satellites are growing at the same rate that the underlying technology is improving. Precision of Attitude Control We have discovered a number of attitude control systems for CubeSats, from hysteresis rods to magnetorquers. However, we haven’t discovered sources for the degree of accuracy demonstrated on either the systems on the CubeSats or on traditional satellites; however this is an area of active development. In the last 5 to 10 years, the number of CubeSats with attitude control and the increasing sophistication of these systems has been clearly evident. 6
  • 10. Complexity of the Propulsion System This characteristic was the most difficult to measure accurately. We did not receive strong guidance on what this means, but we believe that it means the nature of the propulsion system itself. The difficulty is that there does not seem to be a universally comparable metric to compare propulsion systems. Different applications of satellites require different families of propulsion technologies of varying sophistication. For instance, while some satellites may not require any propulsion or only a single burn to achieve the desired orbit, others may require low-thrust for “station keeping” activities, in which case a Hall thruster system may be sufficient. Others still may require the ability to change orbits completely, so a chemical rocket with relight capability may be necessary. Still others may require very high efficiency, leading to a choice of cryogenic fuels with the subsequent need for complex cooling systems. These options all are of increasing capability, but are difficult to compare properly in the method outlined in the section describing disruption measurement. The proper research tool to investigate this would be a conjoint analysis. We wanted to do an analysis where features such as ion acceleration, relighting a chemical rocket, cryogenic fuels, and other characteristics of satellite propulsion systems were identified and then an orthogonal set of sample propulsion systems were presented to each of a set of experienced satellite product leaders, who would then be asked to sort the systems in order of increasing complexity or difficulty. The relative loss of rankings associated with changes in feature sets would provide us with a means of assigning importance to each feature, which could then be used to score propulsion systems on actual satellite launches over the past years. Trends in these scores would provide us with the median market demand for propulsion system complexity. However, this analysis does not seem necessary, as there are not a significant number of examples of propulsion technologies in CubeSat systems to compare those trends. We have found records of one system, the CanX-2 from the University of Toronto, with a record of a propulsion system but we have not been able to identify whether it was successful. We do not believe this indicates that CubeSats are not disruptive. Just as in statistics, the entire population should be treated as a sample of the complete theoretical population, the fact that no CubeSat systems have yet to be built with propulsion does not indicate that no system could possibly be built. It is expected that the un-served and under-served low- end markets would be the first served by a disruptive technology, and this includes simple systems that do not require propulsion. While we do not have sufficient data to identify a trend and make a conclusion whether the increase in CubeSat propulsion capability is improving faster than the market need for traditional satellite propulsion systems, we cannot discount it, either. 7
  • 11. 3 Parties Showing Interest The background research into the list of entities provided by the National Reconnaissance Office did not reveal interesting results. The universities provided were all U.S. schools and the companies are mostly defense contractors. It seems clear that this list only includes organizations that have worked with the U.S. government; it does not appear to be a representative sample of the industry. Based on a more general survey of the record of actual CubeSat launches, there has been limited commercial interest except for Aerospace Corporation and Boeing, who launched demonstration CubeSats in 2007.1 These CubeSats were platforms for demonstrating components. 3.1 Interested Industry Members A preponderance of companies manufacture sensors & communications equipment. Almost entirely military contractors, this list was probably only meant to include companies that have worked with the NRO. That selection bias may limit the utility of this data. 3.2 Interested University Members Out of 50 schools listed, the Academic Ranking of World Universities ranks 17 of them in the top 100 universities worldwide. Several of the remainder are ranked between 100 and 200, but the exact rank could not be determined. Also, several schools on the list are excellent but are unranked simply because they are too small or specialized. It should also be noted that this list only included U.S. universities, although foreign universities also participate in CubeSat projects. 1 <> Accessed 04/16/2010. This site is a very useful survey of CubeSat launches up until mid-2009. It’s author is unknown, but it includes all CubeSats our research has revealed, and more. 8
  • 12. 4 Value Network Overview The findings from the analysis of the value chain in the CubeSat market is that there are companies that might be forming a separate value network from the traditional satellite market. There are launch providers such as Interorbital, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR that might be forming launch providers for nanosatellites and CubeSats. However, their success in competition with the efforts of companies like SpaceX to service nanosatellites is not yet certain. CubeSats are principally constructed by companies that do not typically supply parts to space technologies, although the parts are typically used in non-space technologies. These could also be considered a separate value network from traditional satellites, though they are not separate value networks from other types of technologies. This ambiguity gives a suggestion that CubeSats may be emerging with this characteristic of an innovation that could disrupt traditional satellites. 4.1 Description of Value Network Model Dr. Christensen describes a phenomenon in the value chains of disruptive innovations that he calls a “value network”.2 The phenomenon suggests that the general model of the value chain in a disruptive innovation is identical to that of the traditional way of doing business, but that it will consist of different firms from those which supply the traditional way of doing business. For example, the desktop computer was disruptive to the market supplied by minicomputers. Both desktop computers and minicomputers had hard disk drives, but the minicomputers contained 8” drives and desktop systems had 5¼” drives. Ultimately, the 5¼” drive systems were disruptive to the 8” drive market. The same held true for other components of the computer system markets. The same forces that kept out the vendors of traditional ways of doing business from adopting the disruptive innovation, such as the unknown market size and initially low sales estimates, prevent the component vendors from investing in the necessary capital to supply the disruptive technology. Therefore, new firms that can thrive on low absolute numbers of sales can supply the disruptive technology. It is not clear whether all components must come from separate vendors for an innovation to be considered disruptive. If separate value networks arise, that seems to be compelling evidence. However, it is not clear that some components that are commercially available for other industries cannot be used in the disruptive technology. Good examples of this are not forthcoming. 2 Christensen, Clayton M. Innovator’s Dilemma. New York: Collins Business Essentials, 1997. p. 36. 9
  • 13. Below, we explore the value chain of the CubeSat market to determine whether there is evident of a separation of the value networks supplying CubeSats and traditional satellites. 4.2 Launch Providers Currently, the same companies that launch traditional satellites launch CubeSats with one notable exception. Due to their small size, CubeSats typically share launch vehicles with larger satellites. It is generally impossible to fill an entire launch vehicle with CubeSats, though this could change if CubeSats become more common in the future. CubeSat launch providers include government agencies, government-owned corporations, and private corporations, both old and new. Overview of Launch Providers Government launch providers so far include NASA and the ESA, and in the future are likely to include the Chinese space agency. NASA is restricted from undercutting the American private sector by offsetting the cost of competing with the private sector with taxpayer monies3 and this is expected to prevent it from being a major competitor in the CubeSat launch industry if and when commercial launch options become widely available. The Russian Federal Space Agency is also unlikely to compete heavily and directly in the CubeSat launch industry, as this would bring it into competition with ISC Kosmotras, of which it owns half. ISC Kosmotras is the primary government-owned corporation in the CubeSat launch market. It is a joint venture between the Russian, Ukrainian and Kazakh governments. It launches primarily out of the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, but also out of a new base in Russia, Dombarovsky, just north of the Kazakh border. It has launched several vehicles carrying CubeSats from this site. In 2006 it suffered a launch failure that destroyed 14 CubeSats,4 potentially damaging its reputation, but that has not stopped it from receiving more business. ISC Kosmotras uses rockets converted from decommissioned Soviet Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, or ICBMs, allowing it to reduce costs when compared to purpose-built rockets. It has roughly 150 ICBMs in stock that are projected to be useful until 2020. After this, however, it will need to find a new type of rocket to use, and may lose the cost advantage of using converted ICBMs. There are several private corporations offering CubeSat launch services, and more are likely to enter the market in the near future. Space Exploration Technologies Corporation 3 Reference to this regulation is made here < Commercial-Use-of-Space> by The Heritage Foundation, but we have still be unable 4 Clark, Stephen. Russian rocket fails: 18 satellites destroyed. <> Accessed 04/25/2010. 10
  • 14. (SpaceX) has attempted CubeSat launches in the past several years.5 A string of early failures damaged its reputation, but in 2008 it conducted the first successful launch of a privately funded, privately developed orbital launch vehicle. It has only made one other launch since then, but has several on the way. If the next few launches are also successful, SpaceX will likely become a leading competitor in the CubeSat launching market. Orbital Sciences Corporation is another private corporation that is just now entering the CubeSat launch market. Like ISC Kosmotras, it uses converted (American) ICBMs as launch vehicles. OSC has been operating launch vehicles for close to 20 years. It is not focused on the micro-satellite market, but also launches large satellites as well producing anti-ballistic missiles. Its Minotaur IV launch system is scheduled to make a CubeSat launch in May 2010, but OSC has also launched CubeSats as far back as 2006 on older rockets.6 Interorbital Systems is a relatively new company, founded in the U.S. in 1996, which is developing a small rocket for launching small satellite payloads, as well as a series of larger rockets that can be used for human spaceflight or cargo. It is developing a new method of launching rockets at sea, which has the potential advantages of lower regulatory hurdles, greater safety, flexibility of launch site, and added launch velocity due to launching from directly on the equator. Interorbital Systems is also notable for vertically integrating into the nanosatellite market; it has recently offered the TubeSat satellite bus for sale at a price of $8000. The TubeSat is not a CubeSat, but is slightly smaller and tube-shaped, and close enough in size that it would largely serve the same customers as CubeSats. ISIS is another company that deserves mention as a launch broker, rather than a launch provider. ISIS is primarily a maker of small satellite (sub)systems, but also offers to act as a launch broker for its customers, taking on the task of finding a launch provider, a launch time, and negotiating a launch contract, which it bundles into a service package with the components it produces for its customers. Virgin Galactic has expressed interest in augmenting their tourism business model with a business focused on launching small satellites, which would include CubeSats.7 This 5 Chin, Alexander, Roland Coelho, Lori Brooks, Ryan Nugent, Dr. Jorgi Puig-Suari. Standardization Promotes Flexibility: A Review of CubeSats’ Success. < N/4006P.pdf> Accessed 04/25/2010. 6 Michael’s List of CubeSat Satellite Missions. <> Accessed 04/25/2010 7 David, Leonard, Virgin Galactic Deal Targets Small satellit Launches, <> Accessed 04/19/2010. 11
  • 15. pursuit is said to be a significant part of their recent equity sale to an Abu Dhabi company. If this venture is successful, it might represent the start of a new, parallel value network. There has also been mention at ISDC 2009 that XCOR is interested in pursuing this market with the Lynx craft, but that vehicle is also not flight-ready and little has been said in detail. Cost of a CubeSat Launch The commercial price of CubeSat launches has ranged from $40,000 to $2 million in the past. However, these are market prices; the actual launch cost is lower, possibly much lower. Because CubeSats usually piggyback on the launches of other, larger satellites, they can often take up space and weight that would otherwise be filled only with ballast, allowing for a low marginal cost. According to one estimate by a professional cost accountant, the marginal cost of launching a CubeSat could be as low as $1,000.8 As more companies enter the launch market, competition is likely to drive launch prices closer to actual costs, possibly even commoditizing orbital launches. As the author of this article points out, this low marginal cost estimate is based on the assumption that CubeSats piggyback onto other launches that would take place with or without them. This $1,000 figure may be inapplicable for rockets carrying many CubeSats, as the launch cost of the CubeSat at that point may no longer be considered marginal. However, even if a rocket were to carry only CubeSats, the launch cost per satellite could potentially be lower than the $40,000 minimum previously charged by commercial providers. SpaceX, one of the few companies to publish its pricing, advertises the launch cost of the Falcon1e rocket as $9.1 million. With a payload of 1,010 kg to low-earth orbit, the Falcon1 could potentially carry as many as 1,010 CubeSats. This equates to a theoretical minimum launch cost of $9,010 per CubeSat, assuming the rocket could be fitted out with the maximum possible payload. Conclusions on Disruptiveness Because CubeSats can, and do, piggyback onto the launches of larger satellites, they have so far been launched by pre-existing launch providers on the same rockets that are used by other satellites. Therefore, CubeSat technology has not yet proven disruptive to launch providers. It may show the characteristics of a disruptive technology in the future, however. Smaller satellites create the potential for smaller launch vehicles. Because rockets must carry the weight of their own fuel, launch costs tend to increase exponentially with payload weight. This means that lighter payloads could achieve lower launch costs. CubeSats, and small satellites in general, create the possibility for a new generation of smaller launch vehicles that could offer greater launch flexibility and lower launch costs. At least one company (Interorbital Systems) is working on such a launch 8 The full article may be seen at bin/display_article.cgi?number=602922274 12
  • 16. vehicle. If these new, smaller rockets do indeed offer lower launch costs and greater flexibility, CubeSats will likely prove to be a disruptive technology to launch providers. 4.3 Component Vendors Component vendors, just like the components themselves, come in all shapes and sizes. Figure b outlines some key component vendors. After viewing the component vendors we see that many of these companies did not start to sell components for CubeSats, they started by making components for larger satellites. In some cases, CubeSat builders found what these companies offered and realized that their products could be used to further the industry. Companies that already make components for different uses may be making production runs for the other industries they sell to, which may reduce the costs for the CubeSat industry. However, many of these companies are small and it may be more reliable to procure components from a company who has a larger parent company, such as Spectrolab, which is owned by Boeing. With a more prominent parent in the picture, the scale and quality of the purchased product may increase. Overall, if potential CubeSat builders do not find companies who are already making components for other markets, they may have to go to companies that have the ability to do special orders, and in the case of a job shop environment, prices are always higher. 13
  • 17. Company name Website Products Notes Pumpkin has one of the most http://www.cubesat comprehensive Cubesat outer structure. Pumpkin websites combining Build it yourself kits. and organizing masses of information. Design and production of high performance http://www.clyde- Clyde Space has the power subsystems, Clyde Space first online Cubesat lithium polymer store. batteries and high efficiency solar panels. Offers low-cost, high- efficiency solar cells in http://www.spectro Spectrolab a unique form factor. A Boeing Company offers the IGPS-1 Micro GPS receiver for SpaceLink Co http://www.spaceli small satellites in LEO Most of the website Ltd. orbits is in Japanese Figure b. CubeSat component vendors9 4.4 CubeSat Communications There are many things involved in CubeSat Communications. The communication needs to be able to uplink, and downlink from the CubeSat and the operators need to make sure the frequencies used for the CubeSat communications comply with federal regulations. Overall, communications seems to be one of the many difficulties that must be overcome 9 more component vendors can be found at 14
  • 18. in order to succeed in the CubeSat development industry. After researching the various CubeSat vendors, a communications vendor did not seem to be present. Our team decided to contact Pumpkin, the top provider of other CubeSat components to see what they use for communications. Pumpkin referred us to California Polytechnic State University, the leading university researching CubeSats. Didier Jourdain at California Polytechnic State University, when asked about hardware for radios said, “Icom and Yaesu seem to be the most popular companies for radios.” As far as communications, Brian Castello at California Polytechnic State University, stated “Well we use Amateur radio frequencies to talk to our satellites. However, that is generally reserved for Universities and non-profits. Government organizations such as NASA will generally use other non-Amateur bands in the Radio Frequency Spectrum. We use frequencies around 437 MHz but again there are lots of options.” Mr. Castello was correct in that there are many frequency bands to broadcast on, however, the company operating the CubeSat would have to ensure that frequency was available for use with the FCC. The current regulatory environment for satellites is for each operator to individually communicate with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a frequency band in a particular orbit. The FCC sponsors that application to the United Nation’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which grants final approval contingent on the operator demonstrating use of the frequency band by broadcasting on that frequency from that orbit. 15
  • 19. Appendices 16
  • 20. List of Interested Parties Universities Auburn University- not in top 100 University of Alabama- Not in top 100 Tuskegee University- Not in top 100 Arizona State University- 94 University of Arizona- 77 Boston University- 74 Cal Poly State University- Not in top 100 (but ranked very high in other rankings) San Jose State University- Not in top 100 Stanford University- 2 University of California, Irvine- 46 University of California, Santa Barbara- 35 University of Chicago- 9 University of Colorado- 34 Florida Institute of Technology- Not in top 100 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University- Not in top 100 University of Hawaii- Not in top 100 University of Illinois- 25 Purdue University- 65 Taylor University- Not in top 100 SUNY Genesco- Not in top 100 Iowa State University- Not in top 100 University of Central Florida- Not in top 100 University of Florida- 58 University of Southern California- 46 U.S. Naval Postgraduate School- Not in top 100 University of Kansas- Not in top 100 University of Louisiana- Not in top 100 U.S. Naval Academy- Not in top 100 Dartmouth College- Not in top 100 (Somewhere in the low 100’s) Michigan Technological University- Not in top 100 Washington University- St. Louis- 29 Montana State University- Not in top 100 Cornell University- 12 Polytechnic University NYC- Not in top 100 North Carolina State University- Not in top 100 (Was 99 in 2003) University of North Dakota- Not in top 100 University of Oklahoma- Not in top 100 University of Texas at Austin- 38 Texas Christian University- Not in top 100 Texas A&M- 88 Utah State University- Not in top 100 George Mason University- Not in top 100 17
  • 21. University of Washington- 16 George Washington University- Not in top 100 Morehead State University- Not in top 100 University of Alaska, Fairbanks- Not in top 100 University of Kentucky- Not in top 100 University of New Mexico- Not in top 100 Santa Clara University- Not in top 100 University of Arkansas- Not in top 100 Industry Participants The Aerospace Corporation- Technical and advisory services to space programs since 1960. QuakeFinder, LLC- Developing an earthquake forecasting system. Tethers Unlimited- Developing space tether technology. Globaltec- Chinese company selling electronics components, modules & software. Global Imaging Systems- Sells and services automated office equipment, electronic presentation systems, document imaging management systems, and network integration and management services. Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation- NPO to advance science & innovation in Kentucky Boeing- Major Aircraft Manufacturer Pumpkin- Makes cubesats Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab- University physics lab, largely doing defense work AeroAstro- Designs & builds small satellites and satellite subsystems Aerojet- Makes propulsion systems for missiles & spacecraft Astronautical Development- Creates radio & interface hardware for small spacecraft Azure Summit Technology- Communications software & hardware BAE Systems- High-tech military equipment integrator Booz Allen Hamilton- Tech & Strategy Consulting Bridger Photonics- Makes lasers & sensors Brimrose Tech Corporation- High-resolution radar equipment Busek Co. Inc.- Spacecraft propulsion systems Cal Poly Corporation- NPO, support services to Cal Poly San Louis Obispo CU Aerospace- Lasers, space propulsion, space software, materials Design_net engineering- Avionics and instrumentation Digital Fusion Solutions- IT & Strategy consulting to government clients Innovative Technology Systems- IT services for military & intelligence customers Interorbital Systems- Space tourism, microsatellite launch, planned lunar rover Design & Development Engineering Services Corp- Satellite subsystem design & testing Planning Systems Incorporated- Network-centric systems for military & space use ITT corporation- Defense products and pumps/fluid control systems NASA/JPL-Ames- U.S. government space research lab KOR Electronics- Military sensor/communications simulation & testing equipment L-3 Communications- Military sensor, communications & propulsion systems Linquest- Network-centric military satellite communications 18
  • 22. Los Alamos National Laboratory- Research in energy, nuclear physics, medicine & computing Michigan Aerospace Corp- Sensor, computer & mechanical systems for space & marine use Microcosm, Inc.- Software & hardware copy protection and usage control Microsat Systems- Microsatellites & satellite subsystems Nanohmics- Engineering and development assistance (Very poorly explained) Naval Research Laboratory- Develops all kinds of equipment for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Northrop Grumman- Military Aircraft & Electronic Systems Qinetiq North America- Software, security equipment, product testing Rincon Research Corp- Radar, digital signal processing Science Applications International Corp- Integrator of high-tech equipment, largely government work (lack of detail) Space Dynamics Laboratory- Develops sensor & communications technology for space use. An NPO run by Utah State University. SRI International- R&D in a very diverse group of fields Texas Engineering Experiment Station- Partnership of multiple Texas-based organizations, both for-profit and non-profit. Engineering in homeland security, power systems, computer systems & medical care. Charles Stark Draper Lab- Sesnors, controls & robotics systems for military, space & civil use. Foster-Miller Inc.- Robotics, sensor systems, materials sciences Miltec Corp- There are 2 or 3 Miltecs, and I’m not sure which one it is. Malin Space Science Systems- Instruments for use on robotic spacecraft. Vulcan Wireless- Sensors, communications & systems engineering Optimal Synthesis- PC software & consulting services. Not much info. 19
  • 23. List of Launch Providers National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) European Space Agency (ESA) ISC Kosmotras ........................................................... Orbital Sciences Corporation ..................................... SpaceX Interorbital Systems (planned future provider) .......... China National Space Administration (not a current launch provider, but a probable future provider) .................................................................................... dex.html ISIS (launch broker, not a launch provider)............... 20