Recommended resources and activities

Understand the different subsystems of a CubeSat prototype

Read slide 33 of MIT Media Lab’s presentation, “Climate CubeSat Co-Build, to get an overview of the considerations for designing each subsystem.  

Watch the video “XinaBox CubeSat,” by XinaBox, to see how building a CubeSat prototype might look.

Design the subsystems for the mission

Using the subsystems sketch template, brainstorm and label the template with short descriptions of the different components you’re proposing for your team’s CubeSat prototype. Refer back to the CubeSat prototype diagram in the Mission objectives resources for descriptions of the subsystems. 

Read these design guidelines from the Future Engineers’ Weather Balloon Challenge, which provide examples of different subsystems components needed for a mission to measure weather and/or climate in Los Angeles (mission objective) using a weather balloon (launch method). This challenge had different parameters, and the design guideline is intended to serve as inspiration.

Plan the equipment list and estimated cost associated with the subsystems

Search online for potential components and estimated pricing for CubeSat prototypes. The examples of kits and components on the following websites can provide a starting point.

  • XinaBox CubeSat kit: components for learning and experimentation environments.
  • Public Lab: a list of inexpensive lightweight cameras and balloon mapping kits.
  • a store with Raspberry Pi products and accessories, including starter and budget-friendly kits for schools.
  • Arduino: a store with open-source boards, modules (a smaller form-factor of classic boards), shields (elements that can be plugged onto a board to give it extra features), and kits.
  • micro:bit: a tiny circuit board designed to help kids learn to code and create with technology.

Facilitate a discussion on subsystems equipment to brainstorm and research all the different parts needed to build a CubeSat prototype, using prompts such as: 

  • What are the parts needed to build our subsystem? For example, equipment, hardware, and software.
  • Where can I find these parts? For example, purchasing online or partnering with local businesses and manufacturers.
  • What are the estimated costs of these parts?