Functional, but not space-worthy cubesats provide the experiences of designing, building, and programming a cubesat. These can be built from scratch or assembled from a kit for as little as $500 USD. In addition to demonstrating cubesat functionality and principles of operation, simulators are also platforms for scientific experimentation that can be carried aloft by a weather balloon to explore the stratosphere, set adrift in the ocean (or lake or river) to record current and water chemistry, or mounted stationary to measure urban air quality.
As Robert Twiggs, co-inventor of the cubesat reference design, once stated “90% of the learning occurs before the cubesat is launched”.
Below are descriptions of currently available simulators:
AMSAT Cubesat Simulator: http://cubesatsim.org
More FYI than kit, this Raspberry Pi cubesat is well documented and based on the currently-orbiting FOX series of AMSAT amateur radio satellites. If you are interested in the issues of power management, this is the simulator for you. Chris Mehner documented building the simulator on her Twitter feed @ChrissMehnerMD . The simulator can be built for approximately $250 USD. Note: AMSAT has a number of simulators available for loan to educators. See the website for details.
AmbaSat is a DIY “SpriteSat”, essentially a 3.5 mm circuit board with a solar cell on its back side. AmbaSat plans to launch 200 SpriteSats at a time in Extreme Low Earth Orbit (ELEO), where they will transmit for 3 months before burning up in the atmosphere. These Arduino based systems use LoRa (a low power, long range radio protocol) and utilize the existing 5000+ LoRa gateways to the Things Network (www.ThingsNetwork.com). The Things Network is designed to receive transmissions from terrestrial IOT devices, so it will be interesting to see how well it works with ELEO spacecraft. $160 to $240 USD
Ardusat DemoSat V4: https://store.ardusat.com/products
Based on the original Arduino cubesat, in addition to a full suite of sensors, this kit includes 2 solar panels and power management components similar to the AMSAT simulator. Included is over 100+ associated on-line lessons. $600 USD
The sensor board is also available separately for $99 USD: https://store.ardusat.com/products/ardusat-space-board
Exodus Orbital microNOVA: https://shop.exodusorbitals.com/product/micronova-cubesat-simulator/
This is Raspberry Pi based system includes a camera, sensors, GPS and radio. Software to be available on Github. $500 USD
Magnitude.io Cubesat Exploration Kit: https://magnitude.io/product/cubesat-exploration-kit/
While not as a complete kit as others, this Arduino Uno sensor shield with GPS and radio transreceivers, provides a lower cost, DIY method to build a simulator. Includes on-line lessons until June 2021. $149 USD
XinaBox CubeSat Kit: https://xinabox.cc/products/xk90
The sensors, GPS and LoRa radio transreceivers easily snap together to a mother-frame based on the PC/104 CubeSat Buss standard. No soldering or wiring is required. $500 USD
CubeSat 3D-printed Frames: https://www.thingiverse.com/search?q=cubesat&type=things&sort=relevant
Files for numerous cubesat frames appropriate for the above kits can be found on Thingiverse. Most require 12 to 24 hours to print, but are printed as multiple items.