CubeSats are small, relatively inexpensive satellites orbiting the earth every 128 minutes at an attitude of 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles). Although the barriers to space are lowering with decreasing costs and increasing launch opportunities, getting a cubesat into orbit is still a multi-year effort costing $50,000 to $100,000 USD.

Although an aspirational goal, this is often beyond the means of most schools. However, there are strategies to start incorporating cubesats into the classroom at a fraction of the cost and time:

Cubesat Simulators
Functional, but not space-worthy cubesats provide the experiences of designing, building, programming, and deploying 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, these 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.

Ground Stations
Currently there are hundreds of educational cubesats orbiting overhead, continuously steaming data down to earth. At any given time, several are visible in the sky over your head. The majority are transmitting data and images unencrypted on amateur radio frequencies that can be received with simple, homebuilt antennas and inexpensive software defined radios (SDRs).

Balloon & High Powered Rocket Launches
Cubesat simulators can be carried aloft by helium balloons or high powered rockets. Such launches subject the cubesat to forces and environmental stress similar to those a cubesat experiences during launch and in orbit.

SatNOGS in the Classroom

LoRa Use in CubeSats

Links to CubeSat Websites

Recent Blog Entries

Decoding LoRa Cubesats

Scott Chapman, K4KDR, @scott23192 & Bob Mattaliano, N6RFM, @n6rfm have recently posted on Twitter details of their success in receiving and decoding LoRa 70cm signals from the NORBI cubesat. Fossa Systems has posted code for their Arduino ground station on Github: G4lile0 posted code for a ground station using the Heltec ESP32 LoRa board […]

94 CTE Mission CubSat proposals received

When submissions closed on October 16, CTE Mission: CubeSat had received 94 mission proposals from schools across the United States. The teams proposed a range of thought-provoking CubeSat projects, such as tracking changes to Earth’s magnetic field, assessing the environmental impact of pandemic lockdowns, and studying space debris. During two CTE webcasts, Robert Twiggs, co-inventor […]

Microsoft Debuts Ground Station Solution Azure Orbital

Microsoft is getting into the satellite ground station business with Azure Orbital. Microsoft announced a preview of the offering, a ground station service that allows satellite operators to communicate to and control their satellites, process data, and scale operations directly with Microsoft Azure. Although targeted at commercial satellite companies, the service may provide experimental and […]

2020 Virtual AMSAT Space Symposium – Saturday Oct 17

The 2020 Virtual AMSAT Space Symposium and Annual General Meeting will be held on Saturday, October 17th from 9:00am CDT – 5:00pm CDT (UTC -5). Symposium presentations will be a combination of pre-recorded video segments along with a question and answer sessions held via a Zoom meeting. The Symposium will be made available for free […]

New US Dept of Education Program

The US Department of Education announced a new education program that invites high school students to design and build CubeSat prototypes. Details can be found here: A virtual information session was held on September 1, 2020. Zoom recording available on their website.

XinaBox – Modular Components

One of the sponsors of the CTE Mission CubeSat challenge is They developed a unique system of arduino based components, sensors and radios for the STEM/STEAM market. The components “snap” together forming a rigid stable platform for experimentation. Their system is much faster to assemble than traditional breadboarding or even 4-wire systems such as […]


SatNOGS is a global network of satellite earth stations operated by hobbyists and space enthusiasts. You can build your own station with a Raspberry Pi, RTL-SDR and a homemade antenna. I’m operating stations in La Jolla, CA and Palm Desert, CA.

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