The phrase “Good things come in small packages” is true! Small satellites, also known as CubeSats, are being launched at a record pace with the successful February 15, 2017 launch of 104 satellites of which 88 were Planet Labs’ Dove satellites collectively known as Flock‐3p, aboard an Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India. This amazing launch followed the successful June 22, 2016 launch of 12 Planet Labs’ Flock‐2p satellites from the Satish Dhawan Space Center. These spacecraft are shoebox‐sized satellites placed into lower Earth orbit to provide imaging data.
Using space to help life on earth Planet Labs is using their satellites for: mapping, resource extraction, maritime monitoring, weather response and agriculture to name just a few applications. The small satellite industry is becoming big business and Sentek Dynamics and Crystal Instruments are playing a supporting role in the development and commercialization of these small, cost‐effective satellites.
Sentek Dynamics and Crystal Instruments’ Role To ensure survivability during launch and reliability in orbit Planet Labs used the Sentek Dynamics’ vibration testing system at the Sentek Dynamics facility in Santa Clara, CA for initial testing of the 12 Flock‐2p units. Seeing the advantages of an in‐house vibration test capability they subsequently purchased a turnkey vibration testing system from Sentek Dynamics consisting of a 65 kN (14,600 lbf) air‐cooled vibration testing system and 16‐channel Crystal Instruments modular Spider‐80X vibration controller with a suite of EDM software.
What are CubeSats? CubeSats are a class of small satellites that use a standard size and form factor. The standard CubeSat size uses a "one unit" or "1U" measuring 10x10x10 cm and is extendable to larger sizes; 1.5, 2, 3, 6, and even 12U. Originally developed in 1999 by California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly) and Stanford University to provide a platform for education and space exploration. The development of CubeSats has advanced into its own industry with government, industry and academia collaborating for ever increasing capabilities. CubeSats now provide a cost effective platform for science investigations, new technology demonstrations and advanced mission concepts using constellations (swarms disaggregated systems).
Deployment P‐PODs were designed to provide a common platform for deploying CubeSats. Multiple P‐PODs can be mounted to a launch vehicle to carry CubeSats into orbit and deploy them using an internal spring mechanism into low Earth orbit once the proper signal is received from the launch vehicle. The P‐POD Mk III has capacity for three 1U CubeSats, or combinations of 0.5U, 1U, 1.5U, 2U, or 3U CubeSats up to a maximum volume of 3U.
The Future CubeSats like Planet Labs’ Dove continue to push the boundaries of what commercial small satellite technology looks like today. Small satellites have been accepted as a means to the end. Sentek Dynamics and Crystal Instruments will continue to support this effort by providing proven, affordable test equipment to the growing number of companies and organizations offering alternatives to terrestrial solutions connecting the world.
February 15, 2017 ISRO India Rocket PSLV C37 releasing 104 satellites of which 88 were Planet Labs video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYf_uyHQN5o