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Achieving Science Goals with CubeSats


View the Report


Statement of Task

An ad hoc committee under the auspices of the National Research Council will review the current state of the scientific potential and technological promise of CubeSats. CubeSats are small satellites built in increments of 10 cm cubes (1 cube is called 1U or "unit," two 10 cm cubes together are known as 2U, and so on). In particular, the committee will review the potential of CubeSats as platforms for obtaining high priority science data including, but not limited to, the priority science challenges identified in (a) recent NRC decadal surveys in astronomy and astrophysics, Earth science, planetary science, and solar and space physics (heliophysics) and (b) the science priorities identified in the 2014 NASA Science Plan. The committee’s review will provide a set of recommendations on how to assure the scientific return on future federal agency support of CubeSat programs. The committee will: Develop a brief summary overview of the status, capability, availability, and accomplishments of a selection of existing CubeSat programs in the government, academic, and industrial sectors. Recommend any potential near-term investments that could be made (a) to improve the capabilities that have a high impact on the increased science and technology return - thereby increasing the value of CubeSats to the science community - and (b) to enable the science communities' use of CubeSats. Identify a set of sample priority science goals that describe near-term science opportunities-- such as providing continuity of key measurements to mitigate potential gaps in measurements of key parameters-- and that can be accomplished given the current state of CubeSat capabilities. 

On September 2-3, 2015, the Committee on Achieving Science Goals with CubeSats is hosted a community symposium to ascertain the feasibility of obtaining high-priority science data using CubeSats. The symposium will feature a series of panel discussions among scientists and technologists in the areas of Earth science, solar and space physics (heliophysics), planetary science, astronomy/astrophysics, biological/micro-gravity, and also technology. The panels will explore science goals in each of these areas, how these goals could be achieved using CubeSats, and the potential for new science that is enabled by CubeSats. The discussions will be framed by current CubeSat technological capabilities and those anticipated in the near future. Complementary poster sessions will showcase novel applications of CubeSats for high-priority science data and emergent technologies that may enhance CubeSat capabilities.


Committee Meetings

October 30, 2015, Washington, DC

View Agenda in PDF I Available Presentations


October 22-23, 2015, Washington, DC


Cubesats Symposium


September 2-4, 2015, Irvine, CA
Agenda in PDF I Available Presentations

June 22-23, 2015, Washington DC 
Agenda in PDF I Available Presentations

Committee Membership

View Committee Bios

Thomas H. Zurbuchen (Chair)
University of Michigan

Bhavya Lal (Vice Chair)
IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute

Julie Castillo-Rogez
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Andrew Clegg
Google, Inc.

Paulo Lozano
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Malcolm Macdonald
University of Strathclyde

Robyn Millan
Dartmouth College

Charles D. Norton
California Institute of Technology

William H. Swartz
Johns Hopkins University

Alan M. Title
Lockheed Martin Space Technology Advanced R&D Labs

Thomas N. Woods
University of Colorado Boulder

Edward L. Wright
University of California, Los Angeles

A. Thomas Young
Lockheed Martin Corporation [Retired]



 *Below is an archive list of names and a link to the slides presented at the committee meeting during open session. We have only included the slides for which the presenter has given consent to post.

Presenter names and slides are listed in the order of the agenda.


June 22-22, 2015


David Pierce, NASA agency perspectives on CubeSats

Therese Moretto Jorgensen, NSF agency perspectives on CubeSats

David Voss, DOD perspectives on CubeSats

Brian Weeden, Space Debris

Jennifer Lacey, USGS perspectives on CubeSats (permission pending)

Tom Burns, NOAA agency perspectives on CubeSats


Symposium and Meeting #2 September 2-4, 2015, Irvine, CA


October 30, 2015

Josef Koller, DOD - No slides

J.C. Liou, NASA

Karl Kensinger, FCC - No Slides

Lt. Col. Scott Putnam, JSpOC

Michael Romanowski, FAA - No Slides

Dan Oltrogge, AGI

Brian Weeden, Secure World Fdn. - No Slides

Kathryn Medley, FCC

Jonathan Williams, NTIA

Brennan Price, ARRL

William Horne, NASA - No Slides

Therese Moretto Jorgenen, NSF - No Slides

Kevin Schmadel, USRA

Martin Ruzek, USRA

* No slides indicate that the presenter did not utilize slides during their presentation.
* Permission pending indicates that the presenter has not given us consent to publish the slides they presented at the meeting.
*Written materials submitted to a study committee by external sources are listed in the project's public access file and can be made available to the public upon request via the Academies Public Access Records Office.