Asusat 1: An example of low-cost nanosatellite development Academic Article uri icon


  • In October 1993, the students at Arizona State University (ASU) were challenged by Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC) to develop a 4.5-kg (10-1b) satellite (ASUSat 1) to be launched as a piggyback payload on a Pegasus rocket. The challenge also included the requirements for the satellite to perform meaningful science and to fit inside the Pegasus avionics section (0.02 m3). Moreover, the students were faced with the cost constraints associated with university satellite projects. This unusual set of constraints resulted in a design and development process which is fundamentally different from that of traditional space projects. The spacecraft capabilities and scientific mission evolved in an extremely rigid environment where cost, size and weight limits were set before the design process even started. In the ASUSat 1 project, severe constraints were determined first, and then a meaningful scientific mission was chosen which fit those constraints. This design philosophy can be applied to future interplanetary spacecraft. In addition, the ASUSat 1 program demonstrates that universities can provide an open-minded source for the innovative nanospacecraft technologies required for the next generation of low-cost planetary missions, as well as an economical testbed to evaluate those technologies. At the same time, the program provides hands-on training for the space scientists and engineers of the future. Copyright 1997 Elsevier Science Ltd.

published proceedings

  • Acta Astronautica

author list (cited authors)

  • Rademacher, J. D., Reed, H. L., & Puig-Suari, J.

citation count

  • 7

complete list of authors

  • Rademacher, Joel D||Reed, Helen L||Puig-Suari, Jordi

publication date

  • July 1996