Announcement of Opportunity: CubeSat Mission Concept Studies

Artists impression of UKube-1 in orbit

Artists impression of UKube-1 in orbit

The UK Space Agency is inviting proposals to develop CubeSat preparatory studies for future mission concepts e.g. UKube-2.

The core of the UK Space Agency strategy is to lead and sustain the growth of the UK Space Sector. In support of this the National Space Technology Programme (NSTP) promotes the development of new commercial and scientific applications by offering grant funding for truly novel concepts to be fully explored.

CubeSats offer huge potential to accelerate technology development of sensors and instruments in a package for deployment in space. New technology concepts for space missions can be demonstrated on CubeSat payloads, delivering a test bed at low cost and significantly reduced timescales. The CubeSat is a relatively new concept, which is maturing rapidly, in which the UK has existing leading capability.

This NSTP programme is to facilitate the acceleration of space technologies up the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) curve but can also attract new players into the space sector by offering a low cost route to getting flight heritage. To follow, the NSTP Pathfinder studies programme is to be released in early 2012 and will be specifically to develop technology concepts.

The UK Space Agency is currently funding a pilot programme, called Ukube1, to demonstrate the capabilities of a CubeSats with a launch towards the end of 2012. If successful, this pilot project could pave the way for a national programme starting in the third quarter of 2012, offering launch opportunities every 12-18 months. The aims of a national programme will also encompass the delivery of educational opportunities and science applications as well as testing new technologies.

Proposals are invited to develop CubeSat preparatory studies for future mission concepts e.g. UKube-2. The concept can address a scientific theme or be of an in-orbit technology demonstration nature (e.g. formation flying), providing a real impact to the UK. All UK based communities (academic, industrial and other) are invited to submit proposals. Applications can be made individually or in partnership with other organisations, however industry and academia will be funded under the rules stipulated in the scope of funding presented below.

Funding is available up to £35K per proposal; the size of award will depend on the requirements of the proposed project and the applicants’ case for support. Proposals should not exceed a grant value of £35K. Funding will be awarded in 2012 and the project cannot exceed 3 months duration. Due to the short nature of these studies and the amount of funding available, we intend funding successful applicants at the onset of the project. It is anticipated the scheme will fund a minimum of 7 proposals; the facility to fund more will depend on the size of awards and will be assessed on a competitive basis as detailed below.

The deadline for submission of proposals is 1st February 2012, 12pm.

Further information at 

UK launches National Space Academy

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UKube-1 final design approved

The UK space Agency and Astrium have just approved the final design of UKube-1 – the UK’s first CubeSat mission.

Artist's impression of UKube-1. Credit: Clydespace.

Artist's impression of UKube-1. Credit: Clydespace.

On Thursday and Friday last week (3rd and 4th November 2011), a young team of engineers from Clyde Space presented their final design to a team of experts for the Critical Design Review (CDR) – the typical ‘gateway’ for space missions to proceed into the flight build and implementation phase.

The CDR for Ukube-1 thus marks an important point in the development of the mission, establishing the robustness of the design, the level of technical risk and the schedule/resourcing for the completion of all the tasks to build the flight spacecraft.



At the CDR, the review panel scrutinised the design in detail to ensure it was sufficiently mature for flight. Key areas of focus included the structure and mechanisms, the communications system, the on board software and processing, the attitude control system and power generation.

At the end of the meeting the review board concluded that Ukube-1 had successfully passed CDR.

The next stage is the implementation of the mission that will lead to a launch on a Russian Dneper rocket (ex ICBM converted for small satellite launches) towards the end of 2012.

More on the aims and objectives of Ukube-1 can be found in the missions section of the website.



The UK Space Agency’s pilot programme to design and launch a CubeSat – a miniature cube-shaped satellite that will allow the UK to test cutting-edge new technologies in space – is now well underway. In December 2010 the payload competition for the pilot mission, UKube-1, stimulated more than 20 high quality proposals from UK industry and academia, and from these the Space Agency selected 7 excellent proposals for further development. In March 2011 four payloads were finally selected to fly on UKube-1. These will be integrated onto the spacecraft, which measures just 10cm x 10cm x 34cm, by Clyde Space. In addition UKube-1 will fly FunCube, an educational payload provided by AMSAT-UK, with the goal of enthusing and education young people about space, electronics, physics and radio.