On this episode of the Aerospace Engineering Podcast, Rainer speaks to Andrew Dunn who is an engineer at the satellite company Alba Orbital in Glasgow, Scotland. Alba Orbital is in the business of building PocketQubes, which are miniaturized satellites mainly used for space science, Earth imaging and space exploration. As the name suggests, PocketQubes are pocket-sized, usually around 5 cm (2 in) cubed and weighing no more than 180 grams. What is more, PocketQubes are typically assembled entirely from commercial off-the-shelf components, driven mostly by the miniaturization of smartphone electronics, and this makes PocketQubes an ideal low-cost testbed for university labs and smaller startup companies.
Traditional satellites of the last decades often took so long to develop that by the time they were launched into space, the technology was already out of date. Furthermore, their large size increased launch costs and most components were one-off designs that made them too expensive but for the largest companies. Alba Orbital is currently developing the Unicorn-2 PocketQube platform, which is a modular design that can host different payloads, such as optical equipment, deployable antennas or a radio module, but is built on a foundation of integrated electronics that can serve any need. In this episode, Andrew and Rainer talk about:
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