University of Surrey engineering department lecturer Chris Bridges reckons that of the 200 to 250 active Cubesat projects, STRaND-1 is possibly the most sophisticated, but SSTL and the Surrey Space Centre are not the only big names to work with this small format; Boeing and the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency have used the 10cm boxes. The beauty of Cubesats is their very low cost ability to test - or demonstrate - technologies that could find there way into larger conventional spacecraft, and in the current financially constrained environment they may become more popular.

As Bridges puts it: "All the ground testing in the world will not be the same as being up there." SSTL's STRaND-1 leader Shaun Kenyon underscores the cost-effectiveness of Cubesats when he notes that, for all its relative sophistication, the spacecraft will end up costing "less than a family 4x4", adding: "Cubesats are here to stay."

But Kenyon is not ruling out eventual commercial applications for Cubesats themselves. SSTL, he stresses, has always been looking for ways to reduce the cost of space exploitation.

Source: Flight International