CUBESATS (Syllabus GS Paper 3 – Sci and Tech)

News-CRUX-10     28th May 2024        
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Context: NASA recently launched one of two climate CubeSats from Māhia, New Zealand, to measure heat radiation from the Arctic and Antarctica and its impact on Earth's climate.


  • About: These are essentially miniature satellites with a basic design of a 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm cube, also known as "one unit" or "1U."
  • Size and Weight: Each unit of a CubeSat is just a little bigger than a Rubik’s cube and weighs no more than 1.33 kg.
  • Configurations: Depending on the mission, CubeSats can be configured in sizes of 1.5, 2, 3, 6, and 12 units (U), according to NASA.
  • Origin: CubeSats were first developed in 1999 by California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly) and Stanford University as educational tools.
  • PREFIRE Satellites: Each of the PREFIRE satellites is a 6U CubeSat.

oIt is a mission aimed at studying heat emissions at the Earth's poles to understand their role in global climate change.

  • Orbit: The two PREFIRE satellites will be placed in a near-polar orbit, a type of low Earth orbit, at an altitude of about 525 kilometres.
  • Significance: CubeSats will measure the amount of far-infrared radiation trapped by atmospheric water vapour and clouds at the poles and how this influences the greenhouse effect in the region.