Vistacent, LLC, proposes to develop modular open systems architectures for SmallSats/CubeSats. SmallSats/CubeSats are quicker/cheaper to develop than their larger predecessors. The primary bottleneck has been a lack of standards in the type of subsystems being offered in form, fit, and function. Standardization would go a long way to improve the mission success and reduce development time and cost of a CubeSat. Payload developers spend >50% of their time/resources on creating a satellite bus system instead of on development of the sensor/device, the data from which is the primary rationale for the mission. Attempts have been made to create standardized systems, interfaces, and even materials for SmallSats/CubeSats. However, there has not been a universal acceptance for these “yet to be finalized” standards. The perception exists that those involved in trying to establish certain requirements are focused on specific CubeSat architectures that are in their immediate portfolio. For this proposal, Vistacent is defining “standardization” of the modular units as the basic CubeSat structure to allow structural and electrical standard connectivity between modules. Vistacent proposes to 3D print modular “building blocks” for a complete architecture. This “standardization” will also allow COTS components to be “plugged-in” or “hot-swapped” to the modules. With the addition of rails or tabs, a CubeSat will be able to adapt to any current dispenser. NASA wishes to have a fabrication method to facilitate mass/batch production of CubeSats. The current market of SmallSat/CubeSat system components will be reviewed/assessed to determine system compatibilities. These components will be grouped together into building block functional groups. Modification of our existing 3D printing software will allow innovative solutions such as embedding electrical circuitry for each module in the module walls. This will allow effortless integration of COTS items with standardized CubeSat modules.
From first-hand experience three recent NASA CubeSats could have been developed for a fraction of their $30+ million budgets, if modular building blocks were available. NASA will benefit from Vistacent’s approach by mass producing modular CubeSat blocks using 3D printing, significantly lowering development cost and time for NASA CubeSat missions. The resultant reduction in cost and schedule will enable NASA to leverage more launch opportunities and put more mission-critical payloads in orbit.
Vistacent recognizes the effectiveness of the proposed modular approach for mass production. The military is becoming a strong user of CubeSats with the ability to fly large constellations. Our approach will be very adaptable and scalable to such military needs. Leveraging 19.8% growth expected in the future, Vistacent will facilitate payloads for the private sector and educational institutions.