In this post we provide an overview of satellite structures; frames and chassis products for various sized spacecraft that provide stability and support to all of the sub-systems and components housed within.
We share details of various products on the global market along with service providers offering custom designs and configurations – if you’re familiar with this technology and would like to skip straight to the product listings please click here.
An introduction to satellite structures
Satellite structures give spacecraft their shape, secure all sub-systems and other components, and provide vital protection from mechanical stresses during launch, radiation while in-orbit and vibration at all stages.
Structures and structural products for satellites of any size are often sub-divided into primary and secondary components for simpler classification.
Primary structures are typically whole frames that are capable of housing an entire CubeSat for example. They can be sold as commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) parts or customised to meet non-standard satellite setups.
Secondary structures are components such as struts and brackets that can be used in different configurations as needed, typically for more complex spacecraft setups.
Some structure components are used mainly for load-bearing purposes whereas others perform more specific tasks, such as housings that provide protection for electrical sub-systems or optical payloads.
For smaller satellites with fixed form factors, such as PocketQubes and CubeSats, the term structures usually refers to the primary frames that give a satellite its shape, set the limits of the physical footprint and provide a functional chassis within which all the other sub-systems are housed and connected.
Structures are available as complete frames or as individual component parts such as chassis walls, base plates and cover plates.
Selecting the best structure for your satellite
CubeSat structure manufacturer and satsearch member NPC Spacemind has previously explained in this article that two vital aspects to consider when assessing structures are their handling and performance.
Handling refers to the ease with which the structure can be manipulated and used during satellite development and testing. A chassis that is too fragile or difficult to rotate and affix, so that sub-systems can be easily integrated, can slow down production.
The performance aspect consists of the following parameters:
- Ability to withstand launch stresses – including the thermal stress, vibrational forces etc.
- Stability during deployment and de-tumbling – compatibility with launch separation system and ability to maintain the satellite’s security during its deployment into the correct orbit, and stabilization once reached, and
- Ability to operate effectively in orbit – radiation protection, extreme low temperature etc.
In addition, a high-quality satellite frame or structural component must be manufactured of space-grade material, ideally feature flight heritage and needs to be the correct size for your mission requirements.
You may also need to select a model with additional capabilities beyond simple physical support. This could include redundant or kill switches, specific launch system interoperability (such as separation springs) and other more complex functionality depending on your needs.
Satellite structures on the global market
In this section, you can find a range of CubeSat and PocketQube frame and chassis products that are available on the market. These listings will be updated when new structures are added to the global marketplace for space at satsearch.co – so please check back for more or sign up for our mailing list for all the updates.
We have also put together overviews of launch separation systems, launch providers and many other components and sub-systems for smallsats, CubeSats and PocketQubes if you require additional help for your mission.
Click on any of the links or images below to find out more about each product. You can also submit a request for a quote, documentation or further information on each of the products listed or send us a more general query to discuss your specific needs, and we will use our global networks of suppliers to find a system that can meet your specifications.
The satellite structure portfolio of NPC Spacemind
NPC Spacemind’s SM structures are designed to be high-reliability CubeSat structures that suit a range of unit sizes. They have been designed for flexibility and to maximize performance in terms of available space, volume and mass. They are lightweight, feature a number of redundant switches, with respect to CDS guidelines, and are built using a flexible design and assembly concept.
The structures have also been specifically engineered to introduce the minimum number of design/interface constraints in order to allow the spacecraft designer to focus on the functional objectives. NPC Spacemind’s portfolio consists of the following products, with the number referring to the CubeSat unit size (U) of the satellite that the structure is suitable for:
- SM01 Cubesat Structure
- SM02 Cubesat Structure
- SM03 Cubesat Structure
- SM06 Cubesat Structure
- SM012 Cubesat Structure
The SAT12U by Hyperion Technologies
The SAT series of CubeSat platforms were developed as the result of a collaboration between Hyperion Technologies and GTM Advanced Structures. They are designed for large CubeSat platforms up to 36U. The structures offer standard PC104 interfaces and can also be custom-designed for non-CubeSat equipment, such as larger payloads with high stiffness requirements.
All external panels are individually removable, allowing easy access for integration, assembly and testing. The external panels also include shielding capabilities that can be tailored to optimize component lifetime in the flight regime of choice. Alongside the standard 12U model, SAT platforms are also available in sizes of 6U, 24U and 36U, as well as customer-specific sizes.
NanoAvionics manufactures a variety of structure products suitable for satellites and missions of various scales:
The CubeSat Standard Structure is a generic, modular structure compliant with the CubeSat Design Specification. It is designed to offer developers a high level of freedom with an open structure that is easy and straightforward to use. Avionics or payload modules are built up as single 1-unit form factor building blocks mounted to the primary load carrying elements.
The SSTR6U 6U Structure is a rigid chassis for a 6U satellite. It is made from high-grade aluminum 7075-T7351 to which assures strength, lightweight construction and durability. The PC/104 stacks can be mounted inside the framework structure using mounting rings.
The CubeSat structure portfolio of EnduroSat
EnduroSat manufactures a range of structures in several different CubeSat sizes that are designed to be easy to assemble and provide a robust and stable system for all stages of development and integration.
The structures are compatible with the CubeSat standard and feature integrated kill switches and separation springs. The systems are modular, enabling the top and bottom elements to be used for different form factors.
The 1U Cubesat structure – a 1U structure with minimalistic design. Can be converted to a 1.5U structure by changing only the leg elements.
The 1.5U Cubesat structure – a modular, 1.5U system compatible with various sub-systems and components.
The Cubesat 3U structure II – a 3U structure designed to provide a safe environment for payload and sub-system development and arrangement.
The Cubesat 6U structure – made up of 4 main element types (Bottom, Top, Side, and Ring). The Ring Elements are used to add rigidity to the structure where required. Their number and position depends on the internal configuration of the satellite’s subsytems and payload.
The 1U CubeSat structure and 3U CubeSat structure by Sputnix
Sputnix’s CubeSat frames are designed in accordance with CubeSat Design Specification rev.13. They support modular satellite construction based on a PC104 PCB stack, with solar panels on the edges.
The structures are also fully compatible with all Orbicraft-Pro devices and are designed to provide simple and fast assembly while still offering a durable base for the satellite.
The CubeSat and PocketQube structure portfolio of G.A.U.S.S. Srl
G.A.U.S.S. manufactures a range of both CubeSat and PocketQube size structure products for various satellite form factors. Alongside the hardware provided G.A.U.S.S. also offers support for design and FEM analysis for both standard and customized structures according to the client’s needs. Solutions are available for a variety of cases including; deployable systems, interfaces for structural tests and IOD/IOV platforms.
The MBF-Cube-1U and MBF-Cube-3U by Ishitoshi Machining Inc.
The MBF is a CubeSat structure manufactured from a single piece of space-grade material. The minimized construction and simple shape are designed to make testing and inspection easier at all stages of mission design. The lack of joints or bolted parts can also result in a reduction in vibrational effects during launch for a more secure structure.
The satellite structure portfolio of Pumpkin, Inc.
Pumpkin manufactures a variety of structure products in modular format for different sized CubeSats. Two categories of frame component are available:
CubeSat chassis walls – Pumpkin offers a range of chassis walls in both solid and skeletonized formats. The products are designed to be light and strong, manufactured from space-grade materials and tested in a variety of settings. A chassis wall must be combined with a base plate assembly and a cover plate assembly in order to create a complete CubeSat Kit structure. The inidivual products are:
- CubeSat Kit™ Pro Chassis Walls 0.5U
- CubeSat Kit™ Pro Chassis Walls 1U
- CubeSat Kit™ Pro Chassis Walls 1.5U
- CubeSat Kit™ Pro Chassis Walls 2U
- CubeSat Kit™ Pro Chassis Walls 3U
- Chassis Walls 0.5U
- Chassis Walls 1.5U
- Chassis Walls 1U
- Chassis Walls 2U
- ADACS Payload Walls / 1U Chassis MAI-100/MAI-200 Extension
CubeSat plate assemblies – the base plate assembly forms one end of a CubeSat Kit™ structure – typically, the end with the Motherboard Module (MBM) C&DH sub-system – while the cover plate assembly forms the other end, which is typically the payload location. Both solid-wall and skeletonized versions are available. The individual products are:
- Base Plate Assembly
- Large Aperture Base Plate Assembly, Dual Switch
- Base Plate Assembly for AntS Antenna
- Cover Plate Assembly
- Large Aperture Cover Plate Assembly
- Cover Plate Assembly for AntS antenna
- Payload Adapter Plate
The Pocketqube 1P Structure is a 50 x 50 x 50 mm structure with a skeletonized wall structure.
Designed to provide structure and housing for pico-satellite class PocketQubes, it weighs 0.069 kg, has a payload volume of 1.09e-4 m^3 and features an operating temperature range of 223—363 K.
Rigid Unibody Structures by NearSpace Launch
Rigid unibody structure products for CubeSats. The products available are:
- Rigid Unibody Structures 1U
- Rigid Unibody Structures 2U
- Rigid Unibody Structures 3U
- Rigid Unibody Structures 6U
Thanks for reading! If you would like further help identifying a CubeSat structure, PocketQube structure, or structure of a different size for your specific needs please click here to send us a query and we’ll use our extended global networks of suppliers to find the information you need.
Have you noticed that your company isn’t included in this article? Simply send us an email today, and we’d be happy to work with you to showcase your products to the satsearch community!