CubeSat Subteams Introduction

CubeSats, also known as nanosatellites, might be small, but their impact on the world of space exploration and research is anything but diminutive. Since the inaugural CubeSat launch in 2003, these pint-sized satellites have captured the imagination of scientists and engineers worldwide, offering a cost-effective and versatile platform for exploring the cosmos. Tufts CubeSAT is no exception, as we eagerly join the ranks of those striving to push the boundaries of space science and technology.

Our team at Tufts CubeSAT is a blend of diversity and passion, with each subteam focusing on distinct aspects of CubeSat development. In this blog, we aim to introduce you to our dedicated subteams, each with its unique mission and purpose. You'll gain insight into the intricate world of command and data handling, the crucial role of power systems, the fascinating realm of computer vision, and so much more. Our members hail from various academic backgrounds, coming together to create collaborative partnerships that seek to unveil the mysteries of the cosmos. Let's delve into the realm of CubeSats and discover how these small wonders are contributing to the ever-expanding universe of space exploration.

Attitude Determination Control Systems (ADCS)

The Attitude Determination and Control Subteam works to develop algorithms and sensors that accurately determine the cubesat's orientation in space. This involves using various sensors such as gyroscopes, magnetometers, and sun sensors. On the technical side, ADCS involves mathematics, control theory, programming, sensor integration, and hardware integration.


The goal for Thermal is to develop a way to keep a regulated temperature inside and outside of the payload. There are two main methods: passive and active temperature control. Active systems require an input of power and allow for more precise control. Passive systems do not require an input of power and are simpler but would allow for much less control. The thermal team works to find the best material/ system within these categories to regulate the temperature balance, and then implement them into the structure.


The goal for Structures is to create a CAD model of the CubeSat that will be used in the construction of our product. The subteam considers the EnduroSat parts and helps in deciding what parts will be made in house and not. They will also design how they should be put together and how they should be optimally designed for weight and strength so that the efficiency is optimized. Then, they will construct the structures.

Command and Data Handling (CDH)

The Command and Data Handling subteam is responsible for programming and executing tasks and commands with the Onboard Computer (OBC), data handling and storage of processed data from the CubeSAT's sensors and instruments, developing and implementing software to interpret and execute commands received from the ground station, working on protocols and procedures for transmitting telemetry data, receiving commands, and maintaining a reliable link. Furthermore, CDH must maintain reliable communication with our ground station, to be located hopefully heart at Tufts.


The goal for power is to be able to supply the components of the cubesat that require power with power. We will be wiring up and integrating solar panels that can provide power to the systems as well as batteries so the sat can run the systems while it is being eclipsed by Earth. We will also be designing a circuit diagram for the power systems. Additionally, the Power subteam is responsible for modeling the power consumption of the CubeSat and breakdowns of individual component power consumption. The Power subteam forms the backbone of ensuring that all components of the CubeSat have sufficient power supply to ensure that all components can run as efficiently as possible.

Detumbling and Orbit

The goal of stabilizing the CubeSat as it tumbles from the NASA rocket into orbit and maintaining that stable orbit and trajectory is a complex engineering challenge that requires a combination of careful planning, precise calculations, and robust control systems. As for the technical side of things, this involves initial tumble stabilization when the CubeSAT is ejected from the rocket, counteracting the initial chaotic motion, determining orbit and orchestrating telemetry data alongside CDH, orbit maintenance, calculations of atmospheric drag and gravitational perturbations, control system design, planning for contingencies in the event of unforeseen anomalies, and testing and validation to ensure that the CubeSat can achieve its intended orbit and maintain stability.

ELaNa Payload

As part of the NASA CubeSAT Launch Initiative (CLSI), a payload aligned with NASA's "Education, Science, or Technology Development" in NASA's strategic plan for the year. The goal for payload is to focus on the proposed experiment or purpose for the current cubeSat’s launch. Every CubeSat must be accompanied with a proposal in order to be launched, and part of the proposal outlines the team’s intentions with the CubeSat. This subteam concerns itself with enabling that payload, including hardware integrations with the bus, software capabilities and algorithms being worked on, etc as well as researching any additional supporting infrastructure that is necessary for the payload but not for the normal CubeSat.The plan for our first CLSI CubeSat launch is to do space debris detection and classification using image processing and computer vision methods. Therefore, computer vision software and algorithms towards that end comprise a majority of the current interaction of this subteam.

For a more in depth description of our subteams and project, check out our page on Tufts SEDS' wiki

SpacePort Collaboration with Tufts Rocketry

Tufts CubeSAT is partnering with the Tufts Rocketry team to design and build a functional 2U CubeSAT (10cm x 10cm x 20cm) with two main objectives. The primary goal will be to monitor and collect data on atmospheric conditions such as temperature, humidity, pressure, and particulate matter. The secondary goal will be testing onboard Reaction Wheels designed, tested, prototyped, and fabricated by our own in house student efforts.

Our payload will test the spacecraft shell, sensors, and flight code in launch environment and low-altitude flight environment. It will also demonstrate capability and precision of the reaction wheels to control the CubeSAT, validated by testing how the reaction wheels actuate based on measured inputs. Meanwhile, the atmospheric payload will be collecting data for later analysis during the entirety of the flight. Small vents in the payload section of the airframe will provide the CubeSAT with the necessary access to the outside atmosphere, enabling good data recording.