Over the last few years, CubeSats (miniaturized satellites) have risen in popularity due to their low cost and ability to obtain low-altitude orbits easily. Rideshare opportunities aboard rockets have driven down the cost of a launch, enabling more companies to bring payloads to orbit.
The result is a dramatic increase in the number of new space objects without an integrated tracking solution. Hundreds of CubeSats are circling the globe with little regulation, presenting a growing need for situational awareness in space.
To meet this need, SRI developed the CubeSat Identification Tag (CUBIT) technology to identify and track low-Earth-orbit small satellites. SRI’s CUBIT was developed in conjunction with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to unambiguously identify co-deployed CubeSats and provide an alternative monitoring method for orbital objects.
The CUBIT technology operates like an aircraft transponder by responding to earth-based signaling systems. CUBIT technology is independent of the satellite design (which can vary in form and reliability) and has a proven track record of on-orbit operations.
Recently, SRI’s CUBIT technology was onboard Spaceflight Industries’ Sun Synchronous Orbit – A flight (also known as the SmallSat Express). This launch follows a string of previous on-orbit CUBIT demonstrations. CUBIT technology is designed to fit in a small volume within a CubeSat. The technology takes up little space onboard a satellite—only a few cubic centimeters—making it easy for developers to incorporate it in their satellite design. An important feature of the CUBIT design is its passivity, meaning that it only responds to a unique ID call and does not congest airway signals with outgoing messaging. CUBIT allows individual calling and identification of space objects, thus creating order and specificity.
The CUBIT project is one small aspect of SRI’s broader roadmap for space. A pioneer in space-related technology, SRI has long been involved in developing a vision of greater utility from space and continues to work toward bringing new capabilities such as advanced sensors, robotics, AI, and other cutting-edge technologies to space.