6th ESA Cubesat Industry Days
12-14 September 2023 | Leiden | The Netherlands

The ESA CubeSat Industry Days started in 2013 and has been held every two years since then. The 5th ESA CubeSat Industry Days were successfully held online in June 2021 with almost 800 participants from 260 companies. This 6th edition marks the ten-year anniversary of IOD CubeSat missions at ESA.

Since the last event, a new era of lunar and interplanetary CubeSat missions has dawned – the first twelve CubeSats have been launched towards the Moon, and the first deep space CubeSat to flyby a near-Earth asteroid has been successful. The majority of these missions have been proven to be operational in the deep space environment and some have achieved their objectives, thus opening up a new pathway to truly low-cost interplanetary missions for science and exploration. Numerous CubeSat missions to the Moon and deep space are being studied, designed or implemented through a variety of ESA programmes. Some are to be embarked as payloads on larger missions, such as the two CubeSats currently being integrated for the Hera mission in 2024, as well as completely stand-alone systems capable of performing their own missions after a piggyback launch to near Earth escape. These upcoming demonstrator missions are focussed on cis-lunar situational awareness, in situ resource exploration, planetary defence and space weather monitoring domains, all enabled by a wide range of new miniaturised technologies under development.

Through the ESA General Support Technology Programme (GSTP), two space weather IOD CubeSats have successfully completed their missions in LEO during 2022, proving the utility of CubeSats equipped with miniaturised sensors to measure in-situ the radiation & magnetic field environments, as well as solar X-ray emissions. Another CubeSat funded through GSTP is awaiting launch in 2023 for the demonstration of new GNSS reflectometry techniques at unprecedented accuracy. Several more IOD CubeSat projects and miniaturised technology development activities have been initiated, or are ongoing with industry and research institutes. These include CubeSats for high-precision astronomy, low Earth orbit constellations, close-proximity operations, and beyond-LEO missions.

CubeSats have become recognised throughout the Agency beyond the domains of technology demonstration and education – including several CubeSats either under study, design, development, ready for flight or launched in other ESA programmes such as Space Safety, ARTES for commercial telecommunications, InCubed for commercial Earth Observation, FutureEO (Scout) for Earth science and FutureNav for LEO-PNT. Additionally, the Boost! Programme is fostering the development & flight validation of a number of European microlaunchers set to launch in the near-future to provide dedicated launch services for the CubeSat and small satellite markets. Through its IOD/IOV programme, the European Commission is also continuing to utilise CubeSat platforms to support the demonstration of innovative European technologies in orbit, and several national space programmes in European countries have a significant number of CubeSat missions and/or technology developments underway.

Furthermore, a diverse range of compact payloads and high-performance subsystems/products are enabling and expanding CubeSat mission applications to scientific endeavours and commercial domains, in order to address use cases what were not thought to be achievable only a decade ago. Even completely new system architectures such as distributed or aggregated swarms are becoming possible, opening up the prospect of innovative mission concepts not achievable by single large monolithic spacecraft. Thus, the market for CubeSats and their utility keeps widening at a rapid pace. The industry continues to grow steadily and perform as CubeSats have established a solid foothold in the overall space market. As a result, there has been an increased utilisation of CubeSat platforms by government and commercial customers.

The CubeSat Industry Days serves as a forum to exchange information on the latest developments and future priorities and the ESA activities in the CubeSat domain; reflect on technology & mission roadmaps; as well as to discuss the technical & regulatory challenges (such as reliability and space debris mitigation requirements) facing the industry in sustaining further competitiveness and growth in this innovative and dynamic segment of the space sector.

ESA Conference Bureau / ATPI Corporate Events

ESA-ESTEC, Keplerlaan 1
2201 AZ Noordwijk, The Netherlands