CubeSat Challenge

Propose new or innovative CubeSat payload technology/use concepts that can be demonstrated to support USSOCOM missions within 12-24 months Read Overview...
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What’s a Cubesat?

CubeSats are gaining popularity among academia, industry, and government. CubeSats are miniature satellites that are commonly used in low Earth orbit, have been used for educational purposes, and recently for applications such as remote sensing, scientific experimentation, or communications.  As engineers become more familiar with the technology, CubeSats are also being considered for flights outside of Earth orbit — to locations such as the Moon, Mars, or Jupiter.  Read more about Cubesats here.

The CubeSat standard was first proposed in the late 1990s by two professors: Dr. Jordi Puig-Suari of California Polytechnic State University and Dr. Bob Twiggs of Stanford University. They were trying to help students gain engineering experience with satellites, which are traditionally expensive to build, launch, and operate.

The basic CubeSat is a 10-centimeter (~4-inch) cube (called 1U) with a mass around 1.33 kilograms (2.93 pounds), but variations on the theme are possible. 1.5, 2, or 3 1U cubes can stack to create a 1.5U, 2U, or 3U CubeSat.  6 1U cubes can create a 10x20x30 cm (6U) CubeSat for more complicated missions.

These small satellites cost significantly less to build, launch, and operate than traditional satellites.  The lower cost allows for more rapid integration of new technology and experimentation with new concepts. The small size and weight reduce launch cost and allow the CubeSat to share a rocket with a larger satellite.  CubeSats adhere to a set of standards that are based on “Safety of Flight” concepts that will “Do no harm” to primary payloads, which is why they are allowed to fly with the more expensive payloads on a “space available” basis.

To give you an example of the use of such small, yet powerful technologies, the Earth observation company Planet recently launched around 100 3U CubeSats from a single rocket to build a constellation capable of imaging the entire earth every day to support everything from disaster response to climate monitoring.


Why Issue a Challenge?    

Here’s where you come into play.

The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is the Unified Combatant Command charged with manning, training, and equipping the various Special Operations Component Commands of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force of the United States Armed Forces.  Core Activities within the scope of Special Operations Forces (SOF) include: Direct Action, Special Reconnaissance, Unconventional Warfare, Foreign Internal Defense, Civil Affairs Operations, Counterterrorism, Military Information Support Operations, Counter-proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Security Force Assistance, Counterinsurgency, Hostage Rescue and Recovery, and Foreign Humanitarian Assistance.     

USSOCOM is unique in that it has service-like acquisition capabilities.  USSOCOM relies on private industry to develop SOF-peculiar equipment and technology to meet mission requirements while complying with federal acquisition regulations and federal law.

One of the guiding tenets of SOF is that most special operations require non-SOF assistance.  As such, USSOCOM is seeking global ideas on how to advance CubeSat capabilities. Specifically, USSOCOM is conducting this crowdsourcing challenge to solicit concepts that advance the state of current CubeSat technologies and payloads and demonstrate applications that may benefit any of the USSOCOM missions.  Concepts should be viable for a prototype demonstration within 12-24 months. These concepts will advance how CubeSats can be utilized to support Special Operations Forces (SOF) missions. 


What You Can Do Right Now

  • Click "Accpet Challenge" above to compete in the challenge.
  • Visit the Guidelines tab to see the rules and judging scorecard.
  • Start working on your entry! Submissions will be accepted until Oct. 18, 2017 at 5 p.m. EDT.
  • Click on the "Share" button or social media icons above to share this challenge with your friends, your colleagues, or anyone you know who has a passion for space, satellites, and technology.
  • Leave a comment in the Forum to join the conversation, ask questions or connect with other innovators.
Updates (3)

Questions? Comments? Let Us Know!

Aug. 31, 2017, 6 a.m. PDT by Maureen Murtha

Hello All! 

Summer is winding down, and our submission phase is now fully underway. Have you started thinking about your Cube Sat Challenge submission yet?

All you have to do to start is look at the submission form and consider where you stand. Some of it may seem easier than the rest -- and by all means, feel free to start with the simpler parts! You can always save your draft and come back to your submission later.

Did you start, but now you're feeling stuck? The forum is an excellent resource for reaching out to other competitors, with whom you may even be able to form a team! If you just have some unresolved questions or concerns, you can always comment directly on this update and someone will get back to you ASAP (and we're really fast with that.)

If everything is going smoothly, that's just awesome! Remember to check and double-check your submission for errors, grammar, clarity, and omissions with all that extra time you have.  Also, congrats on being so "on-top" of things.

No matter where you stand now, all submissions have to be in by October 18, 2017  no later than 5:00 pm EDT. So what are you waiting for? Get to it!

All About the Forum

Aug. 23, 2017, 6 a.m. PDT by Maureen Murtha

Maybe you've had some questions, thoughts, or ideas about this crowdsourcing project so far -- but you're still wondering where to take them? No worries, there's a quick, easy way to ask questions and start conversations about the Cube Sat Challenge: right in the forum.  

Interested? Simply go to the forum page to see what people are already saying. If you'd like to start a new conversation, click the orange "New Topic" button and begin crafting your message.

This is a great way to start connecting with other community members around different aspects of the challenge, gain insights, and even collaborate! Keep in mind that HeroX regularly checks in on the forum, so it's also a great way to get in touch with us about any questions (or suggestions) you might have.

Best of luck, and have a great weekend!

Cube Sat Officially Open for Submission!

Aug. 15, 2017, 6 a.m. PDT by Maureen Murtha

Hello All,

Thanks so much for being part of the Cube Sat Challenge Community! We've got some exciting news -- as of today, the competition is now open for submission. 

What does that mean, exactly? 

1. Access to begin your submission form
Now you can fully access the submission form required to enter. Now you can fully access the submission form required to enter. Click the "ACCEPT CHALLENGE" orange button on the top of the main challenge page to get started.  You can enter at any time from now until the final deadline of October 18, 2017. 

2. Invite a team to join you
All you need is their email address! To form a team to tackle this competition, this link will take to the page to do so. follow the instructions on the page, then reach out to your chosen teammates to get involved. Once they're in, you're ready to go! 

3. Review the guidelines
Guidelines are finalized when the challenge opens for submission, so it's always best practice to review them before beginning work on your solution. 

4. Start asking questions! 
Where is the best place to ask? Right at the bottom of this update, in the comments section! Give us any questions or comments you have about the FinTech Partner Search, and we'll be sure to get back to you real fast with everything we know.

5. Don't wait until October.
Our old friend procrastination is a tricky one, and might convince you that October is a really long ways off. Don't believe it! The sooner you get started, the clearer your solution will become, and the more confident you'll be come judging time. At the very least, get started with a working document of all the form questions (the submission form can serve as that) and get square on what has to be done in order to complete the submission. Time really does fly! 
All that being said, we're glad to have you on board for the competition. If you're interested, but don't think you've got what it takes for this particular competition -- give it a shot anyway (and don't forget to tell your friends) -- you might surprise yourself.

Good luck, and let the fun begin! 

Forum (16)