CubeSat Confusion: Technical and Regulatory Considerations

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While CubeSats, small satellites built around a 10 cm building block, offer affordable access to space for nontraditional actors, they also pose a continuing problem known as “CubeSat confusion.” These satellites are often bundled with larger payloads as both a more cost-effective means of reaching space and a way to fill the excess capacity of launch vehicles. A problem arises when these CubeSats fail, becoming space debris that will never be identified or claimed. A number of regulatory, systems engineering, and technical solutions exist to facilitate identification of CubeSats after launch.

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