Cubesats: How An Accidental Standard Launched A New Space Age
Bob Twiggs was frustrated. His Stanford University graduate students started satellite-building projects but never finished them.
Searching for a way to simplify the projects—and cut out build time—Twiggs thought, “What if we made [the satellite] a cube and put solar cells on all sides so no matter which way it rotated, it was going to get charged?” With some spare solar cells from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he went down to a local shop and found a 4 X 4 X 4-in. transparent box.
It was also around that time—in 1999—that an infamous error caught Twiggs’ attention. That year a mix-up between Imperial and metric units by a Lockheed Martin engineering team caused NASA’s Mars Climate Orbiter to burn up in the red planet’s atmosphere, ending the mission early.
“I said, ‘It’s about time students learn metric,’” he says. “I wonder what this [4-in. box] is in metric? Well, it turned out to be just almost 10 cm.”Cubesats: How An Accidental Standard Launched A New Space Age