Nanosatellites are spacecraft with a mass between 1 and 10 kg. The most popular form is the CubeSat. A basic form factor of 10 cm on a side, and 1.3 kg mass define a 1U CubeSat; linearly extending the length results in 2U (20x10x10 cm3, 2.7 kg.) and 3U (20x10x10 cm3, 4.0 kg) CubeSats.
While larger satellites usually have highly customized designed, CubeSats capitalize on the standard form factors and associated common deployment mechanisms. This greatly reducing the development challenges and costs in creating a CubeSat.
For missions that are more constrained than those of larger satellites, nanosatellites are being developed as low-cost alternatives. This usually means less payload is required, and and lifetimes in orbit which may be only a few months, but can go up to 25 years.
For external customers, the Academy is able to measure the performance of photovoltaic cells, thus helping manufacturers or users to determine if a particular solar panel can meet the needs for the user's spacecraft. The techniques employed are not intended for certification, but rather for fast turnaround to support satellite hardware development.
The Academy is also developing the technology for unique payloads under a NASA SBIR Phase I contract, and is working to demonstrate its feasibility by late 2012.