Space science for everyone at the Open Source CubeSat Workshop

CubeSat Workshop

Article from Issue 231/2020

The CubeSat community gathered in Athens, Greece to explore the possibilities for open hardware and open source software in space.

The Open Source CubeSat Workshop took place at the Athens Conservatory in Athens, Greece on October 14-18, 2019 [1]. The LibreSpace Foundation [2], which is sponsored by the European Union and the European Space Agency, organized the event. The general philosophy of the LibreSpace Foundation is to remove the barriers of confidentiality and secrecy involved in satellite development and to facilitate sharing of information on how to build and operate CubeSats.

CubeSats are miniature satellites used for scientific research in space [3] [4]. The most basic CubeSat is a 10cm cube that weighs a maximum of 1.33 kilograms (2.9 pounds). The tiny CubeSat is small enough to ride along as a secondary payload on government and commercial space launches. CubeSats have also been launched from the International Space Station. In all, more than 1,100 CubeSats have been launched into space, carrying a variety of experiments – many created by university students and amateur scientists.

This year's workshop, which had 200 people attend, was focused on developing and applying open source technologies for all aspects of a space mission. The intended audience was academia and research institutes, companies, and individuals. CubeSat enthusiasts who could not make it to the workshop could stream the event from a YouTube page [5].

One of the more interesting presentations was on open source development of low-cost, low-power, sub-joule, micro-pulsed plasma thrusters, from Michael Bretti, who runs a company called Applied Ion Systems. His talk was well received by an enthusiastic audience. Other topics and presentations at the conference included "Implementation of the CCSDS Service in Python," "Open-Source-Defined Software Radios for CubeSat Operations," and "Interplanetary Mission Analysis."

The SatNOGS State of the Union by Alfredos-Panagiotos Damkalis gave a good up-to-date introduction to what's happening now with the SatNOGS project, which, he explained, is made up of a network of small-scale ground stations that use open source software and hardware. Federico Collado gave a short explanation of a proposal for an open space development program. You can view Federico's presentation online [6].


A good place to learn about CubeSats is the SatNOGS project site [7]. Another interesting source is the European Space Agency's SDR Makerspace site [8], which brings together radio amateurs, GNU Radio developers, and software-defined radio experts to work on building open-source satellite communications solutions.

An easy way to find the talks from this year's workshop is to go to YouTube and search for "Open Source CubeSat Workshop 2019." And, if you decide you are interested, drop by the 2020 CubeSat Developers workshop on May 4-6, 2020 in San Luis Obispo, California.


  1. Open Source CubeSat Workshop 2019:
  2. LibreSpace Foundation:
  3. Wikipedia on CubeSat:
  4. NASA CubeSat Launch Initiative:
  5. Open Source CubeSat Workshop 2019:
  6. Space Development Program "Edu CubeSat" by Federico Collado:
  7. SatNOGS Project:
  8. SDR Makerspace:

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