Xiaomi M10 Pro quad camera was integrated into a cubesat launched in November 2019


Chinese electronics firm Xiaomi went above and beyond to advertise its latest smartphone, sending the device’s 100-megapixel camera into space.

The camera, which is based on the 108-megapixel Xiaomi M10 Pro quad camera, was integrated into a cubesat that launched in November 2019.

Xiaomi used the quite brilliant orbital imagery for the Chinese launch of its new Mi 10 smartphones on Feb.13. 

The Xiaomi images show Earth from an altitude of around 307 miles (495 kilometers), where the Chinese-made cubesat travels at close to 17,450 mph (28,080 km/h).

Visible in one image is the Richat Structure, also known as the “Eye of Africa” and “Eye of the Sahara.” 

Spacety, a Changsha-based private company that provides end-to-end small satellite services, integrated the camera into one of its cubesats, which launched in November. 

The teams from Spacety and Xiaomi together solved 343 problems over a period of 168 days to get the 108-megapixel camera ready for launch aboard the Xiaoxiang 1-08, or “Dianfeng,” cubesat.

Digital photography has its roots in outer space. Eugene Lally, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, was the first to develop the concept of the digital camera.

A JPL team led by Eric Fossum later developed a complementary metal-oxide semiconductor active-pixel sensor (CMOS-APS) for imaging in space and on Earth.

While the Xiaomi orbital exercise was part of an advertising campaign, there are practical uses for such projects. Spacety has been looking at ways to lower the cost of space missions, testing both industrial and consumer-grade instruments and devices for use in space. And using cubesats with small payloads can bring big results at low cost.

For example, the United States’ LandSat 8 satellite, which launched in 2013, weighed 5,782 lbs. (2,623 kilograms) and returns images with a resolution of 98 feet (30 meters) per pixel from an altitude of 438 miles (705 km). Landsat 8 had a price tag of $855 million.

The Xiaoxiang-1-08 cubesat undergoing testing.  (Image credit: Spacety)

Xiaoxiang-1-08 was manufactured and launched within 2019, with a mass of a few pounds. The Mi 10 camera returned images at a resolution of 197 feet (60 m) per pixel. Of course, Landsat 8 is far more capable, working for many years and observing Earth with its Operational Land Imager in nine spectral bands, compared with the three (red, green, blue) of the Mi 10. 

Xiaoxiang 1-08 also carries other experimental payloads. These include a laser communications payload for Chinese firm Laserfleet and tiny, cutting-edge solid iodine thrusters for French startup Thrustme. 

The cubesat rode to orbit aboard a Chinese Long March 4B rocket, whose primary payload was the Gaofen-7 optical Earth observation satellite. The rocket also tested grid fins like those designed by SpaceX for guiding the landing of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy first stages.

Following this success, Xiaomi and Spacety are exploring the potential of cooperation in space imaging. This collaboration could have uses in meteorological observation, environmental warning, marine science and even financial analysis, representatives of the companies have said. 

Started in 1999, the CubeSat Project began as a collaborative effort between Prof. Jordi Puig- Suari at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo, and Prof. Bob Twiggs at Stanford University’s Space Systems Development Laboratory (SSDL).

The purpose of the project is to provide a standard for design of picosatellites to reduce cost and development time, increase accessibility to space, and sustain frequent launches. Presently, the CubeSat Project is an international collaboration of over 100 universities, high schools, and private firms developing picosatellites containing scientific, private, and government payloads.

A CubeSat is a 10 cm cube with a mass of up to 1.33 kg. Developers benefit from the sharing of information within the community. If you are planning to start a CubeSat project, please contact Cal Poly. Visit the CubeSat website at http://cubesat.org for more information.

Figure 1: Six CubeSats and their deployment systems.
  1. Purpose

The primary mission of the CubeSat Program is to provide access to space for small payloads. The primary responsibility of Cal Poly, as the developer of the Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD), is to ensure the safety of the CubeSat and protect the launch vehicle (LV), primary payload, and other CubeSats.

CubeSat developers should play an active role in ensuring the safety and success of CubeSat missions by implementing good engineering practice, testing, and verification of their systems. Failures of CubeSats, the P-POD, or interface hardware can damage the LV or a primary payload and put the entire CubeSat Program in jeopardy.

As part of the CubeSat Community, all participants have an obligation to ensure safe operation of their systems and to meet the design and minimum testing requirements outlined in this document. Requirements in this document may be superseded by launch provider requirements.

  1. Process

Developers will fill out a “Deviation Waiver Approval Request (DAR)” (see appendix A) if their CubeSat is in violation of any requirements in sections 2 or 3. The waiver process is intended to be quick and easy. The intent is to help facilitate communication and explicit documentation

between CubeSat developers, P-POD integrators, range safety personnel, and launch vehicle providers. This will help to better identify and address any issues that may arise prior to integration and launch. The DAR can be found at http://www.cubesat.org/ and waiver requests should be sent to s[email protected]

Upon completion of the DAR, the P-POD Integrator will review the request, resolve any questions, and determine if there are any additional tests, analyses or costs to support the waiver. If so, the Developer, with inputs from the P-POD Integrator, will write a test plan and perform the tests before the waiver is conditionally accepted by the P-POD Integrator. Waivers can only be conditionally accepted by the P-POD Integrator until a launch has been identified for the CubeSat. Once a launch has been identified, the waiver becomes mission specific and passes to the launch vehicle Mission Manager for review. The launch vehicle Mission Manager has the final say on acceptance of the waiver, and the Mission Manager may require more corrections and/or testing to be performed before approving the waiver. Developers should realize that each waiver submitted reduces the chances of finding a suitable launch opportunity.

Figure 2: CubeSat Standard Deviation Wavier Process Flow Diagram

Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployer

  • Interface

The Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD) is Cal Poly’s standardized CubeSat deployment system. It is capable of carrying three standard CubeSats and serves as the interface between the CubeSats and LV. The P-POD is a rectangular box with a door and a spring mechanism. Once the release mechanism of the P-POD is actuated by a deployment signal sent from the LV, a set of torsion springs at the door hinge force the door open and the CubeSats are deployed by the main spring gliding on its rails and the P-PODs rails (P-POD rails are shown in Figure 3b).

The P-POD is made up of anodized aluminum. CubeSats slide along a series of rails during ejection into orbit. CubeSats will be compatible with the P-POD to ensure safety and success of the mission by meeting the requirements outlined in this document.

The P-POD is backward compatible, and any CubeSat developed within the design specification of CDS rev. 9 and later will not have compatibility issues. Developers are encouraged to design to the most current CDS to take full advantage of the P-POD features.

Figure 3a and 3b: Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD) and cross section

CubeSat Specification

  • General Requirements
  • CubeSats which incorporate any deviation from the CDS will submit a DAR and adhere to the waiver process (see Section 1.3 and Appendix A).
  • All parts shall remain attached to the CubeSats during launch, ejection and operation. No additional space debris will be created.
  • No pyrotechnics shall be permitted.Any propulsion systems shall be designed, integrated, and tested in accordance with AFSPCMAN 91-710 Volume 3.
  • Propulsion systems shall have at least 3 inhibits to activation.
  • Total stored chemical energy will not exceed 100 Watt-Hours.
  • Note: Higher capacities may be permitted, but could potentially limit launch opportunities.
    • CubeSat hazardous materials shall conform to AFSPCMAN 91-710, Volume 3.
  • CubeSat materials shall satisfy the following low out-gassing criterion to prevent contamination of other spacecraft during integration, testing, and launch. A list of NASA approved low out-gassing materials can be found at: http://outgassing.nasa.gov
    • CubeSats materials shall have a Total Mass Loss (TML) < 1.0 %
      • CubeSat materials shall have a Collected Volatile Condensable Material (CVCM) < 0.1%
    • The latest revision of the CubeSat Design Specification will be the official version which all CubeSat developers will adhere to. The latest revision is available at http://www.cubesat.org.
    • Note: Some launch vehicles hold requirements on magnetic field strength. Additionally, strong magnets can interfere with the separation between CubeSat spacecraft in the same P-POD. As a general guideline, it is advised to limit magnetic field outside the CubeSat static envelope to 0.5 Gauss above Earth’s magnetic field.
    • The CubeSat shall be designed to accommodate ascent venting per ventable volume/area < 2000 inches.
  • CubeSat Mechanical Requirement

CubeSats are cube shaped picosatellites with dimensions and features outlined in the CubeSat Specification Drawing (Appendix B). The PPOD coordinate system is shown below in Figure 4 for reference. General features of all CubeSats include:

Figure 4: PPOD Coordinate System
  • The CubeSat shall use the coordinate system as defined in Appendix B for the appropriate size. The CubeSat coordinate system will match the P-POD coordinate system while integrated into the P-POD. The origin of the CubeSat coordinate system is located at the geometric center of the CubeSat.
    • The CubeSat configuration and physical dimensions shall be per the appropriate section of Appendix B.
      • The extra volume available for 3U+ CubeSats is shown in Figure 6.
    • The –Z face of the CubeSat will be inserted first into the P-POD.
    • No components on the green and yellow shaded sides shall exceed 6.5 mm normal to the surface.
      • When completing a CubeSat Acceptance Checklist (CAC), protrusions will be measured from the plane of the rails.
    • Deployables shall be constrained by the CubeSat, not the P-POD.
    • Rails shall have a minimum width of 8.5mm.
    • Rails will have a surface roughness less than 1.6 µm.
    • The edges of the rails will be rounded to a radius of at least 1 mm
    • The ends of the rails on the +/- Z face shall have a minimum surface area of 6.5 mm x 6.5 mm contact area for neighboring CubeSat rails (as per Figure 6).
    • At least 75% of the rail will be in contact with the P-POD rails. 25% of the rails may be recessed and no part of the rails will exceed the specification.
    • The maximum mass of a 1U CubeSat shall be 1.33 kg.
      • Note: Larger masses may be evaluated on a mission to mission basis.
    • The maximum mass of a 1.5U CubeSat shall be 2.00 kg.
      • Note: Larger masses may be evaluated on a mission to mission basis.
    • The maximum mass of a 2U CubeSat shall be 2.66 kg.
      • Note: Larger masses may be evaluated on a mission to mission basis.
    • The maximum mass of a 3U CubeSat shall be 4.00 kg.
      • Note: Larger masses may be evaluated on a mission to mission basis.
    • The CubeSat center of gravity shall be located within 2 cm from its geometric center in the X and Y direction.
      • The 1U CubeSat center of gravity shall be located within 2 cm from its geometric center in the Z direction.
      • The 1.5U CubeSat center of gravity shall be located within 3 cm from its geometric center in the Z direction.
      • The 2U CubeSat center of gravity shall be located within 4.5 cm from its geometric center in the Z direction.
      • 3U and 3U+ CubeSats’ center of gravity shall be located within 7 cm from its geometric center in the Z direction.
    • Aluminum 7075, 6061, 5005, and/or 5052 will be used for both the main CubeSat structure and the rails.
      • If other materials are used the developer will submit a DAR and adhere to the waiver process.
    • The CubeSat rails and standoff, which contact the P-POD rails and adjacent CubeSat standoffs, shall be hard anodized aluminum to prevent any cold welding within the P- POD.
  • The 1U, 1.5U, and 2U CubeSats shall use separation springs to ensure adequate separation.
    • Note: Recommended separation spring specifications are shown below in Table 1. These are a custom part available through Cal Poly. Contact [email protected] in order to obtain these separation springs.
      • The compressed separation springs shall be at or below the level of the standoff.
      • The 1U, 1.5U, and 2U CubeSat separation spring will be centered on the end of the standoff on the CubeSat’s –Z face as per Figure 7.
      • Separation springs are not required for 3U CubeSats.

Table 1: CubeSat Separation Spring Characteristics

Characteristics Value
Plunger Material Stainless Steel
End Force Initial/Final 0.14 lbs. / 0.9 lbs.
Throw Length 0.16 inches minimum above the standoff surface
Thread Pitch 8-36 UNF-2B
Figure 5: Custom Spec Spring Plunger (Separation Spring)
Figure 6: 3U+ Extra Volume (“Tuna Can”)
  • Requirements

Electronic systems will be designed with the following safety features.

  • The CubeSat power system shall be at a power off state to prevent CubeSat from activating any powered functions while integrated in the P-POD from the time of delivery to the LV through on-orbit deployment. CubeSat powered function include the variety of subsystems such as Command and Data Handling (C&DH), RF Communication, Attitude Determine and Control (ADC), deployable mechanism actuation. CubeSat power systems include all battery assemblies, solar cells, and coin cell batteries.
    • The CubeSat shall have, at a minimum, one deployment switch on a rail standoff, per Figure 7.
    • In the actuated state, the CubeSat deployment switch shall electrically disconnect the power system from the powered functions; this includes real time clocks (RTC).
    • The deployment switch shall be in the actuated state at all times while integrated in the P- POD.
      • In the actuated state, the CubeSat deployment switch will be at or below the level of the standoff.
    • If the CubeSat deployment switch toggles from the actuated state and back, the transmission and deployable timers shall reset to t=0.
    • The RBF pin and all CubeSat umbilical connectors shall be within the designated Access Port locations, green shaded areas shown in Appendix B.
      • Note: All diagnostics and battery charging within the P-POD will be done while the deployment switch is depressed.
    • The CubeSat shall include an RBF pin.
      • The RBF pin shall cut all power to the satellite once it is inserted into the satellite.
      • The RBF pin shall be removed from the CubeSat after integration into the P-POD.
      • The RBF pin shall protrude no more than 6.5 mm from the rails when it is fully inserted into the satellite.
    • CubeSats shall incorporate battery circuit protection for charging/discharging to avoid unbalanced cell conditions.
    • The CubeSat shall be designed to meet at least one of the following requirements to prohibit inadvertent radio frequency (RF) transmission. The use of three independent inhibits is highly recommended and can reduce required documentation and analysis.

An inhibit is a physical device between a power source and a hazard. A timer is not considered an independent inhibit.

  • The CubeSat will have one RF inhibit and RF power output of no greater than 1.5W at the transmitting antenna’s RF input.
    • The CubeSat will have two independent RF inhibits
  • Requirements

CubeSats will meet certain requirements pertaining to integration and operation to meet legal obligations and ensure safety of other CubeSats.

  • Operators will obtain and provide documentation of proper licenses for use of radio frequencies.
    • For amateur frequency use, this requires proof of frequency coordination by the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU). Applications can be found at www.iaru.org.
    • CubeSats will comply with their country’s radio license agreements and restrictions.
    • CubeSats mission design and hardware shall be in accordance with NPR 8715.6 to limit orbital debris.
      • Any CubeSat component shall re-enter with energy less than 15 Joules.
      • Developers will obtain and provide documentation of approval of an orbital debris mitigation plan from the FCC (or NOAA if imager is present).
    • All deployables such as booms, antennas, and solar panels shall wait to deploy a minimum of 30 minutes after the CubeSat’s deployment switch(es) are activated from P- POD ejection.
    • No CubeSats shall generate or transmit any signal from the time of integration into the P- POD through 45 minutes after on-orbit deployment from the P-POD. However, the CubeSat can be powered on following deployment form the P-POD.
    • Private entities (non-U.S. Government) under the jurisdiction or control of the United States who propose to operate a remote sensing space system (satellite) may need to have a license as required by U.S. law. For more information visit http://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/CRSRA/licenseHome.html. Click on the Application Process link under the Applying for a License drop down section to begin the process.

Cal Poly will conduct a minimum of one fit check in which developer hardware will be inspected and integrated into the P-POD or TestPOD. A final fit check will be conducted prior to launch. The CubeSat Acceptance Checklist (CAC) will be used to verify compliance of the specification (Found in the appendix of this document or online at http://cubesat.org/index.php/documents/developers).


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