Institute of Space Technology (IST) space program aims at designing, building, launching and succesfully operating the Pico-Satellite standard CubeSat. The program is led by Communication Systems Engineering (CSE) Department with support from Aeronautics & Astronautics as well as Materials Department. As a Space technology institute and research center, one of the objectives of IST is to design and develop miniature satellites for technology evaluation and in-orbit demonstration and to provide students with hands-on experience in space technologies, to meet the work force requirement for the national space program. Institute of Space Technology is the first academic institution of Pakistan to initiate the small satellite development program.
ICUBE-1 is the first satellite of the Institute of Space Technology Space program (ICUBE). ICUBE-1 is based on CubeSat standard proposed by Stanford University, USA in 1999. Since then, more than 100 universities have participated in the CubeSat program providing students with an excellent space research opportunity. CubeSat standard have strict physical requirements which eases the overall satellite development process from initial design up to launch. Generally, satellite development, even the miniature satellite development is a time consuming and expensive processes that not only demands professional expertise but also sophisticated equipment and test facilities. Considering such difficulties, Stanford University initiated the CubeSat program with a vision to not only reduce the development time and cost but also to provide cheaper space launch opportunities. One unit of CubeSat, mentioned as 1U, has dimensions of 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm with a mass of 1.33kg. 2U and 3U structures are also specified with dimensions of 10 cm x 10 cm x 20 cm and 10 cm x 10 cm x 30 cm (x, y, z axis) respectively. The defined physical dimension urges the development of standard deployer, Poly Pico-Satellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD), to deploy the satellites from the Launch Vehicle (LV). The standard P-POD is capable of holding three, 1U structures laid side by side, without causing any danger to the primary payload and the Launch Vehicle. Such a safety requirement is of utmost importance as generally these small satellites are launched as a piggy-back with the primary payload of the launch vehicle.
Institute of Space Technology has decided to take part in the CubeSat program with a mission to motivate and train under-graduate students to join and excel the national space program. The standard CubeSat has been adapted to accelerate the satellite development process and to reduce the underlying development and launch costs. IST has limited satellite development and testing facilities and thus it has been decided to develop and enhance some of the limited facilities in-house and also to make use of the existing facilities and equipment available in other research institutions of Pakistan. In the long run, it would be quite essential to have all development and test facilities at IST to enable fast, safe and cost-effective satellite development programs.