Current CubeSat antenna technology requires packaging during launch as well as deployment mechanisms during orbit. This packaging and deployment hardware adds extra volume, weight, and complexity to a payload. Additionally, there is a risk of deployment mechanism failure.

By integrating the antenna into the structure of a CubeSat, the need for extruding antennas, packaging considerations, and deployment mechanism are eliminated. The resulting antenna has reduced weight and volume and increased dependability.

In the new technology, the side walls and railing rods of a CubeSat are replaced by RF radiators that double as supporting structures. The RF radiators are hollow railing rods with inner dimensions that function as a waveguide to carry RF energy at a desired frequency. Radiating slots are cut on two of the four sides of hollow tubes that are open to the outside environment. Different operating frequency antennas may be placed at each of the CubeSats’ four corners. The railing rods provide RF antenna functionality in addition to structurally supporting the CubeSat structure.

The advantages of this system are increased reliability due to the elimination of deployment mechanisms and decreased payloads. Higher-frequency antennas with increased gain and directivity may be embedded into the rails. These higher frequencies are especially useful for remote sensing.

NASA is actively seeking licensees to commercialize this technology. Please contact NASA’s Licensing Concierge at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call us at 202-358-7432 to initiate licensing discussions. Follow this link here  for more information.


Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the December, 2020 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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