CatSat Satellite

Form factor CubeSat
Units or mass 6U
Status not launched, expected in 2024
Launcher Firefly Alpha, (ELaNa 43)
Entity name University of Arizona
Institution University
Entity type Academic / Education
Headquarters US
Partners GomSpace, Rincon Research, Freefall Aerospace
Costs $450000 for the GomSpace 6U platform.

Deploy and demonstrate an inflatable one-meter spherical antenna in Earth’s orbit.


Deploy and demonstrate an inflatable one-meter spherical antenna in Earth’s orbit. The inflatable antenna will be used to communicate to ground at ~50 Mbps and transmit HD video in real time. A second, identical camera is onboard and will be used to image and verify deployment of the inflatable antenna. A secondary goal of the mission will be to deploy a whip antenna to measure Earth’s ionosphere.

The satellite operations are organized as three experiments:

  1. Test the deployment and evaluate the performance of an inflatable high-gain spherical antenna from a cubesat. If successful, such an antenna could greatly impact future amateur satellite designs.
  2. Demonstrate high data rate communications and video imaging from a cubesat to ham stations and to 6.1 meter dishes of the Arizona Array manned by students. This will involve learning to use DSP on the AstroSDR board, and it will serve as a DVB-S2 test signal source for the phase 4 team working toward advanced amateur satellites in high orbit.
  3. Experiment with HF communications propagation to space from ham stations on 40, 20, 17, 12, and 10 meter bands transmitting WSPR, FT8, etc. This is structured so the amateur with only a HF station and no satellite equipment can participate as can the most sophisticated.

The FreeFall Aerospace inflatable antenna system packages into less than 1.5U of the total 6U Cubesat volume and deploys in orbit to provide a lightweight one meter or larger aperture that can increase total data return by 10-100 times that of conventional technology, with less mass and power. Once in orbit, the FreeFall antenna will deploy using compressed gas to inflate a half aluminized, 0.5 meter Mylar sphere incorporating a proprietary feed system. Data including HD video and diagnostic information will be communicated to a new 6.1m ground station located at the UA’s Biosphere II.

Rincon Research will provide and program their advanced, compact, flight-qualified Software Defined Radio (AstroSDR) to complete the payload package. The AstroSDR will perform high-rate signal and image processing to support mission experiments and establish a high-bandwidth telecom link between the spacecraft and Earth.

CatSat will also probe the structure of the Earth’s ionosphere by listening to thousands of low-power amateur radio beacons as it orbits Earth approximately 16 times per day.

Sources [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]
Photo sources [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
COTS subsystems
  • PLATFORM - GomSpace
  • ANTENNA - Freefall Aerospace
  • SDR - Rincon Research
Subsystems sources [1]
On the same launch

Last modified: 2023-11-04

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