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With the rapidly increasing accessibility of orbital launches, many new organizations, such as universities, are gaining the ability to launch and operate spacecraft. Many of these organizations are non-commercial and focus on research and education, giving them significantly lower overall budgets. Launch costs tends to dominate in these cases, leaving minimal funds for purchasing properly qualified or flight-proven commercial-off-shelf systems, such as the structure. As an alternative, many such organizations choose to design and fabricate custom systems which takes valuable engineering time and effort away from solving more mission-specific problems and introduces unnecessary risk.
Existing commercial-off-the-shelf CubeSat structures are available from a number of vendors such as Pumpkin Space Systems. However, such solutions suffer from relatively long lead times, difficulty in adapting to a particular mission's hardware, and prices that are prohibitive for many not-for-profit newcomers to the space industry.
Heartwood is a flight-proven 1U CubeSat structure which utilizes a primarily bent sheet metal design that is able to be easily manufactured using a number of different machining processes or outsourced to on-demand production services. With tooling in-house, the structure can be built within a day for $144 in materials. This has enabled SSI to rapidly iterate the design and build an essentially unlimited quantity of engineering models for testing and educational purposes.
With Heartwood’s designs freely available on the project’s GitHub, others are welcome to modify, build, and use the design.