Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


Jordi Puig-Suari


The CubeSat community has begun to develop and implement propulsion systems. This movement represents a new capability which may satisfy mission needs such as orbital and constellation maintenance, formation flight, de-orbit, and even interplanetary travel. With the freedom and capability granted by propulsion systems, CubeSat providers must accept new responsibilities in proportion to the potential hazards that propulsion systems may present.

The Cal Poly CubeSat program publishes and maintains the CubeSat Design Specification (CDS). They wish to help the CubeSat community to safety and responsibly expand its capabilities to include propulsive designs. For this reason, the author embarked on the task of developing a draft of safety standards CubeSat propulsion systems.

Wherever possible, the standards are based on existing documents. The author provides an overview of certain concepts in systems safety with respect to the classification of hazards, determination of required fault tolerances, and the use of inhibits to satisfy fault tolerance requirements. The author discusses hazards that could exist during ground operations and through launch with respect to hazardous materials and pressure systems. Most of the standards related to Range Safety are drawn from AFSPCMAN 91-710. Having reviewed a range of hypothetical propulsion system architectures with an engineer from Range Safety at Vandenberg Air Force Base, the author compiled a case study. The author discusses many aspects of orbital safety. The author discusses the risk of collision with the host vehicle and with third party satellites along with the trackability of CubeSats using propulsion systems. Some recommendations are given for working with the Joint Functional Component Command for Space (JFCC SPACE), thanks to the input of two engineers who work with the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC). Command Security is discussed as an important aspect of a mission which implements a propulsion system. The author also discusses End-of-Life procedures such as safing and de-orbit operations. The orbital safety standards are intended to promote “good citizenship.”

The author steps through each proposed standard and offers justification. The author is confident that these standards will set the stage for a dialogue in the CubeSat community which will lead to the formulation of a reasonable and comprehensive set of standards. The author hopes that the discussions given throughout this document will help CubeSat developers to visualize the path to flight readiness so that they can get started on the right foot.