CSLI / ElaNa

What are CubeSats?

NASA’s CubeSat Launch initiative (CSLI) provides access to space for small satellites, CubeSats, developed by the NASA Centers and programs, educational institutions and non-profit organizations giving CubeSat developers access to a low-cost pathway to conduct research in the areas of science, exploration, technology development, education or operations.

Through Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) Missions International Space Station deployment opportunities or ride-share launches to space via existing launch services of government payloads are provided, as well as dedicated CubeSat launches from the newly selected VCLS contracts for the CubeSats selected through CSLI.

CubeSats are a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites. The cube-shaped satellites are spacecraft size in units or U’s, typically up to 12 U  (a unit is defined as a volume of about 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm and typically weigh less than 1.33 kg).  To participate in the CSLI program, CubeSat investigations should be in alignment with NASA's Strategic Plan.

The initiative is an integrated cross-agency collaborative effort led by NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate to streamline and prioritize rideshare and deployment opportunities of CubeSats. CSLI opportunities are available to NASA centers, U.S. not-for-profit organizations, and accredited U.S. educational organizations.  In the past, selected science investigation missions have studied Earth’s atmosphere, near earth objects, space weather, and biological sciences. Technology demonstration missions have included in-space propulsion, space power, radiation testing, and solar sails.

By providing a progression of educational opportunities including CSLI for students, teachers, and faculty, NASA assists the Nation in attracting and retaining students in STEM disciplines.  This strengthens NASA’s and the Nation’s future workforce.  Further, the CSLI promotes and develops innovative technology partnerships among NASA, U.S. industry, and other sectors for the benefit of Agency programs and projects.  NASA thus gains a mechanism to use CubeSats for low-cost technology development or pathfinders.

CubeSat Launch Initiative »