The 1U cubesat structure is a 10*10*10 cm metal cube with frames. But it costs around 2000-3000€, which is really expensive.

I've found it for example on these sites:

What is the reason behind it? Is it created from a special material? Or is it expensive because of the low demand, so it can't be mass-produced?

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ That's very inexpensive by space industry standards. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Jan 16, 2017 at 10:29
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ But it is very expensive for a student or a hobby electronic. It is ca. the half of the yearly salary of an average man in my country $\endgroup$
    – Iter Ator
    Jan 16, 2017 at 17:15
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    $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, a typical student, hobby electronic, or average man or woman in any country is not in a position to build even a simple cubesat. Perhaps a CanSat is more achievable? $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Jan 16, 2017 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ @IterAtor According to this random source, it will cost you another 40 000 to launch the satellite. The 2000 for the frame will only be a fraction of the total cost. $\endgroup$
    – Yogu
    May 19, 2019 at 14:12

3 Answers 3


It's expensive because of the quality requirements.

Material cost is small, low demand is a factor but a structure that size can be made much cheaper than this.

The main cost factors are :

  • The design has to be qualified for use in space, this requires testing. So the R&D cost is high. Low demand means you have to amortize this cost over a small number of units.
  • The manufacturing process has lots of verification steps plus a paper trail for auditing.
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting, I just want more! Like what stresses the structure must absorb vs an estimated failure rate if they're done by Joe Machinist who knows his job--if a competent machinist built them in the usual non-spacey way, should we really expect them to fail? And audited by whom? Are cubesats regulated at that level? Is it the launcher who cares? The customer? For that matter, what IS the volume of venders like Isis or Pumpkin? I'm probably cramming too much into a comment. $\endgroup$
    – Greg
    Jan 7, 2021 at 20:39

I think this is a great question, still relevant now. This is an addendum to the answers already provided by Hobbes and iKrase.


Whilst I think the factors Hobbes has identified are spot on for the space industry in general the quality requirements on a cubesat structure basically come down to "don't get stuck in the launch pod" and "carry 1kg mass on very short moment arm from the primary structure".


We are discussing "price", rather than internal cost to the manufacturer of a cubesat structure. I suspect in today's market such vendors are is probably actually competing on price, and to an extent reputation, rather than performance. i.e. one might well expect it to be lower priced, somewhere.


Recall however that it is still in a market where the expectation is already that even cubesats should be expensive compared to other university/commercial equipment simply because space is expensive. Markets are not always efficient. A parallel is the hourly rates charged by commercial law practitioners compared to doctors, nurses, architects, engineers when the training and potential liabilities are comparable. People just accept, some less consciously than others, that this is the way the market is.

Judged by that metric, as iKrase has pointed out, cubesats still look cheap, just relative to much larger satellites that will operate for much longer.

Risk aversion

Lastly, there has been a very loose trend1 that satellite costs often relate to less than being a factor of ten per kg away from launch costs. The idea behind it, whether it has come about by a logical reason or a coincidence, relates to launch risk and things being expensive because they are expensive. i.e. "you'd better spend more on getting the satellite (or launcher) right given how much is being spent on the other component". Obviously, it doesn't have to be that way.

1: personal observation, unreferenced!


That's really not an exorbitant price at all for high quality metal parts, with anodizing and plating, produced in small quantity.

it looks like there's a reasonable number of parts in the CubeSat frame and some of them don't look super simple.


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