CubeSats are small, but so are some propulsion systems (cold gas thrusters, for instance, really aren't too complex and can be low volume/mass). Has any CubeSat actually flown with its own propulsion system? If so, what were the results?
After days of Googling this, I am going to say that it appears none have. It's worth noting that there are dozens of propulsion systems for cubesats (Google 'cubesat propulsion'), but I was able to turn up nothing referencing any that have actually flown.
One would think that if the systems had been used, be it privately or by a university, a result for an article, a paper, something would have surfaced.
I'll continue looking for evidence, but until someone finds it, the answer is 'no, not to the best of our knowledge.'
Yes, we know of a least one CubeSat that has flown (and is currently flying) with an active propulsion system. Specifically a steam powered warp drive.
STRaND-1 (Surrey Training, Research and Nanosatellite Demonstrator 1) was launched aboard PSLV-C20 on February 25, 2013. Developed jointly by the Surrey Space Laboratory and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, STRaND-1 and was the first CubeSat developed in the UK.
Apart from being the first smartphone based satellite in space it also carried a system of pulsed plasma thrusters for attitude control and a Water Alchohol Resistojet Propulsion system (WARP DRiVE, their name, not mine) for orbital maintenance and decommissioning.
Resistojets work by electrically heating a fluid (in this case a water-alcohol mix) to create high pressure gas (in this case mostly steam) that is then vented through a conventional nozzle to provide thrust. Hence: Steam powered WARP DRiVE.
As for the results, see for yourself.
Whether it was the first CubeSat propulsion system to fly I'm not sure, but it certainly has the best name of any I've heard of.
- Launch press release.
- STRAND-1: USE OF A $500 SMARTPHONE AS THE CENTRAL AVIONICS OF A NANOSATELLITETE. S Kenyon, C Bridges, et al. (Note that this was written in 2011, and states that the fuel for the resistojet was planned to be Methane. As the later documentation shows this was changed to water-alcohol sometime later in development.)
The Aerospace Corporation flew a cold gas (xenon) thruster on the MEPSI mission in 2006. It thrusted as expected. MEPSI was a 4" x 4" 5" spacecraft, so it wasn't a quite a CubeSat.
Aerospace will fly a steam thruster on their AeroCube OSSD-B&C missions early next year.