Minimize ISS: SIMPL

ISS Utilization: SIMPL (Satlet Initial-Mission Proofs and Lessons) / Kaber (NanoRacks Microsat Deployer)

Overview   Spacecraft   Kaber   Launch    Mission Status   References

SIMPL is a microsatellite of NanoRacks, it is a modular satellite known as HISat (Hyper-Integrated Satellite) designed to provide complete satellite functionality in a nanosatellite scale. It will be the first NanoRacks microsatellite deployed from the space station and the first propulsion-capable satellite deployed from the NanoRacks Microsat Deployer, known as Kaber. The commercial deployer system aims to address the growing market of customers wanting to deploy microsatellites from the ISS orbit. SIMPL will be the first NanoRacks microsatellite deployed through the Kaber facility.

The NanoRacks Kaber mission SIMPL investigation studies small components called satlets, which are building blocks of larger satellites that are launched from the NanoRacks Microsat Deployer. The satlets are combined to form larger satellites or satellite constellations that share power, data and other resources and perform many different tasks. The SIMPL concepts have been designed and developed at NovaWurks Inc. of Los Alamitos, CA with Talbot Jaeger as PI (Principal Investigator) and Walt Mirczak as Co-PI. NASA is the sponsoring agency of SIMPL. 1) 2)

Research overview:

• NovaWurks Inc. pioneered the HISAT (Hyper-Integrated Satlet) technology, a concept to assemble larger satellites from small independent "cells" called satlets.

• NovaWurks HISats are independent and fully functional nanosatellites with their own propulsion, power, navigation, data processing, communications and payload accommodations.

• HISats also have mechanical, electrical and data interfaces to easily support accommodation of third party payloads.

• The NanoRacks Kaber Mission-1, along with the SIMPL -Microsat of NovaWurks, is a microsatellite technology demonstrator designed and built by NovaWurks Inc. to demonstrate innovative technology and is assembled by crew members and deployed from the ISS (International Space Station) using the Kaber (NanoRacks Microsat Deployer).

• The NanoRacks-NovaWurks SIMPL-Microsat demonstrates manual crew member assembly in microgravity of eight subassemblies utilizing minimal tools and simple mechanical and electrical connections.

• The NanoRacks-NovaWurks SIMPL-Microsat mission proves the HISat technology on orbit, will reduce risk for follow on HISat-capable missions, and enables commercial utilization of the cellularized technology developed by NovaWurks Inc. for payloads utilizing either ISS or ELV (Expendable Launch Vehicle) access to space.



The NanoRacks Kaber Mission-1, along with the SIMPL -Microsat of NovaWurks, is the on-orbit assembly and LEO (Low Earth Orbit) deployment demonstration of the NovaWurks HISat (Hyper-Integrated Satlet) system. The research utilizes a cargo vehicle flight to the ISS with six HISats and supporting payloads manifested. To demonstrate their packaging efficiency in the pressurized area of the ISS cargo vehicle the HISats are packaged individually. The disassembled cargo vehicle configuration enables a demonstration of the ease of on-orbit HISat assembly into a microsatellite, also known as a PAC (Package of Aggregated Cells).

The HISat Satlets of NovaWurks are homogeneous, autonomous satellites complete with propulsion, communications, power, and attitude control systems. Each Satlet has approximate dimensions of 20 cm x 20 cm x 10 cm. Individual HISats have lockable connectors enabling them to be mechanically connected to form a larger configuration capable of sharing power, data, and thermal interfaces. The NanoRacks-NovaWurks SIMPL-Microsat applies terrestrial WiFi (Wireless Fidelity) technology and hardware to inter-satlet communications utilizing a multiple node mesh network architecture. Each HISat can accommodate external payloads using an interface adaptor. HISats provide an app-based, open-source approach to core resource-sharing cellular software that provides for simple user-created applications to coordinate their requisite payload and mission needs.

Space applications: This investigation demonstrates small satellite components that can be interconnected in dozens of ways to support varying missions. The satellite components, or HISats (Hyper-Integrated Satlets), are interchangeable, which provides backup support in case some parts fail. The satlets are autonomous and have their own propulsion, communications, power and control systems, and they have interlocking connectors that allow them to share resources and work together in larger configurations, supporting a variety of spaceborne research projects.

Earth applications: Satellites built of many smaller parts can be used for a variety of missions that benefit research on Earth, including Earth observation, data transfer, ship and airplane monitoring, carbon dioxide monitoring, and more. Launching multiple smaller components and assembling them in space reduces the cost of launch, expanding access to LEO. In addition, this investigation carries an amateur radio designed and built by students at the US Naval Academy, providing training in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Operational requirements: NanoRacks-NovaWurks-SIMPL-Microsat mission requirements include crew resources for on-orbit assembly and pre-deployment logistics. Deployment is to occur as soon as possible after ISS reboost to maximize orbital lifetime. Video and photogrammetry services to characterize the NanoRacks Microsat Deployer deployment kinematics and provide payload developer mission assurance feedback and ephemeris data at the time of deployment.

Operational protocols: ISS crew assembly procedures have been prepared to guide the crew through proper and safe assembly of the NanoRacks-NovaWurks-SIMPL-Microsat PAC. The JEM/Kibo airlock and MSS SPDM operations are governed by the standard operations in place for those resources. Following deployment by the NanoRacks Microsat Deployer, NanoRacks-NovaWurks-SIMPL-Microsat flies an autonomous mission.



Figure 1: Photo of a NovaWurks HISat; the HISat's side solar cells, edge connectors, and rotatable carousel (top) are shown (image credit: NovaWurks)

The benefits of HISat technology include cost, flexibility, and robustness. HISats are designed to be interconnected in a vast number of configurations (known as Packages of Aggregated Cells, PACs), which can be tailored to support a wide variety of missions. As HISats are interchangeable, assembled PACs with inherent multiple levels of redundancy increase the overall probability of mission success. SIMPL is not only a precursor to constellations of HISat-based PACs that can perform Earth observation, data relay, maritime and aviation monitoring, and carbon monitoring, but also to deep-space exploration, asteroid mining, and many other missions serving mankind.


Figure 2: NanoRacks-NovaWurks-SIMPL-Microsat post ISS deployment configuration, solar arrays deployed (image credit: NovaWurks)



Kaber (NanoRacks Microsat Deployer System) - a microsatellite deployer on the ISS

The NanoRacks Kaber Microsat Deployer (NanoRacks Microsat Deployer) is a reusable system that provides command and control for microsatellite deployments from the ISS (International Space Station). NanoRacks developed the Kaber leveraging its experience deploying CubeSats from the ISS. The Kaber enables NanoRacks to support deployment into space of microsatellites in the mass range of 50 - 100 kg from the ISS. Kaber promotes ISS utilization by enabling deployment into orbit for a class of payload developers normally relying on expendable launch vehicles for space access. Microsatellites that are compatible with the NanoRacks Kaber have additional power, volume and communications resources enabling missions in low Earth orbit of more scope and sophistication. 3) 4)

Facility operations:

• The NanoRacks Kaber Microsat Deployer (NanoRacks Microsat Deployer) is a reusable system that provides command and control for satellite deployments via the JEM Airlock from the ISS.

• The NanoRacks Microsat Deployer has a mass of about 10 kg with approximate dimensions of 40 cm x 42 cm x 31 cm.

• Kaber maintains a mechanical and electrical interface between the satellite separation system and the International Space Station / Mobile Servicing System / Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (ISS / MSS / SPDM) and to the JEM (Japanese Experiment Module) airlock slide table.

• The NanoRacks Microsat Deployer accommodates microsatellites up to a mass of 100 kg with approximate dimensions 95 cm x 83 cm x 64 cm (max).



Figure 3: Two perspective views of the Kaber Deployer System (image credit: NanoRacks)


Figure 4: CAD rendering of the NanoRacks Kaber Microsat Deployer (NanoRacks Microsat Deployer)


Launch: The SIMPL microsatellite along with Kaber (NanoRacks Microsat Deployer) was launched on December 6, 2015 (21:44:57 UTC) on the Cygnus Orbital ATK CRS-4 (Commercial Resupply Services-4) mission from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL. Orbital ATK used the services of ULA (United Launch Alliance) Atlas-5 rocket to fulfil the CRS contract with NASA. The total payload packed on board was 3513 kg, including science investigations, crew supplies, vehicle hardware, spacewalk equipment and computer resources. 5) 6)

Orbit: The near-circular orbit of the ISS is at a nominal altitude of ~400 km with an inclination of 51.6º.


Figure 5: Artist's rendition of Orbital ATK's Cygnus spacecraft in orbit (image credit: Orbital ATK)

Secondary payloads:

- Flock-2e, 12 3U CubeSats of Planet Labs

- CADRE, a 3U CubeSat technology mission of the University of Michigan

- MinXSS-1, a 3U CubeSat solar physics mission of the CU (University of Colorado) at Boulder

- NODES (Network & Operation Demonstration Satellite), two 1.5 CubeSats of NASA

- STMSat-1 (Saint Thomas More School Satellite), Arlington, VA, 1U CubeSat.

- SIMPL (Satlet Initial-Mission Proofs and Lessons), a microsatellite of NanoRacks/NovaWurks along with Kaber of NanoRacks.



Mission status:

• The Cygnus Orbital ATK CRS-4 vehicle departed the ISS on Feb. 19, 2016 after successfully resuming America's train of resupply runs absolutely essential to the continued productive functioning of the orbiting science outpost. Prior to its departure, the astronauts loaded the cargo module with over 1,400 kg of items for disposal. Cygnus performed a safe, destructive reentry into the Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean east of New Zealand on February 20 at approximately 16:00 UTC, marking the successful conclusion of the mission. 7) 8)

• The individual HISat cells of SIMPL were delivered to the International Space Station in December 2015. The ISS crew assembly procedures were prepared to guide the crew through proper and safe assembly of the SIMPL PAC. The assembly aboard the ISS, scheduled to occur before May 20, 2016, will demonstrate the ease of on-orbit HISat assembly into a microsatellite, or PAC (Package of Aggregated Cells). 9)

- As a pathfinder, SIMPL also successfully achieved ISS EVA (Extravehicular Activity) and IVA (Intravehicular Activity) approvals so that future assemblies can be deployed through the JEM airlock, grappled by an ISS robotic arm, positioned in a safe deployment position and orientation, and then be released by the NanoRacks Kaber Microsat Deployer.

• Orbital ATK's Cygnus cargo craft CRS-4 approached the International Space Station on Dec. 9, 2015. Cygnus was grappled by the station's robotic arm and berthed to the ISS. The unloading of the cargo into the ISS followed during the next days.


1) "NanoRacks Kaber Mission 1-NovaWurks-Satlet Initial Mission Proofs and Lessons (NanoRacks-NovaWurks-SIMPL-Microsat)," NASA, March 16, 2016, URL:

2) "Building blocks to the future," NovaWurks, URL:

3) "NanoRacks Kaber Microsat Deployer (NanoRacks Microsat Deployer)," NASA, March 16 , 2016, URL:

4) Kirk Woellert, "Kaber Small Satellite Deployment System," NanoRacks ISS Workshop, George Washington University, February 17, 2015, URL:

5) "Oribital ATK CRS-4 Mision Overview," URL:

6) Stephanie Schierholz, Dan Huot, "NASA Cargo Launches to Space Station Aboard Orbital ATK Resupply Mission," NAS Release 15-229, Dec. 7, 2015, URL:

7) Ken Kremer, "Commercial Cygnus Cargo Freighter Departs ISS After Resuming US Resupply Runs," Universe Today, Feb. 19, 2016, URL:

8) "Orbital ATK Completes OA-4 Cargo Delivery Mission to ISS for NASA," Space Daily, Feb. 23, 2016, URL:

9) Information provided by James Greer, Chief Operating Officer of NovaWurks Inc., Los Alamitos, CA, USA.

The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (

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