Alba Orbital sell first two Unicorns to Stealth startup Stara Space

Alba Orbital Limited, a Glasgow based pioneer of miniaturized satellites, today announced the sale of the first two Unicorn-2 PocketQube spacecraft platforms to US-based stealth mode startup, Stara Space. Stara plan to use these two satellites as a proof of concept for an eventual constellation to service other space users with high speed real-time data connection, storage, and computation. These satellites named NOOR 1-A and 1-B will demonstrate a LEO-LEO intersatellite link, encrypted communication, ADCS, and integration with ground station software that allows 3rd party satellites to request data transfer, crucial technologies required to create a real-time global communications constellation.

NOOR 1-A and 1-B will fly on Alba Launch cluster 2, joining 5 other PocketQube customers on the cluster, which is now sold out. The target launch date is Q3 2019, on a TBA flight proven launch vehicle. This will be the biggest deployment of PocketQubes in history, with the goal to provide a regular service for the PocketQube community, servicing startups such as Stara, Universities and space agencies.

Unicorn-2 is Alba’s 2nd generation PocketQube platform and the most advanced platform in its class. Developed with support of from the European Space Agency (ESA), Unicorn-2 boasts a 20 watt quadruple deployable solar panel, the world’s smallest active pointing system (ADCS) and all key electronics integrated into one board (backplane). Each spacecraft only weighs only 750 grams with payload.

Tom Walkinshaw, CEO/Founder Alba Orbital Limited said:

‘We are really excited to announce Stara as our first Unicorn-2 customer! They have a really ambitious vision and we are really itching to get to work on making their first missions a success.’  

Tyler Diaz, Co-Founder/CEO Stara Space said:

“The Alba team have been stellar at collaborating with for this mission. We’re excited to work alongside them to advance the frontier of small satellites.”



Video of Unicorn-2 Comms version

About PocketQubes

The PocketQube satellite format is made up of 5cm cubes, which can be stacked to make larger variants, which are referred to as p, for example 1p, 2p, 3p etc. The first 4 PocketQubes were launched into space in 2013. Globally, they are currently 13 PocketQube manifested for launch and expected to fly within the next 2 years.

About Alba Orbital Ltd

Alba Orbital was founded in 2012 by Tom Walkinshaw and now employs 15 employees, 13 Full Time Equivalent. Their current offices are based in Glasgow Scotland, with 130m sq of design, manufacture and assembly space all under one roof. The team have won 5 major contracts with the European Space Agency, worth in excess of 1 million euro. Their platforms, Unicorn-1 and Unicorn-2, serve different parts of the satellite value chain and with their new Albapod deployer, are able to fly on any launch vehicle. They now have a combined 10 customers for their Alba Launch Cluster service and Unicorn platforms. For more information on Alba, please visit

Media Contact: Andrew Paliwoda,, 0845 689 0098

About Stara Space

Stara space are a stealth mode startup based in Miami Florida who are deploying a constellation of pico-satellites that provide high speed data connection, storage, and computation for space. Their first 2 Satellites, NOOR 1-A and 1-B are expected to launch in Q3 2019.

For more information on Stara, please visit

Media contact:

PocketQube Platforms for Research and Teaching Purposes

Alba Orbital calls for all university academics to join us on our PocketQube journey into space. We offer a valuable solution to the lack of funding in space research by focusing on the miniaturisation of technology, allowing for more to be accomplished with less funds. You can now achieve your first ever satellite mission from as little as 30,000 euro, no matter what your learning objectives may be, for satellite, launch, and the first year of operations.

Our services have been developed in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA). We enable an array of applications for data collection and experimentation with our top quality PocketQube design; from earth observation (EO) to aircraft signalling, by using a variety of different payloads. Not only do these nano-satellite platforms democratise your access to space, but they also improve the depth and quality of your education by providing in-orbit demonstrations, testing, and experimentation. Let’s make your space programme a success.


As world leaders in PocketQube technology, our educational solutions have two purposes:




Are you in need of resources for a brand new research project? PocketQubes primarily support PhD and MSc engineering students in conducting their upcoming research tasks on a timely and cost effective scale. Even if it is your first encounter with a satellite, we can reassure you that the beginning is simple. Alba Orbital has the capacity to design, build and launch your PocketQube within one academic year. As we promise to deliver on time, our short turnaround times ensure that you can stick to strict university deadlines, i.e. dissertation hand-in date. This also allows for the rapid testing of student concepts which minimises error and keeps the research focused. Note that your research objectives are greatly considered given our flexibility in PocketQube size and design. We support student involvement at all stages of the mission - in design, manufacturing, testing, launching, and orbital activity. Examples of possible research activities may involve the deconstruction of a PocketQube and the analysis of its component parts. The conclusions drawn from such experimentation would hopefully improve overall comprehension of a satellite’s internal operations, i.e. data collection, when in orbit. Additionally, this provides a basis on which journal articles and publications can be written, expanding the depth of resources on space education and acting as a useful reference for future research projects.




On the flip side, we also hope that such research findings can be used amongst university lecturers as key examples and areas of discussion in lectures, tutorials, and workshops. As previously stated, PocketQubes are a great alternative to the traditional satellite model and one of the most up-to-date advancements out there. An educational focus on PocketQubes is vital. Future engineers, particularly those interested in a career in space, should be made aware of the logistics behind this spacecraft technology. It combines applied theory with practical applications which enriches the overall learning experience and suits all students’ optimal learning styles. Thanks to PocketQube technology, lecturers can improve the quality of their lessons. With better teaching comes greater innovation towards student’s learning, as they will feel more motivated and inspired to expand their knowledge in their subject field. This naturally boosts your university’s reputation because students should generally perform better in examinations and contribute to a better position in the higher education league tables. High school students are also more likely to apply for further education at universities where courses offer exciting resources for experimentation, i.e. PocketQubes. Make university life easier - use our PocketQube as your next big teaching tool.


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What’s next?

As Alba Orbital is based in Glasgow, we already work closely with three prestigious universities - the University of Glasgow, Glasgow Caledonian University and Strathclyde University - with whom we aim to strengthen our commercial bonds. We also welcome an international client base. We hope that our PocketQubes can have a global impact on the future of space education. 


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1st PocketQube Workshop Asia Slides and Pictures

We were excited to organise the 1st Asian PocketQube Workshop. The event was a half day event with 6 speakers from 4 different PocketQube building organisations. The event was hosted at Skyscanner’s Singapore office and we would like to thank them for sponsoring the event!


  1. Silvana Radu, TU Delft, PocketQube Standard and Delfi-PQ (3p) - Slides

  2. Saurav Paudel, Orion Space, Overview of NepalPQ-1 (1p) - Slides

  3. Andrew Paliwoda, Alba Orbital, Overview Alba Orbital and Alba Launch Clusters - Slides

  4. Stuart McAndrew, Picosat Systems, Development of OzQube-1 (1p) PocketQube - Slides

  5. Yaju Rajbhandari, Orion Space, Electrical Power System (EPS) of Nepal-PQ1 - Slides

  6. Tom Walkinshaw, Alba Orbital, Developments of Unicorn-2a (3p) and the Albapod deployer - Slides

Unicorn-2: The world's most powerful PocketQube launch

Do you have a burning desire to launch a nanosatellite into space? Is your access currently limited to a low budget and time constraints? Are you looking for help in completing your first satellite mission? You have come to the right place. The beginning is simple. Alba Orbital builds PocketQube satellites which offer you reliable launch opportunities every year.


The next available launch of the Unicorn 2 satellite platform, Alba Cluster 2, is scheduled for mid to late 2019 to a 500 km SSO on Kodiak Island in Alaska. This is a key milestone as it will be the world’s most powerful PocketQube launch in history. Not only is it an interesting breakthrough into space, but it is desirable in terms of affordability and timeliness. We have already received considerable interest in our new satellite  (50% capacity) but we hope that our clusters can attract more of our target market - companies, universities and amateur teams - as you need a large number of satellites to fill any launch vehicle.


Prior to the launch, satellites will be integrated within the company’s own deployer (AlbaPOD) deployer in 6p or 96p variety. These picosat operators are used on a commercial scale which allows for more frequent launch prospects. Flight proven technologies for both the PocketQube and the deployer guarantee accuracy at each stage. Pricing for the launch depends on size, starting from 25k euros for 1p, 40k euros for 2p and 60k euros for 3p. As highlighted previously, this is considerably cheaper than any other cubesat launch service in its industry, allowing you to fly more missions or invest in your team. The cluster size is 12p at present. As of present, Alba Orbital welcomes a deposit of 10% of the launch upon request.


Alba Orbital value the customers’ mission requirements like their own. Given that our launches occur on an annual basis, customers can achieve missions in a shorter time than before and thus stick to important deadlines. In addition, Unicorn 2 offers a range of payloads with a 22gsd from a 500 km orbit. The most common is an optical payload.


Our partnership with European Space Agency (ESA) initially lead to the development of the 2p PocketQube platform, Unicorn-1 which was a great success but equally outlined certain sources of learning and flagged degrees of improvement. Unicorn-2 is Alba Orbital’s latest advancement, a slightly bigger 3p PocketQube platform with the capacity to fly on a PocketQube for the first time ever. Quality is continually assessed by the ESA.


Here is Tom Walkinshaw, the CEO, with his current reflections on PocketQubes themselves:


Why PocketQubes?

They are the next frontier of small satellites and really the cutting edge of miniaturization which allows more people access to space than ever before.


What did Alba Orbital learn from Unicorn 1?

We learned about how to build a satellite and most importantly, the ways in which we could build a team, as well as building a company around a team. There were so many lessons, for example all the subsystems concerning a good PocketQube.


Will Alba Orbital continue its launches of Unicorn 1 after the launch this year or will it be scrapped completely when Unicorn 2 is in action?

We are unsure at the minute as it all depends on the market. If people want Unicorn 1, we will build Unicorn 1. Unicorn 2 is a massive leap forward and is a lot more interesting because of its spectrum. It is worth seeing how the Demo mission goes first of all and if interest is still there for Unicorn 1, we will consider a discount on it.


State the main differences and/or improvements between Unicorn 1 and Unicorn 2.

What can be achieved with a larger PocketQube?

Unicorn 2 is a lot better in several ways. We really have established a large engineering team who are currently developing Unicorn 2. We have learned the lessons from Unicorn 1 which we obviously did not have before, this experience of building PocketQubes. The key headline number is our power so this means that we are about 20 watts peak on Unicorn 2 compared to under 1 watt on Unicorn 1. We are essentially 19 watts up, in other words, 20 times more powerful. Data rate is about 20 times quicker as well. We stand at 200 kilobytes per second versus 10 kilobytes in Unicorn 1. There is active control for the first time so we can orientate the satellite where we want to go and this allows for more missions. We have more payload volume internally - all our electronics are integrated into the backplane, one main circuit board that has all the key components - whereas in Unicorn 1, there were several small boards. The payload volume allows us to fly cameras. Hence, we are flying a camera on Unicorn 2-A with Vector-R. We also have two different new radios. In general, it is a much more advanced platform.


Describe the key applications of PocketQubes.

Our main application is Earth observation (EO), however, several applications exist in terms of remote sensing applications such as picking up aircraft beacons (ADSB), ship tracking beacons (EIS), weather, communications like IOT. There is a lot of interest in missions doing spectrum monitoring, for instance, how do you know who uses what spectrum? If you are a satellite, you can put up different usage levels in different areas. And of course, we have communications - how do you connect all these devices in the middle of nowhere? With a satellite overhead, you can get the data back. Also, technology demonstrations which is flying new technology in space for the first time is really a massive application and general satellite missions which describes when a satellite can do something that no other architecture can.


How does Alba Orbital help make the launch process simpler?

We are definitely trying to make it more streamlined. Historically, it was very difficult to procure a launch for PocketQube and we have been working on Unicorn 1 for almost three years now. We learnt this the hard way but good price does not necessarily mean good customer service or fast service. Therefore we really set out to try and build a service for the service that we run ourselves. We have an ICD online so this gives consumers the possibility to build their own satellite. This may sound trivial but we were told that the dimensions of the PocketQubes had changed after we bought it. We also run developer workshops twice a year in Asia. This allows for nanosatellite company representatives to gather and discuss how we can improve our satellites. We want to make it easy for our target market to manifest a launch. Our goal is to launch a cluster at least once a year so we have a regular bus schedule for customers to confidently plan that if they gave some funding for their mission that they meet mission requirements on a timely scale.  


Do Alba Orbital have direct competitors? If so, who are they and what does Alba Orbital do differently?

In terms of PocketQubes, we do not have any direct competitors. I would say that we have indirect competition with the lower end of the cubesat market for platforms but no one else really develops the same kind of technology. When it comes to launch, there are other launch deployer called GAUSS Srl yet strangely, we are their biggest customer in the community. Our competition with GAUSS Srl on the launch is considered as a positive because our company would like to see more access to space. As their customer, we would love them to be a success and in turn, I hope we do well to meet the current demand for PocketQubes.


Is the PocketQube format an Open Standard?

Yes, we just released the new version with TU Deflt and GAUSS Srl ourselves so that is available on each of our websites.


How are the company’s visions portrayed in the Alba Orbital Launch Service?

The vision of Alba Orbital is to advance PocketQubes and the miniaturization of satellites. In order to democratise access to space, you need to have access to space which essentially refers to our launches. This is never going to be an easy ride but the more people who sign up, the easier it will be to reduce the cost per satellite. If the satellite is small like PocketQubes, we can be really competitive and allow our customers to launch for 25k euros instead of 250k which is quite a game changer. It enables regular launches and more possibilities in advancing programmes.


What sort of limitations/barriers do you see for PocketQubes? What are Challenges faced in creating this kind of spacecraft?

There is a lot - PocketQubes are very small and at present, there is a lack of knowledge concerning this technology. I have been building them for over 5 years which is probably longer than anyone in the world. Firstly, most of the advances in PocketQubes are related to smartphones and how we can use that technology in space. The second factor is gaining more insight on deployable panels and mechanisms such as 3D printing. There are several key aspects to follow when making a good PocketQube - integration, deployables, just making everything really small… If you can make something small, make it smaller. Alba Orbital is always experimenting to see how we can improve our satellites. We have already seen huge improvements on first and second generation. We hope that we can reach a point where the advantages of PocketQubes are super obvious and widely known. For us, we want to prove to customers that it is a viable option to achieve missions.


What does the future hold for the PocketQube format? Will there be a Unicorn 3?

*Laughs* The plan is to update the leading edge platform every few years. There will always be small alterations but one day we hope to see Unicorn 3, 4, 5 and I think the PocketQube community will grow as a whole. I have already seen this growth. Only a few people in the world developed PocketQubes when I started out and now I see over 70 people at these conferences. In our eyes, PocketQubes seem like the future so we are trying to lead that and make it happen. It is an exciting place to be.



If you would like more information, please email


Lean Start-up Technique: Unicorn-1 as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

Recent times have seen the space industry skyrocket with new startup businesses, all of whom share a desire to stand out in this increasingly saturated market. Most have adopted the “lean startup technique” by producing a minimum viable product (MVP) to attract initial interest from potential target markets. Early customer retention and collated feedback provides a stepping stone on which a new and improved version can be later produced.


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Alba’s MVP


Following its establishment in 2012, Glasgow-based space company Alba Orbital began to design and develop Unicorn-1, its first iteration of a PocketQube platform as their MVP. Our team of engineers built this 2p nano-satellite, in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA), for in-orbit demonstration, testing and experimentation. As small as an Irn Bru can, the building and launch of Unicorn-1 was justified by its offer of low-cost turnkey access to space. It targets those who want to fly to space for the first time. One of its many applications is plane tracking, for example. Alba Orbital sees it as a trial run for the world’s first picosatellite low earth orbit inter-satellite link to a geostationary platform. Serving as a test satellite, several conclusions were drawn and lessons were learned for more ambitious future missions.


Alba Orbital does not regret their decision to firstly develop Unicorn-1 as a primordial product. There was reasoning and viability behind this. All technically oriented products require a series of testing to work smarter in terms of efficiency and design. We believe that Unicorn-1 has enough value given that it is still in use. As it is the most basic template of our possible final product, our early adopters have a better idea of what to expect in our future development.


The feedback loop - how this lead to Unicorn 2


Alba Orbital learned so many lessons. Primarily, we learned how to build a satellite. Most importantly, we found out about how to establish a large engineering team and grow a company around a team. The experience of building PocketQubes was a massive leap forward. General feedback inspired the Unicorn-2 satellite platform - our most recent 3p nanosatellite advancement, also created in partnership with the ESA for further space exploration. 


One may ask - what are the key advancements/improvements from Unicorn-1 to Unicorn-2? Unicorn-2 is far better for a number of reasons. It is everything that Unicorn-1 was not. The overall design originated from the ‘mobile phone philosophy’ where the subsystem was integrated instead of modular. It is closely reviewed by the ESA to guarantee quality assurance. Unicorn-2’s integrated payload supports many more applications from nighttime earth observation (EO) to aircraft signalling. The opportunity to add custom payloads, a 22gsd from a 500 km orbit, also offers higher adaptability. Data collection is further optimised by being 20 times quicker via the addition of two different new radios and antennas.  We stand at 200 kilobytes per second versus 10 kilobytes in Unicorn 1. Ultimately, Unicorn-2 contains the world’s first ever Nano-satellite Quadruple deployable solar panel that maximises the capacity of the battery, generating up to 19 watts of power - our key headline number - compared to under 1 watt on Unicorn 1. We are essentially 20 times more powerful. There is active control for the first time so we can orientate the satellite where we want to go and this allows for more missions. We have more payload volume internally - all our electronics are integrated into the backplane, one main circuit board that has all the key components - whereas in Unicorn 1, there were several small boards. The payload volume allows us to fly cameras. 


In general, it is a much more advanced platform.




For more information, please email

Alba Orbital's Intern Program

Alba Orbital runs an annual summer internship program. Could this be for you? To find out more - here is Hayley Valentine, an International Business Management and French student from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. She reflects upon her recent position as marketing intern at our office:


Describe your role as an intern.

I assisted Alba Orbital’s sales and marketing activities alongside Business Development manager Andrew Paliwoda. We aimed to sell the remaining space on the Cluster 2 launch of the latest nano-satellite platform, Unicorn 2. With a particular focus on web marketing, I also hoped to increase public awareness of Alba Orbital, especially in the higher education sector as the main target market.


What did your role entail?

During my two weeks, I focused on the creation of online content for marketing purposes. I had to initially familiarise myself with basic jargon and knowledge on space technology itself. I was completely new to this exciting industry. Working alongside a skilled team of engineers, I began to write various blog articles for the company’s website, covering topics such as PocketQubes for education, Unicorn-1, as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and Alba Orbital’s partnerships. I interviewed CEO Tom Walkinshaw for first hand market research to support the content of these articles. I was able to clarify information on the company’s current market position as well as its visions, values and future objectives. I spent a few days on producing a mailing list of potential contacts for an upcoming press release. This was then prioritised into the most relevant journalists who we could contact. I also had access to the marketing automation tool MailChimp. Here, I sent out email updates to Alba Orbital’s subscribers as an announcement on recent company activity. I later analysed the web design and content of the launch page, trying to find key areas of improvement where we could increase traffic, in other words, sales on the upcoming launch. As university academics seem to be Alba Orbital’s main target market, I created targeted brochures and posters to promote PocketQubes as valuable educational platforms for both research and teaching purposes. Finally, I comprised an in-depth SWOT analysis which reflected upon my observations and experience of Alba Orbital.


Discuss the challenges you faced.

As a business student, my main challenge lay in trying to get my head around the space technology that Alba Orbital uses. It was not important for me to understand the mechanics but I felt the duty to understand the product before I could produce any marketing materials. Space is also an industry I knew nothing about which meant that I conducted a large amount of research during my first few days in the office. I see challenge as a positive - my limits were tested and I learnt a lot. It helped me to work more creatively.


What did you learn?

As previously mentioned, I learnt about the basics of space and its industry. Most importantly, in terms of business, I can now say that I am more confident in the field of marketing. For instance, I had practise in copywriting, marketing automation tools and formal interviews. I learnt about the key techniques that startup companies adopt to attract its prospectus markets. I applied academic theory to a real-life environment. Through professional feedback, I also learnt about myself as a worker: my strengths and weaknesses. I believe that this internship will help my progression into fourth year in terms of future learning prospects.


How did this opportunity benefit you?

An internship really sets you out. The benefits are undeniable. I now have a better idea of what to expect from the working world and what is expected of me. I have discovered new interests in business which I am excited to explore after graduation. I gained great experience for my CV in an industry that I did not ever consider working for and can confidently say that I learnt much more than I ever would in a lecture theatre.


What do you feel that you brought to Alba Orbital?

I hope that my work was able to benefit the company in some way, whether it be in general awareness of PocketQubes and their launch opportunities, or in the sales themselves. Only time will tell. In any case, I tried my best to work hard and felt a responsibility to fulfil the company’s objectives of this role.


How did you find out about this program?

The role was advertised through my university’s careers service. I had left it so late to find a summer internship that I was delighted to hear about this internship


Would you recommend this program to other students?

Yes, definitely! What was asked of me was rather challenging at times but manageable. I was made to feel very welcome in the workplace. The team is both friendly and laid back. I felt as though my opinions were valued and respected which I appreciate given that it was my first ever time working in a business.


Do you see a career in space?

I personally am not sure if I have enough interest in this industry to pursue it. As a business graduate, I think that it would be a challenging field to crack. However, that is not to say that I would right it off. I am very grateful for this opportunity. It is definitely the up and coming marketplace to watch.


If you are interested in taking part, please send your CV to with the subject line ‘Intern’.



Alba Orbital's partnerships: Networking in Space

As world leaders in PocketQube technology, start-up business Alba Orbital strived to establish commercial partnerships working closely together within its industry following its creation in 2012. Partnerships provide support in terms of resources, investment and future prospects. Hence, access to space is made easier with these helping hands on board of the spacecraft.


The European Space Agency (ESA)




Alba Orbital first partnered with the ESA to design its first ever PocketQube platform, Unicorn-1, for launch in 2018. ESA is an international organisation, comprising of 22 Member States, who support and invest in the exploration of space in Europe and further afield. Its visions lie in ensuring that space has a positive impact on the world itself. ESA saw potential in the company for many reasons, one of which being that space industry has skyrocketed in Scotland. Alba Orbital finds its headquarters in Glasgow - the European city that has created the most satellites in the past few years. PocketQubes are the smallest of satellites which equals low cost access to space. This was also of high interest by allowing more amateur companies a chance to set out missions. Of course there are limits which exist but Alba Orbital aim to push these limits.




History repeated itself when Alba Orbital won another contract with ESA, this time to design and develop the Unicorn-2 platform, an improved PocketQube platform from the first. ESA helped Alba Orbital via a funded project called Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES). This ongoing project considered Alba Orbital’s objectives in designing, developing and testing a 3p PocketQube with an integrated payload and a 96p PocketQube Orbital Deployer for several batch launches. It clearly evaluates the technical challenges that arise from this type of spacecraft whilst weighing up its key features, all of which helped to devise a timeline of important milestones for the company. As official online documentation clearly states that PocketQubes democratise access to space, this is thus a key player which justifies the reasons for funding Alba Orbital.  


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Some advancements have successfully been made throughout the journey of Unicorn-2. Alba Orbital has fully completed the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) including the Critical Design Review (CDR) for their project. Quality was assured at each stage thanks to ESA. This is important as it matches the company’s visions and values as well as minimising error and reducing waste during the design process.


Vector Launch Inc.


The next launch date of the Unicorn 2 satellite platform, Alba Cluster 1, is scheduled for late 2018 on Kodiak Island in Alaska. Alba Orbital teamed up with Vector, a nanosatellite launch company founded in America. Their aim is to launch the PocketQubes using Alba Orbital’s own deployer, the AlbaPOD. This is a Vector-R launch vehicle and a key illustration of how two start-ups can work together to remove barriers to space. It will the first orbital launch for both companies, an important event for their further advancements in space.




Deflt University of Technology (TU Deflt)


In order to fill any launch vehicle, a large number of satellites are required. The Vector-R will therefore simultaneously test launch two PocketQubes - the Defli-PQ and the Unicorn 2-A satellite - for Cluster 1. TU Deflt, the oldest and largest public technology university in the Netherlands, developed the Defli-PQ as a reorientation on space technology miniaturization. As there is a high risk involved with a test launch, it will be a great source of education for both parties no matter what the income is, thus ensuring that the final launch is conducted successfully.


G.A.U.S.S Srl


The Italian company GAUSS Srl also specialise in the development of small PocketQube satellites. In partnership with with Alba Orbital and TU Deflt, GAUSS Srl recently published the free PocketQube standard which ensures uniformity within the space community and establishes a stable foundation for development.


Alba Orbital’s perspective


Future partnerships are always being considered with existing space companies where one mission may cost up to one million pounds.


If you would like to find out more information or are interested in forming a partnership with Alba Orbital, please email

Why PocketQubes are ideal for education

Alba Orbital supports the future of higher education


From black holes to shooting stars, outer space truly is an infinite source of education. The human race is largely fascinated by what is yet to be discovered and hopes that space research can help us better understand our Earth itself. Thanks to the recent advancement in new technology, the depth of possible research is limitless. However, start-up company Alba Orbital have identified, like most of us, a recurring problem, which is the lack of funding in space research, thus limiting our overall access to space.  


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We provide the solution - a new approach to the market. Having established ourselves in this fast-growing community in 2012, our team of engineers successfully designed and developed the first ever PocketQube platforms in history, known as nano-satellites. We believe that the miniaturization of technology opens up a vast array of learning opportunities in the higher education sector, thus democratising your access to space. As our headquarters are based in Glasgow, we already work in the proximity of three prestigious universities - the University of Glasgow, Glasgow Caledonian University and Strathclyde University - with whom we aim to strengthen our relations. Nonetheless, we also welcome an international client base. We therefore target both university academics and students in the science field to use this educational platform in conducting their upcoming research. We provide in-orbit demonstration, testing and experimentation depending on your mission. 


PocketQubes are ideal for education because they are far more advantageous than any other satellite on the market - small, cheap and reliable. Staying small means that price margins remain low from as little as 219k euro for satellite, launch and the first year of operations. We are aware of the lack of funding in education and so, we remove cost barriers, improving the overall accessibility to this kind of spacecraft and reducing the risk of financial loss in case of failure. Our partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) guarantees top quality design and high performance. Your research objectives are considered given our flexibility in PocketQube size and design. There exists a wide range of applications for data collection, from earth observation (EO) to aircraft signalling, as we accommodate all types of payloads. Our timeliness enables academics to stick to tight university deadlines, i.e. dissertation hand-in date, because we promise to deliver your PocketQube on time. As knowledge providers, we supply universities with a practical spin on education in the scientific fields of coding, robotics, electronics, thermal engineering, structural engineering and radio frequency transmission.


As world leaders in PocketQube technology, Alba Orbital offers you the opportunity to achieve your first ever satellite mission, no matter what the research purpose may be. Simplicity is key. As an academic, you have the capacity to launch a satellite, even if it is your first time, thanks to our help. We would like to contribute to the success of your learning outcomes and aim to support all learning experiences on our journey to space. Through this marketing proposal, we look forward to envisioning the future of space education.


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Building a PocketQube, want to be featured on this blog? Get in touch. 
Got PocketQube ideas? Start your project today. If you would like more information, please email

Find your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) with Alba Orbital

Glasgow-based nano-satellite developer Alba Orbital offers their PocketQube platforms to space startups looking for a minimum viable product (MVP). Once a startup ourselves, we understand your need to find your feet in the highly competitive space industry.

Valuable lessons can be learned from your first ever satellite mission, no matter what the outcome is. We produce two different platforms, Unicorn-1 and Unicorn-2, whilst supporting regular launch opportunities. We save you time as an MVP is the most efficient way to test and improve a product. Alba Orbital can help you add value to your future development by providing preformance data and allow you to show your solution works in space.

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Why Alba Orbital?


As world leaders in nano-satellite technology, we believe that using our PocketQubes as your MVP bear numerous advantages to your startup. Firstly, our platforms possess a vast array of applications, from nighttime Earth observation (EO) to plane tracking. You name it - we consider diverse mission objectives. We also offer flexibility in size, design and kind of payload which renders the nanosatellite to suit your mission. Our key headliner lies in cost. From as little as 219k euro for satellite, launch and first year of operations, we provide a one stop shop for satellites. The miniaturization of technology translates to the most cost-effective access to space. We break one of the biggest barriers for startups, cost, allowing you to achieve your first satellite mission for less.

Staying small means achieving big. We ensure reliability through rigid testing for quality assurance in design and performance with tests built on ESA and NASA frameworks. Top quality performance keeps risks low. Furthermore, scheduling regular launches leads to short turnaround times. We know how precious time can be to any company, particularly startups. We value the importance of commercial deadlines. We hope that our timeliness is therefore an attractive quality in what we can provide to you as our target market. We operate on a international basis so we do not see location as a limit in supplying your MVP.

Above all, we are beginner friendly. We guide you in each step of your journey to space. We see our PocketQubes as educational platforms on which feedback can be obtained. Our research purposes are limitless. Even if it is your first satellite mission, Alba Orbital gives you the capacity that you need to make it a success.


What this means…


Alba Orbital’s PocketQube platforms allow you to increase your startup’s knowledge of the product in general. Enabling product innovation and improvement through testing your idea. It attracts interest from your potential target markets and investors early on by giving them an idea of what your new products may be like concerning future developments and proves that you have made a crutial step forward.

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Got PocketQube ideas? Start your project today. For more information, please email

Alba Orbital talk to EASAT-2 (AMSAT-EA)

We've caught up with Felix Paez from the EASAT-2 programme from AMSAT-EA. They are building Spain's first PocketQube. Here's Felix with a bit more about the project:

How did you hear about the PocketQube Format?

Looking for information about small satellites we found the Eagle2 ($50SAT) which, as many people know now, is a 1.5 PocketQube launched in 2013. Until then, all the satellites we had seen when looking for inspiration were made in the Cubesat format. It was a happy discovery for us to know that there was a new satellite architecture available, smaller, cheaper and already in space. It would also mean that launch costs should be smaller, allowing access to space to groups with small financing capabilities, as would be our case, an organization working through donations.

IHU Unit (it has a buzzer so the developers can hear the CW beacon).

IHU Unit (it has a buzzer so the developers can hear the CW beacon).

Tell us a bit about your PocketQube Project

Basically our project is a small PocketQube 2P space communications repeater for HAM use. HAMs are people with a valid radio license that enjoy it as a hobby and/or for experimental uses. The satellite will carry a transponder allowing communications in long distances using small FM hand held transceivers with portable antennas as well as SSB communications for people with better working conditions. It will have too a CW (Morse) beacon in the same frequency that will allow all the people interested in it to know about the internal satellite status, as would be the temperature inside the structure. The modulation for commands will be ASK, and maybe if some experiment is finally held inside it, ASK downlink telemetry too. People don't need a license just to receive or listen the transmissions from this kind of satellites so the data could be retrieved by anyone.

Why choose a PocketQube form factor?

Mainly because the satellite itself and the launch costs will be much smaller compared to a Cubesat, but also because it is a challenge to use a form factor that very few people has used before. We would like to be an inspiration for other small groups as well.

Where did the idea come from, what is the objective?

The three persons that started this project, myself, Daniel Estévez and Eduardo Alonso, are passionate HAMs, with radio-callsigns EA4GQS, EA4GPZ/M0HXM and EA3GHS. We love making contacts (QSOs in HAM argot) using all the low earth orbit satellites (LEO) available to HAMs. Within these activities we found that some of these satellites were very popular, with some of them being even used by people as young as 13, as would be the case of Eugene UR3QTN and his sister Svetlana UR5QSS in Ukraine, because they require only an small FM hand held radio and a little directional antenna that can also been built by one itself as in the case of these kids, being also very easy to operate. The problem and opportunity we found, was that only three of these  'easy' sats were available at that time: SO-50, FOX-1A and LilacSat-2, always very crowded so... why don't to start a small sat project ourselves so another satellite would be available to people with small possibilities and with the wish that other people and institutions as Universities could join later with workforce and funds?

A 3D Printed Structure for the EASAT-2

A 3D Printed Structure for the EASAT-2

What do you do outside building your PocketQube?

Other activities our organization AMSAT-EA is involved with are teaching other to communicate using satellites, the experimental work associated with it, and of course, helping others to develop their own projects. Many of our members enjoy other activities inside the radio world, as short wave communications, building their our receptors, etc. Some are engineers with lot of experience while other have jobs not related at all with electronics or communications. We are a very heterogeneous group indeed.

What does the future hold?

We see an increasing interest in space among the young people and particularly in the satellite world. This includes people operating HAM satellites, collecting telemetry, getting weather images from them and thinking about new projects and applications. Getting to the young people at Universities seems to be the key to this future that's opening now and that some people begin to call "the New Space": space activities driven by small companies and groups and not by states anymore. I think we will see lots of small satellites doing things that we have never seen before.

What are your top tips for budding PocketQube builders?

My top tips would be: get inspiration as well as information from related PocketQube projects, because there is not as much information out there as there is for Cubesats. Look at what others have done before and how and try to learn lessons from it. Also when using COTS parts it is a good idea to use the same ones (CPUs, solar cells...) others have successfully used in their projects so you don't need to go thought a space certification process yourself. It is important too, as in any other projects, to have a clear and realistic mission definition suitable for the platform.

What is your definition of success?

 Success is having everybody happy and proud of their work, no matter if the project can't reach its final stage of being in orbit because of restrictions such as funds. The important thing is having learned and participating in a very interesting challenge with other people that share the same interests and goals as you.


11 PocketQube Payload/Mission Ideas

PocketQubes are quickly opening up a new area for the utalization and commercialization of space. Here at just a few ideas on how you can use the PocketQube platform:


Most people question whether optical payloads make sense on a satellite as small as a PocketQube. We have researched it and it appears sub 10m GSD is possible within a 3p platform such as Unicorn-2. This is comparable to Sentinel Optics and much better than Landsat. We believe there are going to be a lot of optical PocketQubes in the future.

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ADS-B (Plane Tracking)

There are now commercially available PocketQube ADS-B payloads from Skyfox Labs. Our own Unicorn-1 was to take an ADS-B payload, including a high gain stubbed helix antenna. Paul the creator of WREN is also working on an ADS-B satellite, it seems it wont be too long before there are PocketQube ADS-B sats flying.

Picture from Skyfox Labs

Picture from Skyfox Labs

AIS (Ship Tracking)

AIS is more tricky than ADS-B because the wavelength is much longer at 162 Mhz (vs 1090Mhz for ADSB). This requires a bigger antenna which is difficult within a PocketQube form factor, however it’s not impossible and we believe there are ways to do it.

Science Payload

Science is the drive of big missions. Great things have been achieved. There have be a few PocketQube science missions proposed and flown. TLogoQube had a CZT array to measure X-ray’s in space, something which would be tricky to do on the ground. Large constellations of science PocketQubes could open up new avenues for scientists and create datasets of Earth which are currently not available.

UoMBSat-1, Science PocketQube

UoMBSat-1, Science PocketQube


In Orbit Demonstration or In Orbit Validation, flying new tech or designs in space for the first time is by far the most popular mission type we see in the near term for PocketQubes. Semiconductors, propulsion, solar cells tech etc are all ongoing mission proposals and we see many more ideas everyday.

Unicorn-1 IOD/IOV platform, credit Alba Orbital

Unicorn-1 IOD/IOV platform, credit Alba Orbital


The Internet of Things is a big growth area of the small satellite industry. 10’s of lions of devices are coming online and need to be connected somehow. While bigger satellites like 12U cubesat can get large throughput, a swarm of PocketQubes can offer better updates by reducing latency more time-critical applications.


The recent success of Bitcoin and Etherium has led to many Alt Coins coming to market. Many of these are looking to space as a way to reach the 7.5 billion people on Earth. For a currency to be successful it need to be universally accessible and it is tricky for governments to block.

Unicorn-2, Alba Orbital

Unicorn-2, Alba Orbital


It’s not just the optical part of the spectrum which can be utilised from space. With a 3p such as Unicorn-2, Hyperspectral PocketQube missions are starting to become viable. The main issue with these missions are the high data rates required to get all the payload data off the spacecraft. It will be sometime before this is available.

Spectrum Monitoring

Monitoring the earth’s RF spectrum usage using PocketQubes isnt just an idea, the SMOG-1 have already built. Fitting in only a 1p, the tiny spectrum analyzer can measure from around 500 Mhz to 1 Ghz, helping find underused spectrum. This is a hot area of PocketQube research.

SMOG-1, Credit BME

SMOG-1, Credit BME


Now this idea is definitely hard. Using a PocketQube for GNSS-R is very difficult, but may be possible. Deploying a high gain array may close the link of the GNSS signals reflected of the Earth, if done in a 3p. This has potential use cases for Weather, more readings aiding models and forecasts.


If you have any more ideas, for missions and you would like to discuss their viability on a PocketQube, drop us an email

Meet the PocketQube team: SunewnewSat

August 15 2014

We have been talking to the some of the teams on the front line of the PocketQube revolution. This blog features Montaser Sallam of the SunewnewSat team, a 1p PocketQube project from Jordan in Middle East. SunewnewSat is currently in the design phase and will hopefully get a launch in the not too distant future. The satellite will carry an array of small sensors.

How did you hear about PocketQube?


After seeing Planetary Resources’ ARKYD kickstarter campaign, I got really excited and started looking for other space related projects, that’s when I found out about the awesome Wren PocketQube and eventually the PocketQube standard.


Tell us a bit about your PocketQube Project


SunewnewSat is the first Jordanian satellite project, it serves as an educational platform for me as a student and other university or high school students in the future. I am planning to keep things as simple as possible. Naturally, my primary focus will be on the radio and the EPS. A number of sensor readings will be downlinked to earth through different protocols. A simple satellite identification system will also be explored.

Why choose a PocketQube form factor?


A satellite that fits in your pocket!? Where do I sign up?

I think that is the coolest fact about PocketQubes.


Where did the idea come from, what is the objective?


I have an interest in spacecraft avionics and I wanted some advice on that subject so I sent a message to one of Planetary Resources’ engineers asking for advice, his advice to me was to start a Cubesat program in my university. Unfortunately, due to some issues, that was not possible. I didn’t give up, so I tried my luck with the local amateur radio society and they were supportive, needless to say, SunewnewSat was born.


What do you do outside building your PocketQube?


I am an electronics engineering undergraduate at Yarmouk University, IEEE Vice Chairman of YU student branch, a guitarist and a black belt holder in Shotokan Karate. I am also working towards getting an amateur radio operator license.


What does the future hold?


The learning curve is very steep, so whatever the future holds, an amazing experience is ahead of us. 


What are your top tips for budding PocketQube builder?


Don’t unplug the soldering iron and you will be fine.


What is your definition of success?


A functional engineering model that have passed all the required tests. SunewnewSat in orbit, not as space debris though.


Got PocketQube ideas? Start your project todayIf you found this interview interesting please consider sharing it :) Building a PocketQube, want to be featured on this blog? Get in touchYou can keep up to date with the SunewnewSat project via their website,