Cubesat orbital data overview

I was trying to have an idea about what kind of missions are on orbit cubesat performing and first I had a look into their orbital characteristics.

Importing tle files from Celestrak, provided by NORAD, I had access to orbital basic information in two lines elements format. I have converted this tle data into several orbital parameters. TLE Analyser is an open-source and freeware tool that can be used to extract different orbital parameter for each cubesat. Additionally can display satellites ground track and 3D visualisation embedding a google earth frame.

The data used in this analysis can be founded and the end of this post. As input TLE Analyser imported TLE from Celestrak downloaded at 20:30:00 1/1/2014 UTC . The propagation time is lower than 1 day meaning that estimation is quite accurate.

From these parameters the eccentricity indicates how the orbit of the cubesat is deviated of a perfect cycle. The POPACS (Polar Orbiting Passive Atmospheric Calibration Sphere) mission satellites have the maximum eccentricity with very similar values. POPACS 3 has an eccentricity of 0.079174. In the opposite side ORS OBJECT C with an 0.00044 of eccentricity represent the minimum in the list.

Statistical eccentricity data summary:

Min 0.0004435
Max 0.0791747
Mean 0.0098138
Median 0.0021277
Standard Deviation 0.0166244

Concerning the inclination of the orbit, ORS OBJECT C with 40.48 deg is mission with lower inclination whilst M_CUBED & EXP-1 PRIME with 101.71 deg is the maximal inclination.

Statistical inclination data summary:

Inclination (deg)
Min 40.4879
Max 101.7176
Mean 78.09272
Median 97.77701
Standard Deviation 25.19258

Looking into the altitude characteristics we have 4 parameters to be analysed, maximal and minimum of altitude at apogee and at perigee. TECHEDSAT_3P has the minimum altitude at the apogee with 361.426 km and POPACS 2 has the maximum altitude at the apogee with 1466.3514 Km. This is the maximum altitude of a cubesat mission.

Statistical altitude at the apogee data summary:

Altitude Apogee (km)
Min 361.426
Max 1466.3514
Mean 688.6249
Median 657.6180
Standard Deviation 193.1829

For the perigee we can find that CANX-1 with 813.042 km is the máximum altitude at the perigee of a cubesat. E_ST@R is with 280.3007 km at the perigee the cubesat with the lowest altitude.

Statistical altitude at the perigee data summary:

Altitude Perigee (km)
Min 280.3007
Max 813.0423
Mean 549.7356
Median 563.7467
Standard Deviation 122.1465

Another important parameter is the period of the orbit in minutes. This is the time taken by the satellite to perform an orbit around the earth. TECHEDSAT_3P cubesat takes 91.54 min to complete an orbit. The satellite with a highest period is POPACS 2 with 103.02 minutes.

Statistical period data summary:

Period (min)
Min 91.5443
Max 103.0204
Mean 97.0905
Median 97.0592
Standard Deviation 2.2806

It is expected that TECHEDSAT_3P with the minimum altitude at the apogee has the minimum period and POPACS 2 with the maximum altitude at apogee has maximum orbital period. This relationship is described in the equation


Orbital Period Equation


Tk is the period,

a is the semi-major axis,

μ is the geocentric gravitational constant.



Cubesat Celestrak– Celestrak TLE file used as TLE Analyser input.

Raw Orbital Data Cubesat – Output raw data from TLE Analyser.


TLE Analyser User Manual



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