Cube satellites play a critical role in space exploration, research, and communication. We examine how they store and manage data, the flash memory challenges they face – and how flash management software helps ensure their success.

Satellites come in a huge range of sizes. Sometimes, they are miniscule. Cube satellites – or CubeSats – are a class of small satellite that’s especially tiny and gaining in popularity.


Cost-effectiveness and versatility. Thanks to their small size and modular design approach, CubeSats are helping to broaden the scope of what’s possible in space missions.

However, the compact nature of these satellites also brings some unique data storage management challenges. In this blog post, we’ll explore how CubeSats store and manage data, their data storage management needs compared to larger satellites, and how software helps get the most from the flash memory onboard these devices.

Understanding cube satellites – what’s inside the box

Frequently no larger than a shoebox, CubeSats serve a wide range of purposes – scientific research, Earth observation and mapping, tech demonstrations, and educational outreach… the list goes on. These miniaturized satellites are equipped with various sensors and instruments to gather scientific or operational data. In turn, the sensors collect information on phenomena like Earth’s atmosphere, climate, or celestial bodies.

CubeSats often use commercial, off-the-shelf components to save time and money while minimizing uncertainty. Many of these off-the-shelf software and hardware solutions have been used in the marketplace for years, so their reliability and performance have already been proven.

These tiny satellites have some distinct advantages over their larger, more traditional cousins: they are smaller, lighter in weight, and less costly to manufacture. All of this adds up, making CubeSats a good choice for missions with tight budgets, limited on-device resources, or shorter mission timeframes. However, CubeSats also have distinct challenges, especially regarding data storage.

Flash memory solutions can make or break the mission

For CubeSats, flash memory is a crucial type of memory, as it stores data reliably over long periods without the need for continuous power. But due to their size, short mission length, and limited power resources (more on that below), CubeSats have less wiggle room in flash storage solutions than traditional satellites. For one, the system must prioritize data storage that’s mission-critical. There’s neither time nor room on the memory hardware to accumulate the volumes of data that a larger satellite could.

Additionally, power constraints influence how often data can be written to the flash, and this requires careful consideration toward balancing the satellite’s storage needs with its energy consumption. Efficient power management is central in ensuring that data storage operations do not drain the satellite’s limited power resources.

What all of this means is that CubeSats demand efficient power management and fail-safety for their data storage operations, durable flash memory, as well as storage tools to help ensure minimal data corruption.

Boosting resilience through flash memory software

For sufficient flash memory lifetime and performance, a flash memory manager is a powerful tool. This is especially the case when that flash must perform in a tough environment or on a resource-constrained device – and CubeSats pose both those challenges.

As a software component, a flash memory manager implements methods that check the data for any corruption, as well as optimize how that data is organized on the flash. This improves the lifetime and data reliability of the flash memory, so that the data is more likely to stay uncorrupted throughout a space mission. With the right flash memory manager software, cube satellites can effectively ensure success in space missions – especially those with highly resource-constrained parameters and environments.

Tuxera FlashFX Tera, our flash memory management software, provides you with flexibility to optimize for your device’s specific data storage needs, safety requirements, and mission parameters. With its wear leveling and error correction features, it’s an excellent option for a CubeSat design that needs robust flash.

Related content:

Get a byte-sized breakdown on error correction in our blog: “Optimizing error correction for modern NAND flash with software: Tuxera Error Policy Manager.”

My colleague, Justin Engle, our Inside Sales Manager, has worked closely ensuring the success of several customers in the aerospace industry – specifically with CubeSat projects. He adds, “FlashFX Tera is used in a number of groundbreaking spacecraft missions for facilitating the storage of, for example, biosensor data and spacecraft telemetry. Our software solutions are designed to make data storage and management in orbit more reliable and robust, helping our customers ensure mission success. From cube satellites to mission vehicles to the ISS – we’ve got a solution for you.”

Case study:

Tuxera FlashFX Tera is a proven flash manager (FTL) for space missions. Read how it helped enable mission-critical video data recording for the International Space Station:

Success story – Tuxera & Airbus stream video from International Space Station

Final thoughts

CubeSats typically have smaller data storage needs compared to standard satellites due to their shorter missions, smaller payloads, and limited communication opportunities. However, the efficient management of flash memory is crucial to ensure reliable data storage, retrieval, and mission success. Designers of CubeSats need to carefully consider the specific mission requirements and tailor the flash memory solutions accordingly to meet the unique challenges posed by these miniature satellites – not only for hardware, but for software too. A flash memory manager like Tuxera FlashFX Tera provides the crucial flash memory lifetime, fail-safety, and data integrity needed for successful CubeSat missions.

Interested in learning more about how mission-critical data is reliably gathered, managed, and stored in satellites and other spacecraft?

Read our whitepaper, “Data reliability in space.”