Mini-Cubes, LLC was founded in 2018 to take the concept of a PocketQube – a super small satellite – and develop it into a viable product. We did this on the principle that virtually anyone can reach space today, with parts and materials you can buy right off the shelf. With these satellites, we hope to achieve a better grasp on resource monitoring and give the public a chance to be among the stars.
Joe Latrell, CEO
My childhood was spent building rockets. I even started a rocket company in 2003 that faded away in 2008. After that, I sent a few mementos and other items to space as I could find rides. I came across the PocketQube concept when I was researching CubeSats in 2013. I thought I would give it a try and designed a 3D printable shell.
How did the first prototype turn out?
That first one was dreadful so I kept refining it. Eventually, I bought my own 3D printer and began designing more advanced versions. It was at this time the Intel Edison processor (2016) came out. I actually built a working satellite that fit inside the case; but then Intel cancelled the processor and I was back to square one.
After doing some digging, I found processor boards that would work (NanoPi Air) and then the satellite conference hosted by Delft University in the Netherlands came about.
The conference where you found your ride for the PocketQubes?
Exactly. Tom Walkinshaw, president of Alba Orbital, contacted me and invited me to the conference and that opened the door for a real flight. I signed a contract for the flight, paid a deposit, and began development in earnest. That workshop had over 70 participants from all across the globe, working on hardware solutions for the newest satellite form factor. So, not only did I walk away with a ride for the PocketQubes, I met and spoke to so many passionate people in the industry.
What does Mini-Cubes, LLC mean to you?
To me, space is the next great frontier. Instead of looking at to as an impossible challenge, I see it as the source for saving Earth. The resources of the solar system are more than plentiful to provide Earth with what it needs. This company and the PocketQube are a way to see that happen in our lifetime.
Did you do all of this on your own?
No way–I’ve had a ton of help along the way. My wife, Tracey Craft, has been my BIGGEST supporter throughout all of this. She’s had to endure my ceaseless excitement about launching something into space. She is my sounding board, partner, and foundation all in one.
Alba Orbital and Rocket Labs are the reason we’re finally getting our PocketQubes to space. The Discovery, our first PocketQube satellite, wouldn’t be leaving the ground without Rocket Labs who is providing the actual launch, or without the help of Alba Orbital who is providing the ride share and satellite delivery system.
Then there’s WG Malden, my former employer, who provided some seed capital and expertise on water quality to get this whole thing actualized.
Friendly Electric is another company that comes to mind. They’re responsible for developing all the hardware we use.
Finally, the PocketQube community. We discuss ideas, learn new concepts, and generally support each other’s endeavors. The camaraderie is important as there are so few people making these at the moment. I don’t know of another group in the US who is doing something like this currently. Without that community and crowd-sourced passion and knowledge, I never would have gotten to this point.