ISS Utilization: Kaber (NanoRacks Microsat Deployer System) - a microsatellite deployer on the ISS
The NRKDS (NanoRacks Kaber Deployer System) is a deployment system for small satellites staged from the ISS (International Space Station). Kaber utilizes the existing ISS JEM (Japanese Experiment Module) as a staging facility along with the CSA (Canadian Space Agency) SPDM (Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator) as a platform from which satellites are deployed. NRKDS refers to an integrated system consisting of the NanoRacks Kaber deployer and a NRSS (NanoRacks Separation System). The Kaber deployer is the power and data interface to the SPDM while the NRSS is the satellite separation system. Any other separation system would be covered under the payload unique ICA (Interface Control Agreement). 1) 2) 3) 4) 5)
The NanoRacks Kaber Deployer, or simply Kaber, shown in Figures 1 and 2, is a self-contained satellite deployer system that provides an interface between the SPDM and the satellite. Kaber also has an interface to the JEM Slide Table via the JCAP ( JEM CLPA Adaptor Plate). The Kaber Deployer consists of the separation system mounting plate, the avionics housing, and the robotic interface to JCAP. An EVR (Extravehicular Robotics) Electrical Interface for the SPDM ORU Tool Changeout Mechanism (OTCM) is provided by an umbilical connector. A Micro-Fixture EVR (Extravehicular Robotics) Mechanical Interface is provided for the SPDM OTCM interface. The Kaber deployer is compatible with a range of separation system diameters and remains stowed in the ISS for reuse for each small satellite deployment mission.
NRSS (NanoRacks Separation System): The NRSS (Figure 3) attaches directly to the Kaber deployer via six (6) captive fasteners. The NRSS is a low-shock separation system designed for use in the zero-g environment of the ISS.
The NRSS consists of two major components- the "Fly-Away" and "Vestigial" sub-assemblies. The Fly-Away portion (Figure 4) is the mechanical interface for the satellite, and provides separation deployment switches. The Fly-Away portion remains attached to the satellite following separation. This baseline Fly-Away interface features an 11.732 inch (28.8 cm) diameter bolt circle. Additional sizes are available as a special accommodation.
The NRSS Vestigial portion (Figure 5) is the mechanical interface between the Fly-away portion and the NanoRacks Kaber deployer. The Vestigial portion contains the active release mechanism and springs, and remains attached to the Kaber following separation. -The NRSS design features pusher springs and spring shims that will be selected based on satellite mass, c.g., and tip off rate requirements. Coordination of the spring and shim configurations will be documented in the ICA (Interface Control Agreement).
The Kaber coordinate system (Figure 6) is centered on the Kaber attach point of the separation system. The +Z-axis is normal to and originates from the Kaber interface plane. It points toward the satellite. The +Y-axis is in the plane of the Kaber interface and extends vertically away from the MLB and JEM airlock slide table. The +X-axis is defined by completing the right hand coordinate system with direction given by the cross product of the +Y and +Z-axes. Preferred satellite coordinate system clocking is expressed relative to Kaber coordinate system.
Facility operations (Ref. 4):
• 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 7: Two perspective views of the Kaber Deployer System (image credit: NanoRacks)
Legend to Figure 8: This photo shows the black colored circular Kaber flange and box shaped Kaber housing. The brass colored robotic SPDM electrical interface is visible on the top of the Kaber housing. The gold colored microsquire fixture on atop the CLPA mate/demate wedge is the grapple point for the SPDM. Also shown in this photo is the white colored CLPA mate/demate wedge protective cover. Image courtesy of NanoRacks.
Payload destow: Once the launch vehicle is on orbit and berthed, the crew is responsible for transferring the packed configuration and placing it in the appropriate on-orbit stowage location until it is time to deploy the payload.
Payload assembly: Once NASA schedules the payload deployment window (subject to various constraints such as visiting vehicles, crew time, etc.) the on-orbit crew is responsible for unpacking the payload, assembling the satellite (if required) and installing the complete configuration onto the JEM slide table. The NanoRacks operations team will provide support to the crew in all aspects of the payload assembly in coordination with POIF (Payload Operations Integration Function). The JCAP [and STEP (Slide Table Extension Plate) if needed] is installed on the JEM air lock slide table. The Kaber Deployer is then installed onto the JCAP (JEM CLPA Adapter Plate). Finally, the Satellite/NRSS assembly is installed onto the Kaber Deployer and the NRSS-to-Kaber cable is connected.
JEM operations: The JEM operations are managed by JAXA controllers. The airlock slide table retracts into the JEM airlock. The inner door is closed and the airlock is depressurized. The JEM airlock outer door is then opened and the table slides outside the JEM module to be accessed by the SPDM OTCM (ORU Tool Changeout Mechanism) on the SSRMS. Figures 9 , 10 and 11provide an overview of the components and the location on ISS. Note: ORU (Orbit Replaceable Unit).
EVR (Extravehicular Robotics) operations:
The SSRMS SPDM OTCM grapples the NanoRacks Kaber Deployment System by the micro fixture and translates it to the pre-approved deployment position (pointed retrograde to the ISS). NASA controllers send the deployment command to the NRKDS via ISS CD&H backbone and then NRKDS deploys the satellite. Deployment of the satellite can be captured and recorded by ISS external cameras to verify good deployment.
Kaber launch and installation on the ISS
• Kaber (NanoRacks Microsat Deployer) along with the SIMPL (Satlet Initial-Mission Proofs and Lessons) microsatellite 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'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.
SIMPL is a modular HISat (Hyper Integrated Satellite) designed to provide complete satellite functionality in a nanosatellite scale. It is the first flight experiment of a satellite based on cellular architecture where the satellite or PAC (Package of Aggregated Cells) is composed of identical building blocks called satlets.
The SIMPL microsatellite assembly, composed of six satlets and two solar arrays, was completed and tested by astronauts on board the ISS and deployed on 27 October 2017. Note, the SIMPL microsatellite is described in a separate file on the eoPortal.
As of October 2017, Kaber of NanoRacks is a second operational deployer system (capable of handling microsatellites) on the ISS, next to the J-SSOD (JEM -Small Satellite Orbital Deployer) of JAXA. J-SSOD was launched on HTV-3 of JAXA on July 21, 2012. On October 4, 2012, five CubeSats were successfully deployed from the new J-SSOD. The first pod contained the CubeSats: RAIKO and We-Wish, while the second pod contained FITSat-1, F-1 and TechEdSat. 6)
Early Deployments of Kaber
The 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 Deployer have additional power, volume and communications resources enabling missions in low Earth orbit of more scope and sophistication. 7)
- Launched via pressurized launch vehicle to International Space Station
- Payload envelope easily accommodates 24U form factor
- Maximum payload mass 82 kg
- Satellite certified for ISS safety separately
- Full assembled Kaber is mounted and deployed outside of the ISS via the JEM Airlock Slide Table.
• October 24, 2017: Early this morning, NanoRacks successfully deployed the Kestrel Eye IIM (KE2M) microsatellite via the Company's Kaber Microsatellite Deployer (Kaber) from the International Space Station. This is the largest satellite that NanoRacks has deployed to date, and the first deployed from the Kaber deployer. 8)
• On October 27, 2017, NanoRacks successfully deployed NovaWurks' SIMPL satellite via the Company's Kaber Microsatellite Deployer (KABER) from the ISS (International Space Station) early this morning. This is the second Kaber-class deployment that NanoRacks completed this week. 9)
- SIMPL went beyond standard satellite deployment from the Space Station. For this program, NovaWurks Inc. pioneered the Hyper-Integrated Satlet (HISat™) technology, a concept to assemble larger satellites from small independent "cells" called satlets. Specifically, SIMPL was delivered to the ISS via NanoRacks in a few larger groups, and then assembled this week by the astronaut crew utilizing some smaller components.
- "This was far more than just another satellite deployment for us here at NanoRacks," says NanoRacks External Payloads Manager, Conor Brown. "For the first time ever a complex satellite was assembled on orbit from multiple satlets launched as separate spacecraft. Thanks to the innovative work of the NovaWurks team and the incredible coordination between our Operations team, NASA, and the ISS crew, we were able to achieve a major milestone towards the future of human and robotic manufacturing of satellites on orbit."
- These NovaWurks satlets can also be combined to form larger satellites or satellite constellations that share power, data, and other resources to perform different tasks.
Legend to Figure 12: SIMPL is a six-HISat PAC (Package of Aggregated Cells) and with two deployable solar arrays (total of 8 components).
1) "NanoRacks Kaber Deployment System Interface Definition Document (IDD)," NanoRacks, March 17, 2016, Doc No: NR-KABER-S0001, URL:
2) "NanoRacks Kaber Microsat Deployer (NanoRacks Microsat Deployer)," NASA, March 16 , 2016, URL: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/2049.html
3) Kirk Woellert, "Kaber Small Satellite Deployment System," NanoRacks ISS Workshop, George Washington University, February 17, 2015, URL:
4) Michael D. Lewis,"NanoRacks Kaber Microsat Deployer (NanoRacks Microsat Deployer)," NASA International Space Station, Sept. 27, 2017, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/2049.html
5) "Kaber - NanoRacks Microsatellite Deployment System," URL:
6) "Small Satellites Deployment from Kibo were success," JAXA, Oct. 5, 2012, URL: http://iss.jaxa.jp/en/kiboexp/news/small_satellites_deployment_fr.html
7) "ISS MicroSat Deployment," NanoRacks, 2017, URL:
8) "NanoRacks Successfully Deploys First Customer Microsatellite from ISS, Largest to Date," NanoRacks, 24 Oct. 2017, URL: http://nanoracks.com/largest-customer-microsatellite-deployed/
9) "NanoRacks Deploys Second Kaber-Class Microsatellite This Week, First On-Orbit Assembly," NanoRacks, 27 Oct. 2017, URL: http://nanoracks.com/second-kaber-microsatellite-deployed/
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).