QB50 has the scientific objective to study in situ the temporal and spatial variations of a number of key constituents and parameters in the lower thermosphere (90-320 km) with a network of about 40 double CubeSats, separated by a few hundred kilometres and carrying identical sensors. QB50 will also study the re-entry process by measuring a number of key parameters during re-entry and by comparing predicted and actual CubeSat trajectories and orbital lifetimes.
Space agencies are not pursuing a multi-spacecraft network for in-situ measurements in the lower thermosphere because the cost of a network of 40 satellites built to industrial standards would be extremely high and not justifiable in view of the limited orbital lifetime. No atmospheric network mission for in-situ measurements has been carried out in the past or is planned for the future. A network of satellites for in-situ measurements in the lower thermosphere can only be realised by using very low-cost satellites, and CubeSats are the only realistic option.
QB50 will also accommodate about 10 double or triple CubeSats for In-Orbit Demonstration (IOD) of technologies and miniaturised science sensors and the Gossamer-1 solar sail technology demonstration package.
At the end of the mission, B.USOC will be the archiving centre for QB50 data.