What Are These Boxes Doing Floating Through Space?

This might look like the start of a scene from Gravity, but you're actually looking at three nanosatellites—known as Cubesats—which have just been released in space.

They were deployed from a Small Satellite Orbital Deployer attached to the Kibo laboratory’s robotic arm aboard the ISS. CubeSats are cute little things: they have a volume of exactly one liter, and weigh no more than 1.33 kilograms. They use pretty standard kit tied together to perform a variety of activities—from communications to weather measurement. These Cubesats were deployed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. [NASA]

Image by NASA

What Are These Boxes Doing Floating Through Space?