Thursday, November 21, 2013

Microsat fleet launches into space

Readers will know I take a major interest in the potential of miniaturized satellites, called microsats, nanosats, or picosats depending on side. (There is even a proposal for "femtosats" smaller than your fingernail: the ChipSat project is testing prototypes in space now.)
The most common "form factor," as the engineers say, is the CubeSat.  CubeSats are 10 cm (4 inches) on a side, the size of a square Kleenex box, and are being built in increasing numbers by everyone from the National Reconnaissance Office to high schools.  The successful Minotaur I launch, arranged by the Defense Department's Operationally Responsive Space Office and Space Test Program with coordination from NASA and Orbital Sciences Corporation, used a booster based on retired ICBM stages to put no less than 29 microsats, hte vast majority CubeSats, in orbit along with the larger STPSat-3. (When I say high schools I'm not kidding: TJCubeSat is from Thomas Jefferson High School.)  The launch set a record for most satellites launched on one mission. CubeSats do real science and even military testing along with being a boon for STEM education. A new generation will grow up having worked on actual satellite hardware in high school and college, and we don't even know the implications of that yet.  Go Micro! (Photo credit NASA)

Liftoff took place at NASA's Wallops FLight Facility's Pad-0b at the Mid_Atlantic Regional Spaceport about 45 minutes into the launch window. Contrary to some reports, the launch was not delayed due to solar activity. Photo Credit: NASA

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