Monday, August 28, 2017

More and more missions for microsats

Some people still say microsatellites (under 100kg) and nanosatellites (under 10kg to some people, 1kg to some) have no operational missions. I'm not sure how that view endures in the modern era. Sure, the uses were limited into the 1980s or so, but then electronics got orders of magnitude smaller and missions and capabilities expanded. In the new century, they exploded.We have globe-girlding miscrosat missions for messaging (Orbcomm), for imagery (Planet) and a horde of demonstration missions showing other applications. Many of these come from small manufacturers and/or universities, not traditional space programs.  The latest is tracking aircraft . The CAN=X nanosat, mass only 3.5kg, carried the  Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) to receive signals from aircraft transponders.  Director Robert Zee at Space Flight Laboratory at the University of Toronto reports, “The ADS-B instrument on CanX-7 has received and decoded 3.6 million signals from aircraft in less than six months. This mission proves that global real-time aircraft tracking can be achieved with a low-cost, responsive constellation of small satellites.”
One small step at a time...

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