satellites space

7 Things You Need to Know About Small Satellites

1. Small satellites is the umbrella term for describing any satellite that is the size of an economy-sized washing machine all the way down to a CubeSat, which you can hold in your hand.

2. CubeSats come in multiple sizes defined by the U, which stands for unit. Making it the Unit unit. 1U CubeSats are cubes 4 inches (10 cm) on a side, weighing as little as 4 pounds. A 3U CubeSat is three 1Us hooked together, resembling a flying loaf of bread. A 6U CubeSat is two 3Us joined at the hip, like a flying cereal box. These are the three most common configurations.

Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan 

3. CubeSats were developed by researchers at California Polytechnic State University and Stanford University who wanted a standardized format to make launching them into space easier and to be small enough for students to get involved in designing, building and launching a satellite.

4. Small satellites often hitch a ride to space with another mission. If there’s room on the rocket of a larger mission, they’re in. CubeSats in particular deploy from a p-pod – poly-picosatellite orbital deployer – tucked on the underside of the upper stage of the rocket near the engine bell.

5. Small sats test technology at lower costs. Their small size and the relatively short amount of time it takes to design and build a small satellite means that if we want to test a new sensor component or a new way of making an observation from space, we can do so without being in the hole if it doesn’t work out. There’s no environment on Earth than can adequately recreate space, so sometimes the only way to know if new ideas work is to send them up and see.

6. Small sats force us to think of new ways to approach old problems. With a satellite the size of a loaf of bread, a cereal box, or a microwave oven, we don’t have a lot of room for the science instrument or power to run it. That means thinking outside the box. In addition to new and creative designs that include tape measures, customized camera lenses, and other off-the-shelf parts, we have to think of new ways of gathering all the data we need. One thing we’re trying out is flying small sat constellations – a bunch of the same kind of satellite flying in formation. Individually, each small sat sees a small slice of Earth below. Put them together and we start to see the big picture.

7. Small sats won’t replace big satellites. Size does matter when it comes to power, data storage, and how precise your satellite instrument is. Small satellites come with trade-offs that often mean coarser image resolution and shorter life-spans than their bigger sister satellites. However, small sat data can complement data collected by big satellites by covering more ground, by passing over more frequently, by flying in more dangerous orbits that big satellites avoid, and by continuing data records if there’s a malfunction or a wait between major satellite missions. Together they give us a more complete view of our changing planet.

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India sets new world record, launching 104 satellites at once.

Creating a new world record in the process, India successfully kicked off their 217 launch calendar February 14 by launching a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle with 104 satellites. The rocket launched at 10:58pm EST from the Satish Dhawan Space Center.

Lofted into a sun-synchronous orbit by the rocket’s fourth stage, 101 cubesats accompanied three larger satellites on the mission. CartoSat-2D is the fourth in a series of high-resolution Earth-imaging satellites domestically designed by India. Less than ten seconds after CartoSat-2D was deployed, the INA-1A and 1B satellites were released. These two satellites are technology demonstrators for a new, smaller satellite bus that India hopes can attract universities and small businesses for space-based payloads.

Of the 101 cubesats deployed, 88 belonged to the Planet company, which - when combined with 100 identical satellites already in polar orbit- will photograph the entire surface of the Earth every day. Eight other cubesats belonged to Spire Global, and will measure atmospheric conditions and global shipping traffic. The remaining five are scientific and communication technology demonstrators

ISRO - the Indian Space Research organization - released a stunning video of the PSLV launch, the first time footage from onboard rocket cameras have been released. Key events in the rocket’s ascent can be seen, including the jettisoning of its six strap-on solid rocket motors, separation of its second and third stages, and jettisoning of the payload fairing. 


On July 5, 2016, the moon passed between NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite and Earth. NASA’s EPIC camera aboard DSCOVR snapped these images over a period of about four hours. In this set, the far side of the moon, which is never seen from Earth, passes by. In the backdrop, Earth rotates, starting with the Australia and Pacific and gradually revealing Asia and Africa.

Watch the YouTube video

Credits: NASA/NOAA

Light and Dark

 This video shows one of my new favorite things about the solstice. The Japanese Meteorological Agency’s Himawari-8 weather satellite is in a geostationary position over the Pacific Ocean and eastern parts of Asia, sending down pictures to monitor weather over that part of the planet. In the process, it gets a full frame view of the orb of the Earth, and it automatically shares clips from its cameras online. Here’s the view taken as the sun set yesterday just before the official solstice time – take a look at the poles. The North pole never exits a shadow and the South Pole is a tiny sliver of light that never goes away – the best shot you’ll get of this arrangement for a year. This one also gives some nice sunglint on the sea just before the sun goes down – reflection of the sunlight off the smooth surface of the ocean.


Video Credit: Himawari-8 satellite

662: Space Oddity (David Bowie)

Sentient alien satellite orbiting Earth for thousands of years, turning from what was hostile intent to admiration of humanity.

Requested by Anonymous

I Miss You Bowie
Japan tests innovative magnetic tether for slowing space junk
Japan launches a cargo ship carrying a space junk collector designed to gather debris in space.

Japan has launched a cargo ship which will use a half mile- (700m)-long tether to remove some of the vast amount of debris from Earth’s orbit.

The tether, made of aluminium strands and steel wire, is designed to slow the debris, pulling it out of orbit.

The innovative device was made with the help of a fishing net company.

There is estimated to be more than 100 million pieces of space junk in orbit, including discarded equipment from old satellites, tools and bits of rocket.

Many of these objects are moving at high velocity around the Earth at speeds of up to 28,000km/h (17,500mph) and could cause catastrophic accidents and damage to the world’s orbital telecommunications network.


Researchers say the lubricated, electro-dynamic tether will generate enough energy to change an object’s orbit, pushing it towards the atmosphere where it will burn up.

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The release of the first images today from NOAA’s newest satellite, GOES-16, is the latest step in a new age of weather satellites. This composite color full-disk visible image is from 1:07 p.m. EDT on Jan. 15, 2017. The image shows North and South America and the surrounding oceans. GOES-16 observes Earth from an equatorial view approximately 22,300 miles high, creating full disk images like these, extending from the coast of West Africa, to Guam, and everything in between.

Image Credit: NOAA/NASA