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Cracker-Size Satellites To Launch With Endeavour

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the do-not-go-well-with-cheez-whiz dept.

NASA 70

Obfiscator writes with news of the upcoming deployment of satellite-on-a-chip devices measuring just 3.8cm x 3.8cm x 0.2cm. The satellites are set to launch with Endeavour on its final flight. "These three miniature satellites are being launched as a proof-of-concept. As such, they're being deployed in very low orbit, and should return to earth fairly quickly in order to avoid becoming dangers for other satellites. 'They each contain seven solar cells, a microprocessor, an antenna and amplifier, power storage in capacitors, and switching circuitry to turn on the microprocessor when the stored energy is enough to create a single radio-frequency emission.' Due to their size, atmospheric drag would slow them down without burning them up, allowing them to study the uppermost atmosphere of wherever they are deployed next: Venus, Titan, Europe, and Jupiter are all possibilities."

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Easier ways to get the job done (4, Funny)

Max Hyre (1974) | more than 3 years ago | (#36007262)

Can't they sample the atmosphere over Europe with meteorology balloons?

Re:Easier ways to get the job done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36007272)

It wouldn't be nearly as cool.

Re:Easier ways to get the job done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36007274)

Did you read all of the summary? or were you in such a rush for first post that you couldn't be arsed?

Oversight (2)

Max Hyre (1974) | more than 3 years ago | (#36007310)

Damn! I completely forgot the <humor></humor> tags. I guess some folks really need it.

Re:Oversight (1)

MakinBacon (1476701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36007444)

I use XML for everything, you insensitive clod!

Re:Oversight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36010526)

Shit. I missed the typo in the Summary. Clearly the "whoosh" belongs to me.

Re:Easier ways to get the job done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36007290)

They probably meant Europa.

Re:Easier ways to get the job done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36007344)

Which has no atmosphere to speak of, just traces of oxygen from the ice photolysis.

Re:Easier ways to get the job done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36033562)

They probably meant Europa.

They don't call him obfiscator [sic] for nothing.

Re:Easier ways to get the job done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36007380)

Which is, of course, teh funneh.

But on a more serious note, I could see these having Earth-science applications as well.

Re:Easier ways to get the job done (1)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 3 years ago | (#36009146)

Easier yes, but its more fun to watch the Europeans squirm as we drop pickup drivin', shotgun shootin', hound dog ownin', flag wavin', Bud swillin' good ol' boys across their lovely continent.

Re:Easier ways to get the job done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36013208)

that was exactly what I thought.

Re:Easier ways to get the job done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36022130)

does this by any chance involve hard pale yellow or orange-red cheese?

Europe? (1)

moosehooey (953907) | more than 3 years ago | (#36007270)

Do they expect Europe to have a different atmosphere than the rest of the world?

Re:Europe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36007322)

haha. moons of jupiter humour.

Re:Europe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36007364)

And...typo in summary?

Re:Europe? (1)

tbird81 (946205) | more than 3 years ago | (#36007572)

And...typo in summary?

No, of course not. Not on Slashdot (TM).

Re:Europe? (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 3 years ago | (#36011748)

Yeah it doesn't have all the particulates and oxides and hydro carbons necessary for life as we know it.

Re:Europe? (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#36015346)

Do they expect Europe to have a different atmosphere than the rest of the world?

They do in Amsterdam.

All these worlds are yours... (4, Funny)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 3 years ago | (#36007284)

Except Europe. Attempt no landing there.

Re:All these worlds are yours... (3, Funny)

isorox (205688) | more than 3 years ago | (#36008522)

Except Europe. Attempt no landing there.

Ahh, that explains why I spent 2 hours circling over Heathrow this morning

Re:All these worlds are yours... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36018396)

Harry Potter, is that you?

Re:All these worlds are yours... (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 3 years ago | (#36011766)

Who you callin' a cracker?

Oooops, first step to the Matrioshka Brain! (1)

matsh (30900) | more than 3 years ago | (#36007328)

Oooops, first step to the Matrioska Brain! https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Matrioshka_brain [wikimedia.org]

Re:Oooops, first step to the Matrioshka Brain! (1)

hierophanta (1345511) | more than 3 years ago | (#36011484)

a small solar powered computer is the first step to a large solar powered computer? amazing.

Meh (1)

atari2600a (1892574) | more than 3 years ago | (#36007366)

At least they didn't use a white guy as their stock art...

Re:Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36014390)

or a native of Florida, of any skin color

So... Triscuit satellites, then? (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36007368)

Because, you know, the surface of a Triscuit would be pretty much perfect for a solar cell? Uh-oh... is Sladhdot gonna receive a takedown notice now because I called 'em that?

Re:So... Triscuit satellites, then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36007390)

Because, you know, the surface of a Triscuit would be pretty much perfect for a solar cell? Uh-oh... is Sladhdot gonna receive a takedown notice now because I called 'em that?

With a peanut butter ablation material.

Crackers in Space (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36007386)

When reached at his home earlier this afternoon, Chris Rock declined to comment.

Re:Crackers in Space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36008454)

Why is half of the Space Shuttle just painted white and the other half covered in the tiles?

Back when all the requirements were being written they didn't get the White-Out.

Temperature control? (1)

kanweg (771128) | more than 3 years ago | (#36007400)

These things will cool down quickly up there. What's in their design that they can keep operating?

Bert

Re:Temperature control? (2)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#36007446)

They will cool down when not exposed to light but that will be for 45 minutes at a time at the most.

Re:Temperature control? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36007500)

not enough to them to cause issues with heat or cold... simple micro processor some capacitors probably solid state and a weak radio sandwiched between 7 solar cells all on a device roughly the size of a 486 processor with all the pins removed... and only 3 are being sent up to see if they even work and the signal will be so weak from them they will be having a hard time hearing it over the background noise... This experiment sounds like a waste of time the devices do nothing the potential they mention would be something but i don't know i think they could have come up with something a little bit more substantial rather than the chips beeping. After all nothing i have read seems like it could not be done here on the ground mind you i don't think 3 quarters will take up all that much room on one of the last 2 shuttle flights...

Re:Temperature control? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36007564)

stop posting drunk. What they will give us is a way to measure a few interesting properties of the upper atmosphere. With a few coherent receivers, we'l be able to measure their temperature and infer the temperature of the atmosphere up there. Seconds, the orbital decay will let us measure the air density, and third, they'll let us measure ionospheric properties up to the satellites. It's a very interesting experiment, and the ground segment will cost a lot more than the space vehicles. They can probably also do some other interesting things that I haven't though of while drunk, but I've got you beat.

a cracker? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36007452)

How big is a cracker? Kinda pasty white colored tall thing...about 165lbs?

I'm a PC (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36007474)

That's "European-American-Size", you insensitive clod!

"Chip" Sats, fundamentally new kind of spacecraft? (4, Interesting)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 3 years ago | (#36007624)

Here's my story submission which according to slashdot logs I submitted on Thursday, April 28@1:25am. I assume this was just an oversight on the part of the editors, no problem, I just wanted to bring up the larger (smaller?) issues regarding having spacecraft design directly coupled to the exponentially increasing (decreasing?) semiconductor fabrication industry which has been in progress now for over half a century.

"Here's a way to harness Moore's law (which has given us many orders of magnitudes of improvement) to spaceflight (which is still using technology more or less developed in the middle of the 20th century). Some researchers at Cornell will be launching their "Chip" sats, tiny 1" square satellites affixed(?) to the Endeavour space shuttle. "Their small size allows them to travel like space dust," said Peck. "Blown by solar winds, they can 'sail' to distant locations without fuel. ..." Hopefully they "may travel to Saturn within the next decade, and as they flutter down through its atmosphere, they will collect data about chemistry, radiation and particle impacts."

While I really believe this is the future, I do have some questions. Although much can be miniaturized (nano-rized?), I'm wondering about some things such as optics (for cameras) and antenna/power (for transmitting the results back home). So while these may very well flutter down Saturn's atmosphere, there may need to be a large(r) mothership capable of transmitting the results home. (This was the mechanism used by Greg Bear in his novel "Queen of Angels" where his interstellar ship dropped "coin" sized probes to explore the worlds of Alpha Centauri.)

With the retirement of Endeavour we have the end of one technology coinciding with the birth of another."

Re:"Chip" Sats, fundamentally new kind of spacecra (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#36009418)

Too many parentheses (not a lisp site).

Re:"Chip" Sats, fundamentally new kind of spacecra (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36024522)

(truth(site(every((is(lisp))(may(not(know)))))))

:D

Re:"Chip" Sats, fundamentally new kind of spacecra (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36010640)

That's right. Smaller, using less material and less energy... That's the future in space, not the cockadoodledoo Space Nutter nonsense like Moon colonies. You can also forget interstellar stuff.

Why are we still bothering with Astronauts? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36007634)

If we are the point where a space probe (albeit a limited one) can be fit onto a single chip, why are we still bothering with expensive and fragile humans in outer space?

Re:Why are we still bothering with Astronauts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36008576)

Some of us want to get away from here, start a space colony, than demand freedom and Independence from Earth.

Re:Why are we still bothering with Astronauts? (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36012876)

Practice. If we can find better ways to get a few people into space we increase our chances of figuring out how to do it on a larger scale.

Re:Why are we still bothering with Astronauts? (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | more than 3 years ago | (#36022730)

why are we still bothering with expensive and fragile humans in outer space?

Because Meat in Space is actually interesting?

Then again, probably the only way to get modern people interested in any kind of space exploration is if those tiny satellites tweeted their informaation. Then it would be cool.

902 MHz and counting (1)

brindafella (702231) | more than 3 years ago | (#36007682)

There are three of them, this time. However, they are talking about 10,000/tonne. What happens when that swarm get to low Earth orbit? Some will inevitably persist; it would only take a nudge at launch and they'll remain near the ISS. Who gets to plot all of them; and, who gets to authorise a launch through the swarm or its remnants? Hearing three is only the beginning; try tracking 10,000.

Re:902 MHz and counting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36007774)

Eh? You like being full of shit, or do you just not understand either basic orbital mechanics or the square-cube rule?

First, when they're released, whether from a shuttle (now) or a single-use rocket (later), giving them a "nudge" will only send them into an elliptical orbit passing through the same point -- and if they apogee as high as the ISS, in all probability they're perigeeing even lower, grazing even thicker atmosphere at even higher speeds than the ones without the nudge. (The only case where this is not true, assuming an initial circular orbit, is if the "nudge" applies deltaV directly inline with their velocity.)

Second, square-cube being what it is, even if they were dropped out of the ISS (i.e. starting exactly matched orbit) they'd drop to Earth rather soon. These things are tiny, and tiny things get blown.

Re:902 MHz and counting (2)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 3 years ago | (#36009544)

'... and tiny things get blown.'

Er; you may wish to rephrase that.

Re:902 MHz and counting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36008216)

Wow, really?! Some will persist!? Is drag now a random phenomenon?
I mean, never mind that the ISS needs to keep boosting its orbit throughout its life...

Get a clue man, seriously.

Re:902 MHz and counting (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#36010364)

Yes it is. when you have a very light object that changes it's dynamics. a several ton space station will have a far different drag profile for reentry than a 2 ounce flat plate. It's why there is still a ton of paint chips, bolts, and MIR parts still in orbit. Tangential forces from skipping along the atmosphere can bounce something back out into a different trajectory.

Space Shuttle replacement (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#36007828)

This merely underscores the importance of completing development of a replacement platform for the Space Shuttle, to meet the clearly growing need for orbital clam chowder.

Am I the only one... (1)

DanielSmedegaardBuus (1563999) | more than 3 years ago | (#36007858)

...getting strangely aroused by this thought of miniature sattelites of something-point-something cm length being launched anywhere...?

Re:Am I the only one... (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 3 years ago | (#36008006)

Yes, you are the only one.

Re:Am I the only one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36014044)

Well, another planet could metaphorically be seen as an egg.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sperm-egg.jpg [wikipedia.org]

Jovian solar intensity? (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 3 years ago | (#36007992)

I would think that the usefulness of this paradigm decreases greatly at great distances from the Sun. The linked article states that for the chips here on Earth it is already a challenge to receive and identify the radio "chirps". Considering that the inverse-square law would decrease both the strength of the transmitted signal, and at the same time decrease the energy which can be collected by the chip's solar cells, this doesn't seem to be a good fit for distant missions like Jupiter, Titan, or Europa. Might be OK for the upper atmosphere of Venus, although it's still very much further away than low earth orbit with respect to the radio emission intensity.

Re:Jovian solar intensity? (1)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36008594)

i'm guessing that for an interplanetary mission, these things will be transported in a larger probe, and once the "mothership" is in orbit, it will deploy these chipsats into the target orbit/atmosphere, the mothership can act as the radio relay, aggregating usefull data from the chipsats and sending it back home.

It doesnt solve the solar energy problem for missions beyond mars, but i suspect RTGs could solve that instead. According to wikipedia miniaturized RTGs have even been used in pacemakers, so designing one to power a chipsat instead of solar should be possible

Re:Jovian solar intensity? (1)

CubicleView (910143) | more than 3 years ago | (#36009148)

You could be right, they should perform some sort of proof of concept before they send them anywhere I reckon.

I'm disappointed (1)

CyberK (1191465) | more than 3 years ago | (#36008032)

When I read "cracker-sized", I thought of petroleum crackers [wikimedia.org] and was very impressed by the sudden audacity.

Re:I'm disappointed (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#36009722)

Okay...

Cracker (n):
  1. A small crisp biscuit
  2. A white person from the South-Eastern US
  3. A fractional distillation unit or similar apparatus
  4. A person who breaches security systems
  5. A Christmas party favour popular in the UK
  6. Anything else?

Oblig Chris Rock (1)

Bayoudegradeable (1003768) | more than 3 years ago | (#36008838)

I think they mean "Crakcer-assed cracker sized" satellites.

Picture (1)

gargeug (1712454) | more than 3 years ago | (#36009314)

Here is a link that shows the actual PCBs rather than, say, a cracker... http://www.space.com/11508-shuttle-launch-satellite-chips-endeavour.html [space.com]

Re:Picture (1)

Verdatum (1257828) | more than 3 years ago | (#36011098)

Thank you. First thought when viewing the article: "Uhh, thanks, I already know what a cracker looks like."

Re:Picture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36013424)

Is this a new scientific measurement? Is a regular satellite now 250,000 crackers?

Cacker Sized? Wow! (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#36010318)

Three 250 pound 5' 11" satellites.. Those things are huge!

Wait, is there a different definition of cracker?

Re:Cacker Sized? Wow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36010556)

FTFA:
"The space shuttle Endeavor will carry three prototype satellite-on-a-chip devices built by Cornell students and faculty. These prototypes, made from relatively heavy commercial off-the-shelf components, are 1.5 inches by 1.5 inches (3.8 cm by 3.8. cm) and about 0.08 inches (2 millimeters) thick, with a mass that weighs about 10 grams on Earth."
So that's 1.5 inches by 1.5 inches, and 10 grams, not 5' 11" and 250 pound

Size (1)

Primitive Pete (1703346) | more than 3 years ago | (#36010552)

"Due to their size, atmospheric drag would slow them down..." No. Because their shape creates drag.

Have we told Russia about these cracker-sats? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36010794)

They might want to etch these like the voyager placard. Maybe Putin on the Ritz?

I can't wait for the first Venusian... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36011588)

...lawsuit for being whacked on the head by a earthling's satellite!!!

But why use the Space Shuttle? (1)

Paul1969 (1976328) | more than 3 years ago | (#36020454)

Seems to me that you could put these little "cracker-sats" into orbit with a heavy-duty slingshot. Talk about a green revolution!

Nice. (1)

databaseadmin (1978316) | more than 3 years ago | (#36024110)

Sweet, every launch with even a few excess pounds of lift-capacity can acquire hundreds of little eye's in the sky. That actually would be a good idea for acquireing payment for every ounce of launch capacity you have.
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