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CubeSats Spurring Satellite Revolution

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the getting-it-started dept.

Space 59

kkleiner writes "Thanks to the miniaturization of electronics, small CubeSat satellites have quickly become the standard for orbital Earth monitoring. Their modular design and lower cost makes them accessible to many, from university researchers to backers of crowdfunding campaigns. This year, the number of CubeSats launched will at least double the number in orbit to date."

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Great (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44095649)

Just what we need, even more garbage floating around up there.

Re:Great (1)

RussR42 (779993) | about a year ago | (#44095667)

Great, just what we need, even more ... Damnit. First post AC beat me to it! But I had time to skim TFA and didn't see a reference to de-orbiting them.

Re:Great (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44095697)

Great, just what we need, even more ... Damnit. First post AC beat me to it! But I had time to skim TFA and didn't see a reference to de-orbiting them.

They're in low-earth orbit. It's not an issue [] , because they deorbit naturally.

Re:Great (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year ago | (#44095843)

Alas, depending on the construction material, LEO can still be hazardous [] .

Re:Great (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year ago | (#44095849)

...okay, I don't actually know if that was LEO or not. But, de-orbiting. Pretend I said "de-orbiting can still be hazardous."

Re:Great (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#44097689)

Not really. These things are tiny and they burn up in reentry.

Re:Great (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year ago | (#44097879)

Not if you're really, really, really ridiculously tall.

Re:Great (1)

davester666 (731373) | about a year ago | (#44098373)

Doesn't really matter. It's "doubling" from 2 to 4...

Re:Great (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#44096719)

LEO can still be hazardous.

Something that small can't, at least after it reaches the atmosphere. These things are, if I read right, about the size of a Rubic Cube. Skylab was just a little bigger. They'll vaporize instantly.

+1 funny, though, and that was a great link.

Re:Great (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year ago | (#44096763)

I know. :) But I had to work it in somewhere!

Re:Great (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#44097703)

A 1U cubesat is 10cm x 10cm x 10cm. There are also 2U and 3U cubesats (two and three times that unit size). They have to be that small to fit in the launchers. Many of them are designed to unfold when they come out of the launchers, so they can be bigger once they're up there.

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44095981)

I'd imagine they still pose a threat to launch vehicles. Even a wayward bolt can be disastrous.

Re:Great (1)

msauve (701917) | about a year ago | (#44096005)

That's only a single, specific, example. The CubeSat design specification allows an orbital decay lifetime, after the end of mission, of up to 25 years.

Re:Great (2, Funny)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about a year ago | (#44096045)

because they deorbit naturally.

Otherwise known as the "Duck and Cover" de-orbiting method.

Re:Great (3, Informative)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#44097223)

You do realize that the Earth gets hit every day by stuff that would destroy your car's paint job (and perhaps the garage it was in) - if there wasn't something [] in the way.

To reach Earth's surface, a vehicle would have to dissipate several tens of millions of joules of energy per kilogram of the vehicle. And it will, by heating up the atmosphere and vaporizing the vehicle. If the cubesat isn't designed for reentry, then most of the vehicle will probably be vaporized long before it reaches the Earth's surface. Even if somehow, it were made of unobtainium, that could withstand the heat of reentry intact, it'd still slow down to terminal velocity in the lower atmosphere. That might mess up someone's car, but it's not nuclear bomb-scale "duck and cover".

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44095709)

Are tthey in long-life orbits, or are their orbits close enough to the atmosphere that they will de-orbit by themselves in a few years?

Re:Great (2)

bandy (99800) | about a year ago | (#44096105)

There's a perfect sound track for this: "Space Junk", by DEVO []

Re:Great (4, Funny)

Spy Handler (822350) | about a year ago | (#44095705)

If they charged a "redemption fee" for each cubesat - similar to what many states do with aluminium cans - you could have homeless people clean up the mess.

Re:Great (1)

Rhacman (1528815) | about a year ago | (#44096707)

Perhaps, but on the other hand it's problematic for the space telescopes when someone tries to clean the optics with a spray bottle and a fistful of newspaper.

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44096767)

The ISS really needs a slum module.

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44095867)

Well, they could create a version that actually find the garbage and directs it into the earths atmosphere. If we do not start cleaning the orbital debris we will get to a point where we cannot launch anything.

Re:Great (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#44097677)

They're required to have a deorbiting plan.

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44098963)

Oblig. []

in denial (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44095659)


Re:in denial (0)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44095835)

They're not in the Nile, they're in low Earth orbit. Being in the Nile is a bad idea anyway - what if you catch schistosomiasis? That's no laughing matter.

Re:in denial (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44095931)

I don't know what schistosomiasis is, but I hadn't realized that I could contract a disease by remotely accessing a computer in a disease-ridden area. :P

Space junk.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44095663)

I'm going to invest in space junk collection. I expect to be a billionaire within 10 years.

Next year's news... (3, Interesting)

msauve (701917) | about a year ago | (#44095675)

The popularity of cubesats has caused a great increase in "space junk," which increases the threat to satellites which support critical infrastructure.

Re:Next year's news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44095687)

For what? More spying by the US government?

Re:Next year's news... (4, Informative)

ModernGeek (601932) | about a year ago | (#44095691)

I believe that the orbit of these is so low that it degrades relatively quickly, and is out of the way of any real satellites.

Re:Next year's news... (4, Interesting)

msauve (701917) | about a year ago | (#44095859)

If 10-15 years is "relatively quickly," yes. The majority of satellites are in LEO [] , and it's where there is the most concern about space junk.

Re:Next year's news... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#44096435)

According to a link another slashdotter provided, these come down after three months.

Re:Next year's news... (1)

msauve (701917) | about a year ago | (#44096571)

According the the actual CubeSat specs, the design requirement allows them to stay in orbit up to 25 years after end-of-mission. The OP was pointing to a single, specific example, which doesn't apply in general.

Re:Next year's news... (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#44097153)

If 10-15 years is "relatively quickly," yes.

That is relatively quickly. It's certainly quick enough to keep them from being a major contributor.

The majority of satellites are in LEO, and it's where there is the most concern about space junk.

LEO is not just a single orbit. Objects can last from days to millennia depending how high up they are and how fluffy they are (cross section versus mass). The most concern about space junk is in the higher orbits where a collision can scatter debris in orbits that last longer than a human lifetime.

Re:Next year's news... (0)

swampfriend (2629073) | about a year ago | (#44095903)

"Interorbital Systems, a space exploration company that specializes in small satellites, offers a list of applications including imaging, research, space art, and space burials."

Spend the first few years of eternity... in space!

Re:Next year's news... (2)

SB9876 (723368) | about a year ago | (#44096071)

There are currently almost 20,000 pieces of space debris at least 5 cm in diameter that we are tracking. The addition of a few hundred CubeSats which generally have a short lifetime in orbit is not a significant increase in the orbital space debris load.

Re:Next year's news... (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about a year ago | (#44097621)

Ya, about that. Sorry guys, that was me chucking 20,000+ Rubik's Cubes into orbit out of frustration.

Re:Next year's news... (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year ago | (#44096303)

That is what I was thinking, sure these things are made to be in LEO where they will fall after a couple of years but a rocket going up is going so fast that a rock the size of your thumb can do some serious damage. When you look at how badly we have managed LEO so far [] it doesn't give me much hope for this not ending badly.

Re:Next year's news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44096421)

CubeSats are certainly easier to track than most space debris. And to put things to scale, ignoring the greater surface area that comes with altitude, this is like saying there are going to be 1,000 planes in the sky (globally) and we're worried about accidentally running into one with a rocket. Sure, it could happen and the cost would be huge, so we make sure it doesn't. But it's not like walking through a crowded subway station and trying not to bump into anyone.

Re:Next year's news... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#44096423)

Since, as others have pointed out, there is no possible way for this to be space junk the comment is not only way overrated but offtopic as well.

I know reading the article is seldom done, but if you're moderating you really should RTFA so you don't mod comments like the above badly.

Re:Next year's news... (2)

msauve (701917) | about a year ago | (#44096621)

Really? If you're going to make claims, you should substantiate them. A very brief amount of research (as simple as clicking on one of the links [] in the article) would show that there is a real concern, such as this statment:

good engineering projects for students, but of little use otherwise--and possible, in large numbers, an orbital debris nuisance.

or you might even find, with a simple Google search, that CubeSat collisions have already occurred [] .

Or, you can simply go on blindly putting your foot in your mouth, criticizing comments on subjects you know nothing about.

Re:Next year's news... (2)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#44102289)

From your link: "At 05:38 GMT on Thursday 23rd May, Ecuadorâ(TM)s first and only satellite collided with the fuel tank of an S14 Soviet rocket, which was launched in 1985."

Yes, there was a collision between Ecuador's satellite (TFA doesn't say how big) but the satellite wasn't the debris, it was the discarded fuel tank that when jettisoned should have been thrown so that it would have come back down that was the debris. But the space junk problem hadn't really come up a quarter century ago. The rest of the article just showed the naming conventions of various satellite sizes.

Give me a link where two functional devices that were actually being used at the time collided. Space junk is a problem, but these de-orbit at EOL, unlike Russian fuel tanks.

Re:Next year's news... (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#44096481)

Oh, my, the sky is falling!

CubeSat / Skybox Imaging satellites (3, Informative)

auric_dude (610172) | about a year ago | (#44095749)

Looks like this format of satellite is finding a good few uses [] aswell as smallish satellites from Guildford University UK [] .

Can't fool me (1, Funny)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#44095893)

It's the Borg. For midgets.

Get your head out of LEO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44096199)

Lets send barges of these to the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, etc. and kick start science again. Each university can have their own sat/lander and share data. Many eyes on the same target. Blind men and the elephant. Lets make science sexxxy again.

Terrible Trend--Space Junk (2)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44096979)

I really think we should, instead, be building a small number of super-satellites to stop the proliferation of space junk around the Earth. There could be other advantageous as well, such as shared energy and infrastructural components.

The risks of too many eggs in too few baskets would entail higher risks. I think making these manned space stations would, therefore make sense.


CubeSats or ClueBats? (1)

gnoshi (314933) | about a year ago | (#44097013)

I somehow managed to read that as 'ClueBats Spurring Satellite Revolution', which depending on the revolution could have been better news than the real article.

Future Sats based on sea creature designs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44097455)

advanced 3d printers 30-50 years from now which churn out tiny sats which launch themselves and maintain themselves while in space, updating their programming while in space and with each new launch, creating decentralized and centralized networks like street gangs, sometimes working sometimes warring vs. the other with the idea of improvement in battle and intel harvesting.

larger mother ships with whale mouthed capture for grabbing a random set of sat-bots and gathering intelligence on their combined activities in their current partition of space

i envision a design mirrored from under our seas, each creature with its own purpose, strengths and weaknesses

Obligatory AMSAT plug (3, Informative)

Dishwasha (125561) | about a year ago | (#44097487)

It's hard to believe an article like this gets posted without somebody mentioning AMSAT [] . They've been building satellites since the 60's on a much larger scale. Help support the latest AMSAT model called the FOX-1 [] .

Re:Obligatory AMSAT plug (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44097783)

Yeah but mentioning Amsat wouldn't allow them to stuff the article to the gills with the current crop of tech buzzwords, like kickstarter and arduino...

Proud to be part of the revolution (1)

wakeboarder (2695839) | about a year ago | (#44097573)

I can lay claim to two of those sat's

Bogus Report and Reporter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44097943)

I guess the 'Reporter' is just too stoned to know.

The entire article is fabrication; patently false.

A C-student in 10th grade effort.

Dallas TX Workshop on CubeSat (3, Informative)

MauiJerry (2491522) | about a year ago | (#44098139)

If you are in (or willing to be in) south central USA next month, Citizens in Space is holding a 2 day "Space Hacker Workshop" July 20-21 [] The Space Hacker Workshop will provide hands-on exposure to a variety of microcontrollers, sensors, imaging systems, and other components. With these components, participants will learn how to design and build microgravity, fluid-physics, life-science, and engineering experiments. Each paid participant will receive a hardware package to take home after the workshop. The focus here is on SubOrbital flights - they are less expensive and CiS has booked 10 flights on the XCOR Lynx suborbital craft to carry 10 small sats and a citizen scientist payload specialist.

SDR TV Tuner Dongle and Raspberry Pi (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44098623)

Interesting project for receiving satellite signals with inexpensive RTL SDR USB tuners and a Pi.

Re:SDR TV Tuner Dongle and Raspberry Pi (1)

DarkAce911 (245282) | about a year ago | (#44100307)

Personally, I am waiting for the Pirate Bay Sat with a tracker that cannot be shutdown. That would work with something like this. Back to the future with Fidonet 2.0

But will they survive long enough to give results? (1)

KreAture (105311) | about a year ago | (#44098667)

And, if so will the results be reliable?
Space is not a fun place to be if you are a highly sensitive semiconductor.
Lots of high energy particles whiss about all the time and can, and will, influence those semiconductors. Without special shielding or design you will get undesireable effects.

Better than Tor... (1)

LoRdTAW (99712) | about a year ago | (#44100711)

I know of a guy who made big money in bit coin hardware who is interested in developing a network of cube sats which create an encrypted, unregulated mesh network. The idea being that not only can people have a free as in beer network connection virtually anywhere in the world, but it will also be free from government/corporate spying and regulation. No one would own it and the funding would be crowd sourced.

It is not part of the internet but a separate network altogether. People will be responsible for creating the end nodes which host content using wireless up-links. The only cost to the end user would be the wireless adapter. There would be no geographic data transmitted or stored so knowing where the links are physically located on the ground is difficult. Since the cube sats are solar powered, there is no operating cost once they are deployed into orbit. It might not be blazing fast but it will offer people a way to electronically communicate in an anonymous fashion.

Also; queue the: "But the terrorists will use it to communicate", "Child porn distribution" and piracy nonsense.

Rail gun? (1)

Captain_Chaos (103843) | about a year ago | (#44102357)

I wonder how long it will be before these are launched without rockets by firing them into orbit directly from Earth in some way. Something like a rail gun with the satellite in a bullet shaped sabot-like shell with just a small retro rocket for orbital insertion.
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