Until recently, satellite technology was a closely guarded secret that only the richest and powerful nations on earth could afford to buy. However, significant strides have been made since that time. Just as with the revolution in drone technology, satellites are becoming more affordable and more available. More and more people and small research organizations are finding a lot of value in the use of small and affordable satellites.
What Are The Risks?
A number of professionals are raising concern on whether this unrestrained use of outer space should be allowed to continue. With so many untrained people beginning to use these satellites, it raises safety concerns. In addition, it raises issues to do with oversight. Until now there does not exist a global framework to control how satellites are used. In fact, most rich governments use satellites for spying without any restrictions. The answer to such issues may lie in a small company that has been sending satellite’s to space for fifty years.
What Does It Entail?
The concept of people being able to own a satellite for personal use may sound outlandish. However, this is a concept that has been put into practice many times over with considerable success. These are satellites known as CubeSats.
The name comes from the shape of the satellite, which is a cube. Most of these tiny satellites are usually about four inches. The satellites are fitted on a launch vehicle, inside compartments that were formerly treated as wasted space. These small satellites are fitted with sensors and can also transmit data back to earth. They are useful in studying near earth orbits and the earth itself.
Although they are primarily used for missions in near-earth orbit, they can also be launched further out into space. In fact, NASA plans to include CubeSats in its future missions to the moon and Mars. As of now, these devices cost only a fraction of what it costs to put bigger satellites in space. Researchers at Arizona State University have developed a model that could cost only $3,000 to put into space.
How Do They Begin?
University graduate students built the first devices in an attempt to recreate the launch of Sputnik into space. Since the first launch, some major organizations have launched many CubeSats into space. As of now, it is estimated that 130 of them are functional in space. NASA has started a non-profit organization that helps research organizations launch their own CubeSats into space.
There is concern that some people could misuse the technology for the wrong reasons. However, the developer community has done a good job at establishing its code of conduct. So far, everything is going in the right direction. In addition, the physical risk associated with these devices is practically nonexistence.
As of now, this technology has been significant in helping graduate students get a better experience during their research. However, there is still an opportunity to make more advances. The technology will play a fundamental role in driving future satellite technology research.