The current issue of American Scientist features an article "Less in Space" by Prof. Lozano on fast communication and efficient propulsion, the main challenges for Nanosatellites that will be solved in the near term, enabling cheaper and novel Cubesat-based mission designs.
October 4, 1957: The Soviet Union rockets the world into a new and exciting era of space exploration. Sputnik, a relatively small satellite weighing about 80 kilograms and incapable of maneuvering or determining its position, orbits the Earth with just enough battery power to send an occasional radio signal. It clears the way for many applications to come, from weather forecasting and global communications to GPS navigation and interplanetary probes.
It is formidable how quickly the field of space technology has evolved in the years since Sputnik’s launch. Modern civilization would find it very difficult to operate without the many services that satellites orbiting the Earth bring, and many fields of science would be crippled without spacecraft peering toward the farthest objects in the universe and travelling to planets, moons, asteroids, and comets in the Solar System.
Despite their historical successes, space technologies remain out of reach for most: Like older Tesla automobiles, they are prohibitively expensive; like the new Tesla 3, demand is too high. It currently costs between $10,000 and $20,000 for every pound of material sent to low Earth orbit. Such costs make it difficult to innovate and take risks. And while satellites have become more and more capable, their uses and those who design and build them have remained, for the most part, the same.
Recently, this situation started to change. CONTINUE READING...