Saturday, April 10, 2010

Space Access 2010 - Henry Spencer, on Realities Of Nanosat Launch: What Nanosats Are And What They Want From Launchers

Henry Spencer has done real work on real nanosats, small satellites.

Currently nanosats fly as secondary payloads.

Nanosats, what are they? One definition is a satellite from one to ten kilograms. But there is a lot of fuzzyness.

There are two classes. The first one might be called the student nanosats. There is a standard structure of a cube by 10 cm, weighing one kilogram. There is a goal to develop and launch in one semester. Henry says this is really too small to do much. About all you can do is create a solar powered radio. Great for students, not much else.

The second class is bigger sets of cubes. The standard box carries two rows of the cubes. Now people might try something the size of two cubes, three cubes, or even six. They are awkward form factors.

Henry worked on a cube of 20 cm. They have one paying customer with satellite in orbit. They went from contract signing to launch in seven months.

One problem is the box holding the nanosats are heavier than the nanosats. Commercial launchers want to protect their more expensive cargo from pieces of the nanosats.

The nanosats are not allowed to have appendages when being deployed. Deploying can be a problem.

Some issues: What orbit? Student just want something in orbit. As a practical matter they want the satellite to pass over their home so they can communicate with it. Students generally want low orbits.

Nonasats are a hazard to other satellites, big enough to hurt. There is a push to keep the nanostats low so they’ll decay in the next couple decades and clear out.

Launchers won’t sell small amounts. You have to buy large bunch and sub divide.

The full agenda for Space Access 2010, with links

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