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Space Science

Evaluating the Capabilities of Chip-Sized Spacecraft 96

kgeiger writes "The Sprite project is testing the feasibility of chip-sized spacecraft. 'Rather than hand building one-of-a-kind spacecraft, we envision constructing spacecraft on wafers in much the same way that common integrated circuits are made today. During fabrication, solar cells and other components would be incorporated with microelectromechanical systems techniques. Instead of exhaustively testing each part, as is done with current spacecraft, engineers will be able to monitor Sprite quality in a less labor-intensive fashion by using statistical process control, testing a few chips from each batch to make sure they meet specifications.' The project's goal is to deploy true 'smart dust,' comprised of 5- to 50-mg single-sensor spacecraft capable of forming deep-space sensor arrays."
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Evaluating the Capabilities of Chip-Sized Spacecraft

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  • by Zinho ( 17895 ) on Friday July 29, 2011 @03:08PM (#36925520) Journal

    The flaw in your reasoning is that there are very few interesting places in the solar system to go, so despite the very large volume available for navigating around these obstacles it's quite a bit more likely that a later space mission will be aiming for the exact same tiny angular zone as a previous one. It's similar to the current situation with satellites in Earth orbit - I occasionally hear about congestion in the geostationary orbits despite there being lots of potential orbits around the earth, some orbits are simply more desirable than others.

    Don't get me wrong, I understand that there are complexities I'm glossing over (consecutive launch opportunities to the same destination not passing through the same space as each other, for example). But when you said:

    The only really clogged region (relatively speaking) is earth orbit, and that's because we have so much that we want to do and to leave in a relatively small space.

    you glossed over the fact that any well-explored destination in the solar system is destined to become a "clogged region" for exactly the same reason that Earth is now. Compared to the volume of space contained in the Solar System, the interesting destinations represent a "relatively small space" not significantly larger than Earth's orbital zone.

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court