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CubeSats Spurring Satellite Revolution 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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CubeSats Spurring Satellite Revolution

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  • Next year's news... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by msauve ( 701917 ) on Monday June 24, 2013 @03:57PM (#44095675)
    The popularity of cubesats has caused a great increase in "space junk," which increases the threat to satellites which support critical infrastructure.
    • by ModernGeek ( 601932 ) on Monday June 24, 2013 @03:59PM (#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.
      • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Monday June 24, 2013 @04:17PM (#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.
        • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

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

          • by msauve ( 701917 )
            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.
        • by khallow ( 566160 )

          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.

    • by SB9876 ( 723368 )

      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.

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

    • 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.
    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      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.

      • by msauve ( 701917 )
        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 m

        • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

          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

    • Oh, my, the sky is falling!

  • by auric_dude ( 610172 ) on Monday June 24, 2013 @04:04PM (#44095749)
    Looks like this format of satellite is finding a good few uses [] aswell as smallish satellites from Guildford University UK [].
  • by PPH ( 736903 )

    It's the Borg. For midgets.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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.


  • 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.

  • by Dishwasha ( 125561 ) on Monday June 24, 2013 @09:31PM (#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 [].

  • I can lay claim to two of those sat's

  • by MauiJerry ( 2491522 ) on Tuesday June 25, 2013 @12:15AM (#44098139) Homepage
    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.
  • by Anonymous Coward

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

    • 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

  • 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.
  • 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 cre

  • 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.

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. -- Thomas Alva Edison