Nanosats Come Into Their Own

The future of space is small and cost-efficient
Jeffrey Manber
Aviation Week


Last week I saw one possible future shape for space organizations. It was Canadian, it was nano and it was hot. I was at the Emerging Commercial Applications for Small Satellites at Stanford University, co-sponsored by SEF Spaceworks—an organization I helped establish, along with Kentucky Space and Professor Bob Twiggs.

The workshop was a success; the packed room brought together industry, university and new players to the capabilities possible with small satellites. All the speakers, from Bob Twiggs to John Hines of Ames, were impressive, but it was the talk of Robert Zee, of the Space Flight Laboratory at the University of Toronto that really caught my attention.

Zee described an organization that is producing small satellites for high quality scientific missions. Satellite programs include the CanX series, the NTS which tracks the movement of ships and MOST, which is an astronomical platform that can monitor up to 30 stars. Canadians are by nature modest and boasting does not come easily. But one graph showed the pride that Zee must be feeling. It compared the scientific capabilities of the 56-kg MOST against that of the Hubble space telescope. And dollar for dollar the use of a small platform seemed to make a lot of sense. If I had a few hundred million or even a billion–better to spend on smaller satellites than huge man-tended platforms.

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