Friday, December 16, 2005

Nanosatellites – Coming to a Classroom Near You

Nanosatellites are soccer-ball sized devices that NASA launches into space. Initially targeted for studying the earth and the sun, nanosatellites are finding numerous missions such as orbital communication networks, and remote sensing. Nanosatellites are fueled by butane (similar to what lights a cigarette lighter) and are generally made for less than $100K.

Using commercial off-the-shelf technology numerous universities and organizations are now developing their own nano or micro-satellites. The IAF – International Aeronautical Federation plans to launch 50 nanosatellites on the 50th anniversary of Sputnik in 2007. Cornell is developing a network of nanosatellites that can perform end-to-end inspection which could be used on such structures as the International Space Lab and could have been used to inspect the ill-fated Columbia flight.

The University of Texas is developing PORTIS (Proximity Operations Rapid Turnout Inspector Satellite) which is two satellites that will remain within 10 kilometers of each other as they orbit the earth taking photographs. The purpose of the launch is to perfect techniques for controlling multiple satellites and working in concert. To control the rotational position of the satellite, they used QBX, a small 4x4cm data acquisition system running embedded LabVIEW.

The number of nanosatellites being launched by Universities is growing to such a point that it is becoming a driver in the world of satellites. In the 1990s, the LEO satellites for communications such as the Iridium project drove the satellite market. Today, nanosatellites are becoming a presence to reckon with. In this article satellite market analysts review the launches throughout the 1990s and go on to predict the growth of the market. The Teal Group tracks current satellite payload launches and predicts the type and number of future launches. They predict over 1200 satellites will be launched between 2004 and 2013 and that 3% will be university developed nanosatellites.
There are some companies involved in nanosatellite work. AeroAstro provides transponders and other communication tools for nanosatellites.

Virtual Instrumentation provides test support , ground-based data collection, system enhancement, and more.

If you are working with nanosatellites, I would like to hear from you. You can reach me at hall.martin@ni.com.

Best regards,
Hall T. Martin

3 Comments:

Blogger Navaneeth said...

Hi,
I am Navaneeth, an IT student and i would like to study about the nanosatellites.
I have seen a topic in the internet which you have written.
Can u please forward some more information about nanosatellites, which would be helpful to me.

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