Sunday, May 19, 2013

No. 716: Development of smaller artificial satellites accelerates (May 20, 2013)

A satellite that weighs less than 500 kg is defined as small satellite and a satellite that weighs between 50 kg and 100 kg is defined as ultrasmall satellite. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will operate a new base for launching small rocket to send small satellite to space. As the first step, it is scheduled to launch the small rocket Upsilon. The agency plans to reduce the cost to launch a rocket to about 3 billion yen, about a half of the existing cost, by reducing the size of a rocket. This is part of Japan’s five-year national policy to increase its competitive edge in space technology. It is planned to build a system to launch a small rocket by PC operation with a preparation period of about one week. Currently, it needs 42 days to prepare for a launch of a rocket.

Axlespace, a venture company from the University of Tokyo, plans to develop ultrasmall artificial satellites and launch three such satellites in 2015. The company wishes to get image data of the earth’s surface and provide them to mapping companies. It developed a satellite to observe the ocean water of the Arctic Sea in alliance with Weathernews. The ultrasmall satellite it plans to develop is a cube 50-60 cm on each side, and it weighs 50-60 kg. Development cost for the three satellites is estimated at one billion yen. They have the ability to identify an object 2.5 cm on each side from space. About 50 small satellites were launched worldwide in 2012, accounting for 40% of all satellites launched. With the technological progress, the world has entered into an age of small satellites.  

NASA Case Study

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