Small Satellites Are Catching On


Small satellites are artificial satellites that weigh less than 500 kg. They can weigh as little as under 0.1 kg.

They are known as smallsats. Small satellites have been around since the 1990s. Their origins were based on low cost manufacturing methods in Spain for commerical and communication satellites. It is in recent times that this particular satellite technology has grown rapidly in importance. In particular, satellites weighing between 1 and 50 kg have been seeing the most rapid growth in technological development.

Satellites of the 1-50 kg range, this is the development. These are Nanosatellites and microsatellites. Between 2000-2005, 15 were launched. More than twice that number was launched in 2006, a total of 34. This would wane between 2007 and 2011, as less than 30 were launched during this time period. Recent years have shown the most rapid growth. 34 were launched in 2012. This number would increase 2.7 times within a year. 92 nano/micro satellites were launched in 2013.

Why the need for small satellites? What application do they have in geography?

-Small satellites are more economical. Less fuel is required. The rockets to launch them are not required to be as large as the rockets launching regular satellites. They can hitchhike on other launching vehicles from the leftover capacity. They can be produced in larger numbers easier.

-Satellites are used for earth observation. Companies such as TerraBella and GeoOptics are using microsatellites and nanosatellites. NASA is launching these satellites. Small satellites are booming and they are being used for earth observation. In the earth observation sector, more data is needed, especially in the realm of agriculture, forestry, and disaster management.

Small satellites are a technological innovation to watch over the next decade. They will be very important for the geospatial technology industry. They will be important for providing more geospatial information in the coming years.



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