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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Small Satellite Questionnaire for GISCafe Voice: February Special Coverage!

January 11th, 2018 by Susan Smith

This questionnaire is aimed at those who do research and development on “smallsats,” as well as those customers of small sats, and companies providing third party solutions for them.

McMurdo Station Iceberg, Antarctica, NASA, taken from a small sat.

Small satellites (smallsats) is a term describing any satellite from the size of an economy sized washing machine, all the way to a satellite like CubeSat that you can hold in your hand, according to NASA. They are generally of low mass and size, under 500 kg or 1,1000 pounds. There are different classifications to categorize them based on mass.

The classifications groups include:

Small satellites: those with a wet mass (refers to a measure of the efficiency of a rocket – vehicle plus contents plus propellant) including fuel of between 100-500 kg and 1,100 lb.

There are small satellite launch vehicles that are specific to smallsats and some that are launched as secondary payloads on larger devices.

Microsatellites have a wet mass of between 10 and 100 kg (22 and 220 lb). Other defining characteristics are that these may work together and also work in a formation, called a satellite swarm.

Microsatellite launch vehicles are being developed by military contractor and commercial companies.

Nanosatellites is applied to an artificial satellite with a wet mass between 1 and 10 kg (2.2 and 22.0 lb). These may be launched individually or work in formation and work in a satellite swarm.

Miniaturization is taking levels of capability to a smaller footprint and nanosatellites also are subject to new Nanosatellite Launch Vehicle Technology development.

Picosatellites are those artificial satellites that have a wet mass between 0.1 and 1 kg (0.22 and 2.2 lb), and again these satellites may work together or in a formation. They may require a mother satellite for communication with ground controllers as nanosatellites may do.

Femtosatellites applies to artificial satellites with a wet mass of between 10 and 100 g (0.35 and 3.5 oz) Again, some of these designs require a larger mother satellite to communicate with ground controllers.

Why a small satellite? Often the small sat can ride on a larger mission. CubeSats were developed by researchers at California Polytechnic State University and Stanford University who wanted a standardized format that was small and would enable students to get into designing, building and launching a satellite.

  • There are many different types of small satellites – what kind does your company develop or use?
  • What are the pros and cons of small sats?
  • What are the costs of development?
  • What kinds of tasks would you assign to small sats and what would you leave for larger satellites?
  • If you develop small sats, who are your primary customers? What do they do with them?
  • What types of data do you get from your small sats?
  • What do you see as the future of small sats?
  • Please include contact information, point of contact & title, website address, collateral materials, i.e., videos, photos, press releases, etc.
  • Please feel free to share other experiences or workflows you or your customers have had with small sats.

Submit your completed questionnaire before January 24th to be included in this coverage to Susan Smith, Editor, GISCafe,

Small Satellite Questionnaire for GISCafe Voice

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Categories: analytics, climate change, data, field GIS, geospatial, GIS, government, handhelds, hardware, lidar, location intelligence, mobile, NASA, Open Source, Planet Labs, public safety, RapidEye, remote sensing, satellite based tracking, satellite imagery, sensors, Skybox Imaging, small sats, space-based flight tracking, spatial data, SPOT 7 satellite, telecommunications

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