We are developing a nano-satellite, and mobile apps to go with it, as the focus for a global education and public outreach campaign. The satellite, called SkyCube, is a 10x10x10 cm “1U” CubeSat intended for launch as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in 2013. Orbiting more than 300 miles up, on a path highly inclined to the Earth’s equator, SkyCube will pass over most of the world’s inhabited regions.
SkyCube will take low-resolution pictures of the Earth and broadcast simple messages uploaded by sponsors. After 90 days, it will use an 8-gram CO2 cartridge to inflate a 10-foot (3-meter) diameter balloon coated with highly reflective titanium dioxide powder. SkyCube’s balloon will make the satellite as bright as the Hubble Space Telescope or a first-magnitude star. You’ll be able to see it with your own eyes, sailing across the sky. But SkyCube’s balloon isn’t just for visibility. It will – within 3 weeks – bring SkyCube down from orbit due to atmospheric drag, ending the mission cleanly in a fiery “grand finale” that avoids any buildup of space debris.
$1 – Sponsors 10 seconds of the mission. You can broadcast one (1) 120-character message from the satellite.
$6 – Sponsors 1 minute of the mission. You can broadcast six (6) 120-character messages from space, and request one (1) image from the satellite.
$100 – Sponsors 15 minutes of the mission. An ideal family pack – we’ll send you two (2) SkyCube mission T-shirts! And you can broadcast one hundred (100) 120-character messages from the satellite, and request twenty (20) images from the satellite at any time during the mission.
$1,000 – Sponsors 2 hours of the mission – a great high school or university classroom sponsorship package. We’ll send you a radio receiver which you can use to detect transmissions from SkyCube and other satellites already in orbit! You’ll also get a flying SpaceX Falcon 9 model rocket, and twenty (20) SkyCube mission T-shirts. You can broadcast one thousand (1000) 120-character messages from space, and request up to two hundred (200) images from the satellite.
There is big news on the small satellite front. From super-secret agencies to the U.S. military, academia, private firms, world space agencies, and NASA, ultra-small satellites are the big thing.
In sizing up “smallsats,” there are a range of classifications in the less-than-500- kilogram department, be they minisatellites, microsatellites, nanosatellites, picosatellites, palm-size CubeSats, even the diminutive Femto satellite, weighing in at less than 100 grams.
Cornell University has begun to delve into a postage stamp-size “satellite on a chip” design, called Sprite, envisioning a swarm of these tiny probes exploring planetary atmospheres for organic compounds.
“The knowledge of how to make and use smallsats has passed the tipping point,” Matt Bille told SPACE.com. “It exists worldwide and has fostered a global generation of satellite builders and engineers. It used to be only a few organizations could build a satellite. Now, a smart teenager with a CubeSat kit and a soldering iron is a space agency. We’ve only begun to grasp the implications of that.”
“The age of microspacecraft is on solid ground now.”
The NASA Ames Research Center is known for establishing innovative partnerships and Pete Worden, the former Air Force general who serves as the Center’s director, is known as a maverick. Still, the latest joint venture to come to light has caught even some longtime NASA observers by surprise.
Under supervision from NASA Ames, inmates working in the machine shop at California’s San Quentin State Prison are building Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployers (PPODs), the standard mechanism used to mount tiny satellites called cubesats on a variety of launch vehicles and then, at the appropriate time, fling them into orbit.
Worden got the idea for the partnership with San Quentinwhile he was at a party, talking to the spouse of a NASA employee who happened to work as a guard on the prison’s death row. When the guard mentioned the prison’s critical need to establish innovative education and training programs, Worden, a former University of Arizona professor, said, “How about building small satellites?”
A pair of male fur seals rescued and nursed back to health by SeaWorld San Diego’s animal care team was returned to the ocean. Both animals were rescued in May emaciated, malnourished and dehydrated. The first of these mammals, a Guadalupe fur seal, was rescued off Imperial Beach weighing almost 15.5 pounds May 13, 2012. The other, a hybrid (mixed breed species), was rescued May 29 with a swollen rear flipper and weighing 16.5 pounds. SeaWorld veterinarians were able to treat the bulging flipper with antibiotics.
The estimated 1- and 2-year-old juveniles returned to the sea weighing 42 and 23 pounds respectively. SeaWorld animal care specialists and veterinarians treated the animals with hydration fluids and a nutrient-rich diet of capelin, sardines and herring. The seals are now healthy and able to forage for food on their own.
Research scientists from Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute outfitted each seal with a satellite transmitter. Scientists hope to track the animals’ movements at sea to learn more about where the species travels in the ocean along with perhaps why. The transmitters will likely dislodge from the fur seals when they molt in about two months. An adult male fur seal can grow to 6 feet and weigh up to 350 pounds, while females reach 4.5 feet and weigh up to 100 pounds.
Mesmerizing timelapse of the Earth is the highest resolution single-shot imagery ever taken of our planet from space.
The video and images were snapped by the Russian weather satellite Elektro-L during its orbit 36,000 kilometers above the equator. The images are in 121 megapixels; That’s 1 km per pixel. In the video shown above here, the images are in true color, but if you really want to see the vegetation pop out, watch it in the infrared– the vegetation will instead appear orange (video below).
Also unlike most NASA photos of the Earth from space, these images were snapped in a single shot. By contrast, NASA’s photos are usually composites of several photographs.
Not since The Blue Marble— the famous photograph snapped by Apollo 17 astronauts on their way to the Moon in 1972– has there been such a spectacular and moving single-shot view of the Earth.
The space wars are heating up. As it stands right now, the Russians have the biggest for-hire space program, but their fleet is aging. The new players on the market, like Space X, are competing for the future of that market.
Which will look something like this. Every country rich enough to afford it, and big companies, will be sending probes, satellites, and people into space. They will pay a private company to do so and eventually the market will be the opposite of what it is now, where governments dominate and private industry supports.
Here is an example of that:
A Japanese rocket has lifted off with a South Korean satellite in Japan’s first commercial launch of a foreign probe into space.
The HII-A rocket lifted off from a remote southwestern Japan island carrying the South Korean probe and three Japanese satellites.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, a private company in charge of HII-A rocket production since 2007, is hoping to compete with the U.S., Russia and Europe as a launch-vehicle provider. This was its first contract to launch a foreign probe.
The Korean satellite, KOMPSAT-3, was developed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute to monitor the environment. The rocket also carried Japan’s Shizuku satellite to monitor climate change and two smaller Japanese probes.
“Love this tip from +Jake Parrillo – I had no idea you could get notified when there was new satellite imagery for your house. Living in the future is pretty great.” – Rick Klau
The full story from Jake:
Last night, I received an email from the “Follow Your World” application of Google Maps that alerted me that there was new imagery for a “point of interest” of mine. Sure enough, I had entered our home address in the tool back when it launched in October of last year and forgot all about it.
The new satellite images are pretty recent – as there’s a new house being constructed on our block and the image has the roof shingles installed and the driveway in; which are both pretty recent events (within the last month or so).
The Follow Your World tool is a neat little app that gives you a heads up when Google updates their imagery of your house. We’re still not on StreetView (our block) so I’m hoping that one day soon, a note like the one above will arrive that will include the details of how our house is now included in the StreetView collection.