[extropy-chat] SPACE: Microsats launching

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Wed Oct 5 08:31:24 UTC 2005

On Tue, Oct 04, 2005 at 09:21:21PM -0700, Neil H. wrote:

> Building on the "Beowulf Cluster" joke, could it perhaps be feasible to have
> several specialized cubesats which network with each other using short-range
> low-power signals (no atmosphere to worry about)? For example, one could

Flying a large constellation of mass-produced relatively-short lived
standard satellites based on consumer technology in a quite low LEO is definitely
a very smart idea. (The Beowulf joke was only partly tongue in cheek). 

There are multiple ways to make the design simpler, and cheaper. Freely tumbling
satellites can use phased-array antennas for realtime beamforming (no need for a gyro,
track things in software), or a local formation to synthesize a signal. The same 
technique can be used on ground to track sources of weak signals rapidly passing 
overhead. With UWB/pulse radio the satellite can maintain a high-accuracy 
synchronized clock, and serve as a high-precision positioning services (realtime 
cm..dm accuracy with cheap terrestrial receivers). Low-density constellation
would route by mail-drop (exchange information during flyby), but with enough
of them the coverage is global, and routing can become relativistic (cut-through
using geographic position, and vacuum as FIFO). Adding more satellites will
increase the bandwidth crossection and coverage.

> have cubesats specialized for receiving signals from earth, sending to
> earth, cameras, experiments, tugging other CubeSats around, and so forth. A
> side-benefit is that in order to expand capabilities, you would only need to
> send up a satellite specialized for that capability.

Most of requirements are in signalling and remote sensing, here a standard
platform which is software-driven makes absolute sense. The limit is
low-power crunch in a small package, thanks to Moore this is guaranteed.

COTS anecdotally (amateurs) seems to do fine in LEO, especially low LEO. 
We need more data points, though. 

Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a>
ICBM: 48.07100, 11.36820            http://www.leitl.org
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