The emergence Of a market for CubeSats—or
nanosatellites—has been an important trend to watch over
the last few years, given the increase Of space launch
vehicle companies in the marketplace, such as SpaceX and
others, which provide reduced-cost options to the sky.
The global marketplace for CubeSats is growing at a
compound annual growth rate (CAGR) Of more than 33
percent and is expected to surpass $550 million by 2022,
according to sources. In comparison to their much heavier
and larger siblings, CubeSats have a shorter development
lifecycle and come with a significantly reduced cost
associated with the manufacturing Of the satellite. The
smaller the satellite system, the less cost it takes to
launch it into the sky.
This reduced cost in development and decreased cost
associated with launch make the possibility Of things such
as a global internet and an internet Of things (IOT)
expansion possible. This post takes a 100k at CubeSats,
explores how they can fit together into constellations, and
tracks the development Of 10T and a global internet.
What is a CubeSat?
A small satellite used for research in space, CubeSats can
be made up Of multiple units and are usually no larger than
4 inches cubed. These systems will normally weigh less
than 3 pounds and use commercial, off-the-shelf
components for housings and electronics. This helps
significantly cut the cost associated with developing the
systems. With commoditization Of general use components,
the developer Of the system can put more development
cost into the use case Of the particular satellite. The
design specifications for a small satellite system help
achieve a number Of goals, but the main goal revolves
around cost Of deployment. CubeSats can easily hitch a
ride when there happens to be excess payload capacity on
larger launch vehicles. The reduction Of costs and
development time make CubeSats an option for satellite
constellations in low-Earth orbit.
Satellite Clusters Create a
Different Kind of Constellation
Low-Earth orbiting satellites, also known as LEOs, are
often deployed in satellite configurations known as
constellations. Low-Earth orbit is considered to be an
Earth-centered orbit with an altitude Of no more than 1,200
miles. Constellations are groups Of satellites working
together in communication. These groupings Of satellites
work in conjunction with one another to provide consistent
coverage to the ground below. The satellites must be
positioned in such a way that they overlap for a period Of
time in order to maintain the coverage needed. Many LEO
satellites are needed to maintain this overlap coverage.
You might be more familiar with satellite constellations
than you think. If you’ve ever used your cell phone to
navigate from one location to another, then you’ve
accessed the Global Positioning Systems (GPS) network Of
satellites. The GPS network was launched more than 40
years ago and includes 31 satellites operated by the United
States Air Force and owned by the federal government. GPS
provides location capabilities to U.S. military, civil, and
commercial users all around the world. If you have access
to a GPS receiver, such as your cell phone, then you have
access to an internet constellation for your own use.
A number Of these CubeSat constellations are in
development. Iridium Next is creating a system for cockpit
safety for airplanes and ships. Boeing and are both
developing broadband capabilities to be used globally.
There is a good amount to be gained by using CubeSats in
constellations. With the increase Of the global megatrend
JOT, and the increasing demand for global internet, the race
for low-Earth orbit will continue to heat up through the
upcoming few years.