American scientists have reported on the work of the orbital "swarm" of more than a hundred microscopic satellites ChipSats.
The successful launch of 60 satellites of the future global communications system Starlink at once marked the beginning of the practical application of "swarms" of spacecraft, consisting of hundreds and thousands of relatively simple nodes. The team of American professor Mason Peck, head of Space Systems Design Studio at Cornell University, has achieved equally impressive success. According to the press service of the university, recently the developers managed to establish contact with a hundred miniature satellites, delivered into orbit three months ago.
Sprite ChipSats weigh only four grams, which makes them one of the smallest femto-satellites (for comparison, the Starlink satellites weigh more than 220 kilograms). Back in November 2018, they were delivered to the ISS by a Cygnus NG-10 rocket, in a small Kicksat-2 box. This launching system on the CubeSat satellite platform went free flight on March 18 and scattered all 105 ChipSats vehicles at an altitude of about 300 kilometers. The femto satellites remained in flight for several days while scientists checked their work, after which they burned up in the earth's atmosphere.
The project has been under development since 2011. Each of the launched prototypes weighs about four grams and is shaped like a small flat rectangle measuring 1.4 x 3.5 centimeters. In fact, this is a "bare" electronic board that is resistant to the effects of outer space factors, carrying several sensors and a short-range communication system that transmits telemetry and other data in short pulses at a wavelength of 400 MHz.
ChipSats do not differ in power, but their task is different - for the first time to demonstrate the work of the "orbital swarm" of spacecraft. Scientists really managed to get a signal from them, and some astronautics followed the flight. In general, the cost of each miniature satellite does not exceed $ 100, but there were so many of them that the developers had to turn to enthusiasts for help in implementing the project.
The amount necessary for production and launch was raised using the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform. People who invested enough money in the project could get their own "customized" signal from one of the ChipSats. “The purpose of the sprites on KickSat-2 was to demonstrate basic functionality, including communicating without disrupting the communications of other satellites,” says Mason Peck. The next generation of devices will have GPS sensors, will be able to measure the behavior of the atmosphere, magnetic fields, and so on."