Platt, Donald Micro Aerospace Solutions, Inc., Melbourne, Florida.
Last reviewed:July 2018
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- Size/mass categories
- Development of the CubeSat
- Applications for small satellites
- Outlook for small satellites
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
A class of economical spacecraft smaller in size and lower in mass than conventional satellites and used for diverse applications in academia, research, commerce, and national defense. Small satellites, or SmallSats, are defined here as spacecraft having a mass under 500 kg (1100 lb). A growing part of the satellite and spacecraft domain, small satellites present lower barriers for design, build, and launch compared to traditional satellites. Given their limited mass and volume, however, SmallSats do introduce certain engineering challenges—for instance, in thermal management and structural strength—as well as some performance trade-offs in capability, service life, and propulsion. Small satellites are typically secondary payloads, reaching space by “piggybacking” on primary missions involving delivery of larger spacecraft, cargo, or humans into orbit on the International Space Station. A popular type of small satellite is the CubeSat, which can be deployed in single or multiple units and outfitted with sensors and other technologies (Fig. 1). See also: Early outlook and development of nanosatellites; Satellite (astronomy)
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