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NASA Plans To Send A Swarm Of Small Satellites In Earth’s Orbit, Moon, Mars And Beyond

First Posted: Nov 09, 2016 04:20 AM EST
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NASA is planning to dispatch a swarm of tiny, next-generation satellites into Earth's orbit, a move that the space agency hopes will help in the study of climate change and weather patterns.

Not only will this project enable scientists to come up with new and more reliable data concerning the health of our planet, NASA says, but it will also count as a big leap in the technical know-how of launching smaller and more cost-efficient satellites.

In a teleconference hosted on Nov. 7, NASA unfurled some key details about these new small satellites, which are commonly referred to as 'SmallSats.'

According to NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan, these SmallSats can significantly lower the costs of space-based Earth observations. Apart from that, they can also play an instrumental role in expanding the space for private companies, as well as students and universities keen on performing science experiments in Earth's orbit.

"Small satellites have several advantages," Stofan said during the teleconference, reports Space.com.

"They reduce the risk and cost of demonstrating precursor technologies and infusing them into larger flight projects. They're used for flight testing and demonstrating new proof-of-concept components. And they enable affordable distributive science observation systems using constellations or swarms of small satellites to achieve broad coverage."

The space agency is preparing to launch three such SmallSat missions, two of which will take place by the end of 2016. NASA also hopes that this is only the beginning. Following the successful placing of SmallSats in Earth's orbit, they will move on to the next phase that will see swarms of these tiny satellites being sent to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Stofan also commented that NASA is "actively promoting the small spacecraft approach as a paradigm shift for NASA and the larger space community."

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