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Small Is Beautiful: US Military Explores Use of Microsatellites

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Latest updates: ORS-1 satellite launched aboard Minotaur 1 rocket. TacSat-1 Concept(click to view larger) At a time when defense budgets are being cut, the era of the multi-billion dollar military satellite program might be over. Witness the fate of the massive $12 billion TSAT program, which was shut down in 2009. As a much cheaper alternative, governments are exploring the possibility of using microsatellites to perform many of the functions currently performed by expensive large satellite systems: GPS navigation, communication, surveillance, and earth imagery. At a 10th of the cost of their larger cousins, microsatellites are much easier sell to budget conscious procurement officers. They are much cheaper and faster to build and launch. For key military missions, however, their reliability and longevity are an issue. They might be cheaper, but if the military has to use 10 times as many to do the job of traditional satellites, would that be a cost savings? This DID Spotlight article will focus on the US military’s microsatellite development and launch programs, as well as the Army’s development of nanosatellites for battlefield communication, and take a brief look at the problem of space debris. * Microsatellites: Definitions and Technologies * Pentagon’s TacSat Program […]

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