Summary: The future of space exploration might be through tiny satellites that can fit in the palm of your hand.
Original author and publication date: Trevor English – February 13, 2020
Futurizonte Editor’s Note: One day, perhaps soon, tiny satellites and drones will fuse into one space probe and swarms of them will explore space.
From the article:
Space exploration has infatuated generations for decades now. What started as a race to master human achievement between superpowers has evolved into a human endeavor concerned with the future of humanity. For what is essentially the entire history of human space exploration, the process has necessitated one thing: money.
The economics of space
When the shuttle program was in full force between running launches between 1981 and 2011, the average cost of sending one pound of material into space ran about $10,000 by conservative estimates, according to Business Insider. Ever since, the space race has largely turned private, and with this shift, competition is driving that cost per pound down.
Elon Musk claims that the Falcon Heavy will be able to take 1 pound of cargo into space for as little as $1000. While that has yet to be seen, this ultimately is a 10 times reduction in cost from just a decade ago.
This not only means that the cost of launching humans into orbit is getting cheaper, but so too is the cost of getting technology into space, like satellites. SpaceX currently charges about $62 Million to launch a satellite into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) in 2018. ULA, the main competitor to SpaceX, reportedly charges around $225 million per launch on average with the cheapest coming in at around $100 million.
The argument for microsats
All this for giant satellites that provide GPS, television, communication technologies – all this to provide the world with the modern tech that makes it go round. This high cost has relegated the industry to basically only large companies, but a question arises. What if you took that large single cargo and split it into tens or hundreds of smaller satellites? Wouldn’t the cost per satellite launch come down, making space more accessible to, if not the average human, a high-achieving one?
Yes, it would.