Over the past decade, scientists have realized that small satellites can make a lot of progress in science. For example, the Cubesat satellite has long been used to obtain new images of the Earth, to provide contact between space stations, and for scientific experiments. In the coming years, these small devices, only a few inches in size, will be increasingly used in various directions.
Of course, the low price of Cubesat satellites makes it possible to acquire them for universities and underdeveloped companies, but the organization ThumbSat Inc. found a cheaper way to explore outer space. They offered a new tiny device measuring 48x48x32 mm and weighing 25 grams.
“In order for you to use Cubesat in space, you first need to buy all the components, get a license to launch the device into space, and you need a lot of money. want to spend. We’ll take care of the rest, "writes Shaun Whitehead in an e-mail correspondence with Discovery News.
Not only did Whitehead come up with the idea with ThumbSat, he also founded Scoutek Ltd. The company is engaged in the production of equipment for extreme tourism.
“In the future we plan to provide our equipment for you to explore space even more easily. The main advantages of ThumbSat are a long service life and cost, at least, it is lower than that of Cubesat,” he added. The idea of ThumbSat came to mind the young engineer when he was looking for a cheap way to experience the "new" materials for the lunar project in space. He felt that it was not easy, especially given the need to license the equipment used.
"I realized that if we could create a new infrastructure to promote science in a tiny space, then much could be done for free. Thus, scientists will be able to concentrate on the experiment," Whitehead wrote.
Although one mission is quite cheap, around $ 20,000 US, it will last from eight to ten weeks in orbit. The engineer notes, the whole process will go long enough to do some research, but this time will not be enough for larger operations.
The first set of ThumbSats will be launched in the near future, namely in February 2016, from the board of the electronic vehicle rocket laboratory. Whitehead said his project was chosen primarily because of the low cost and the possibility of frequent flights. This flight and several subsequent ones so far will test the developed spacecraft, as well as track its work, in order to compare ThumbSat and Cubesat.
Some exemplary ThumbSat missions include the possibility of conducting biological experiments (there is a built-in camera that can act as a microscope), growing various crystals under microgravity conditions, monitoring the state of the Earth’s magnetic field, and analyzing the components obtained. If several ThumbSats worked together, they would be able to achieve great success in science, for example, to search for gravitational waves together or monitor space jets. Interested organizations can use the prototype on the ThumbSat site as a sample. Whitehead encourages those who want to use satellites to contact the company directly. If $ 20,000 is too much, he added that some missions could be cheaper.
“Most interestingly, we could not have foreseen that the great minds of the world would never be able to come up with such a thing,” wrote Whitehead. “Look, it’s still so simple and surprising among the hardware add-ons and applications created for smartphones. I hope that we will see a revolution in space science. And from now on, space will no longer be elite.