May 13 2012, 12:13 AM
Good evening all, I hope this is an appropriate place to ask this question: I read this space.com article
which quotes a cost for an Earth observing mission of 12 million US dollars (mission hardware only) using a swarm of nano-sats. This seems to me to remarkably cheap, so I was wondering if I am missing something, or if my ideas about what Earth observing missions cost is grossly inflated by only reading about the highest profile ones?
May 13 2012, 12:29 AM
"Not including launch costs."
I'm not sure why it's expected to be so cheap to develop. Perhaps building on experience like this for very small payloads:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASM-135_ASAT
May 13 2012, 02:35 AM
It's interesting to think about how that might work. Decay in 45 days + launched from a plane seems to mean the satellites go to a low earth orbit. It is reassuring to know that they clean themselves up when the mission is over. But the diagram shows, not a "swarm" but a "string" of sattelites circling the Earth at widely-spaced intervals. It is borderline misleading to imply that all can hover in selected northern hemispphere hot spots at the same time. Good luck with that. On the plus side, it appears the nano sats don't really have to be launched from anywhere near the scene of the hostilities, but could be launched from a fixed platform like White Sands, Johnston Island, Vandenberg, etc... They don't end up looking that much different from ordinary reconnaisance sateliltes; only smaller and individually less reliable.
Off topic, I'd like to equip them with little parachutes and maybe spider legs, and sprinkle them over Valles Marineris.
May 15 2012, 11:05 PM
I'd just like to point out: 'Swarm' was just a term of convenience, Ie lots of litle co-operateing craft. Didn't intend to mislead anyone as to their capabilities.
Even accounting for launch costs this still seems a a cheap mission. Perhaps they are designing around a pre-existing nano-sat platform like cubesat? RE tanjent: I wonder if this approach would suit NEO exploration well, given the low cost and (presumably) low power reserves for transmission on each unit?