It’s like something from the David Tennant episodes of Doctor Who. Millions of tiny little satellites, zooming around the planet at high speeds, doing everything from taking pictures to broadcasting the latest Netflix hit. Instead of governments controlling these satellites, however, it’ll be you and me.
When I was a kid, I was excited by the fact that I could get a PC that had a 20 MB HDD for less than $1,000. For that same cost in just a couple years, you could control your own personal satellite in space, in real time. That means the future of satellite technology is in the concepts of organizations like CubeSat, Southern Stars, and others who are pursuing this tech niche.
It literally will help someone go boldly where we’ve already gone before as a people. It just won’t be in a TARDIS.
What Makes CubeSat Different?
It’s the size that matters and for this small satellite, it’s a cube that is 4 inches squared. It literally fits in the palm of your hand. The idea is to make this satellite be controlled by the palm of your hand as well with an app interface that you could use anywhere you get a 3G/4G connection – or on your WiFi if you’re a cheapskate like me. But can you really put a price on HD satellite images from space?
It gets even better. Under the KickSat program [which was partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign, the concept of nano satellites is planned to be studied. It launched last April with SpaceX headed to the ISS, but the mission hasn’t happened as planned. It is believed that radiation caused the base satellite to reset its clock and that delayed a launch of the nano satellites. Now it doesn’t have enough power for a manual launch… and the whole thing will likely just plummet into the atmosphere in a great big fiery ball of failure.
That failure doesn’t mean the concept is bad. It just means it didn’t work… this time. The next goal is even loftier – to propel a nano satellite into the furthest regions of our solar system at 1/1000th of the cost a regular satellite.
What Does This Mean For Right Now?
Realistically we’re still a couple years away from being able to personally fund our own satellites. We’ve got a lot to figure out in the meantime as well when it comes to how we view privacy. Our society is still struggling with the idea that someone can take public pictures of us without our knowledge. Now imagine being able to take satellite images as a personally owned satellite orbits the planet. It takes the Orwellian concept to new heights and until we figure out what is morally acceptable to us as a society and what is not, then it’s not technology that will hold us back, but our own sense of right and wrong.
It also means that there’s a level of space commercialism for the average person that hasn’t been available before. Equip a nano satellite with a camera and you’ll have your own pictures of space to use for your own purposes. You can literally explore new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and do it all from the convenience of your own iPhone app.