Supertiny satellites launched

Researchers are building simple, miniature satellites to bring down their costs and expand their availability

By Sid Perkins, 14:45 PM March 6, 2013

Cordell Grant, an aerospace engineer at the University of Toronto in Canada, assembles one of his team’s nanosatellites. These are the smallest space telescopes ever sent into Earth orbit. Credit: Johannes Hirn (Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto)

You don’t need a big satellite to do big science. Smaller satellites can cost less to make. So even small research teams can rather inexpensively rocket their instruments into orbit. One group has just launched tiny telescopes this way to study stars.

The Hubble Space Telescope may be the most well-known instrument orbiting Earth today. It is also huge. At 13.2 meters long, it’s about the length of a school bus. And at more than 11 metric tons, it weighs about 50 percent more than an elep...

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