Space shuttle Endeavour carries stamp-sized mini-satellites into orbit [Video]
When space shuttle Endeavour blasted off Monday morning it carried three tiny satellites -- each the size of a postage stamp -- along with it.
Endeavour, NASA's next-to-last shuttle mission, left its Florida launch pad at 5:56 a.m. Pacific Time with the slim, 1-inch-square chips aboard. The mini-satellites are set to be mounted on the outside of the International Space Station and will collect data measuring the harsh conditions of space.
Mason Peck, the professor who led the project to build the satellites at Cornell University, said the spacecraft, dubbed Sprite, are prototypes. The mini-satellites will remain in space for a “few years,” before they’re to be removed and brought back to Earth.
In the future, Peck envisions launching waves of the little satellites simultaneously to capture information about space in real-time.
“Their small size allows them to travel like space dust,” he said in a statement. “Blown by solar winds, they can ‘sail’ to distant locations without fuel.”
Currently the cost of building, maintaining and launching full-size satellites is in the millions of dollars. These small, light spacecraft could bring costs down, Peck said. end quote.
This is actually quite a revolutionary idea like nanobots in space rather than in a human or animal body. Since they are the size of a postage stamp they can gather a lot of information, be large enough for a human or robot to gather up in space and if equipped with solar cells or mini-fuel cells or both, have the capacity to function as long as the fuel cell fuel lasts or as long as the sun or any sun is bright enough where they are in space. Great idea!
Later: The downside of this would be if you imagine you are in a spacecraft traveling 17,000 miles per hour through a cloud of postage stamp sized satellites that you don't know are there that are stationary in relation to your 17,000 miles per hour. This would mean you would have as many holes through both you and your ship as there were postage stamp sized satellites in your path that might be invisible to your radar.
In space, at the speeds being traveled, you wouldn't need a minefield. You could just put ball bearings in a stationary pattern that would take out any thing moving fast. So, this aspect of it could be a problem.