NASA gets small with tiny satellite program

NASA said today it would team with m2mi to develop very small satellites, called nanosats which weigh between 11 to 110lb, for the development of telecommunications and networking services in space.

NASA says large groups of nanosatellites can be grouped in a constellation, that will be placed in low Earth orbit to offer new telecommunications and networking systems and services.NASA and m2mi will develop what they call fifth generation telecommunications and networking systems for TCP/IP-based networks and related services.

The cooperative effort will combine NASA's expertise in nanosensors, wireless networks and nanosatellite technologies with m2mi's unique capabilities in software technology, sensors, global system awareness, adaptive control and commercialization capabilities. Fifth Generation technology, or 5G, incorporates VoIP, video, data, wireless, and an integrated machine-to-machine intelligence layer, for information exchange and use, NASA said.

Nanosatellites will be produced using low-cost, mass-production techniques, according to m2mi. "The constellation will provide a robust, global, space-based, high-speed network for communication, data storage and Earth observations," said m2mi Chief Executive Officer Geoff Brown.

The move is but the latest NASA has made to develop and promote the widespread use of nanosatellites. In November, NASA said it built a tiny, low-cost satellite it says will be ideal for adventure seekers or companies with high-tech space applications who need to get into space quickly and relatively inexpensively.

The Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology SATellite (FASTSAT) is 39.5 inches in diameter - not much larger than an exercise ball. It is hexagonally shaped and clocks in at a little less than 200 Lbs. It can carry a payload up to 110 Lbs.

NASA in the past has worked to develop a volleyball-sized Miniature Autonomous Extravehicular Robotic Camera (Mini AERCam). The Mini AERCam is designed to help astronauts and ground crews see outside the spacecraft during a mission. During ground-based testing, the device was able to work with the docking system that serves as an exterior home base for housing and refueling the nanosatellite. The Mini AERCam prototype is just 7.5 inches in diameter and weighs only 10 pounds.

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