THIS is a Satellite: The ANDESITE cube satellite at Boston University


Satellites, they could be as big a little
room, like imagine a broom closet. It can be huge, and having such a large area gives
you a lot of flexibility to do a lot things, but the problem with that is that it’s very
heavy and very big. So, you acquire a big rocket, it’s very expensive to get out.
The entire idea of cube satellites is to shrink that down so you don’t have to spend as
much to get it up. so, doing everything an entire room does onto a little board is basically
the goal of cube sats. The project that we’re working on is a cube sat mission that’s
dedicated to studying space weather. And so, our world that we live in is surrounded by
this shroud of plasma that interacts with the buffeting solar wind and produces this
really dynamic and rich set of physical consequences going on this environment. The entire goal
of the product is to take very high precision magnetometer data, so magnetic readings in
x, y and z directions to have a better understanding of how does the solar wind change the environment
up in space. So, we have a mule, which is our hub satellite, which carries all of the
pico satellites up into space. And then once we’re deployed, that mule satellite will
eject other pico satellites. And they’re going to form a wireless sensor network in
space, very similar to technologies that are used down here in earth, all we’re doing
is translating this technology to the space environment, for what we think is the first
time. The idea behind small satellites, cube sats in particular, is not so much to replace
the need for large NASA satellite missions, rather cube sats can do things that those
missions can’t, at least not in a cost-effective way. If you start to imagine a situation where
you’re making these measurements from, you know, if it works well, maybe a thousand locations
in space all at the same time, then you have a capability that cannot be produced by a
larger, more expensive, monolithic satellite mission.

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