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Shoebox satellite (Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper III; Science & Technology)

What is a shoebox satellite?
Traditional satellites can weigh from hundreds of kilograms to tons, compared to the nano-satellites, which typically weigh 10 kilograms (22 pounds) or less; turning bus-sized satellites into something the size of a shoebox.

Need for shoebox satellite
While satellites have been used for decades in communications and tracking, their cost was prohibitive for most companies. Advances in technology have helped reduce the size of the satellites and also lower their price. The result is a total cost to build and launch a nano-satellite of between $1 million and $2 million, compared to a cost between $100 million and $500 million for the larger satellites.

Shoe box launches so far
Chinese start-up called LinkSpace is in process of building shoebox satellites. Apart from the Chinese, American scientists have been developing such satellites. One of these, called RainCube (Radar in a CubeSat), sponsored by NASA, was launched into low-Earth orbit from the International Space Station in July 2018. It is an experiment for weather forecast using very small instruments to capture and send back images.

US company Rocket Lab has already put 25 such satellites in orbit, while none from China has been sent up yet. The expected demand is for services ranging from high-speed internet for aircraft to universities conducting experiments.

(Adapted from Indian Express)



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