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Submission + - "Chip" sats, fundamentally new kind of spacecraft? (

wisebabo writes: Here's a way to harness Moore's law (which has given us many orders of magnitudes of improvement) to spaceflight (which is still using technology more or less developed in the middle of the 20th century). Some researchers at Cornell will be launching their "Chip" sats, tiny 1" square satellites affixed(?) to the Endeavour space shuttle. "Their small size allows them to travel like space dust," said Peck. "Blown by solar winds, they can 'sail' to distant locations without fuel. ..." Hopefully they "may travel to Saturn within the next decade, and as they flutter down through its atmosphere, they will collect data about chemistry, radiation and particle impacts."

While I really believe this is the future, I do have some questions. Although much can be miniaturized (nano-rized?), I'm wondering about some things such as optics (for cameras) and antenna/power (for transmitting the results back home). So while these may very well flutter down Saturn's atmosphere, there may need to be a large(r) mothership capable of transmitting the results home. (This was the mechanism used by Greg Bear in his novel "Queen of Angels" where his interstellar ship dropped "coin" sized probes to explore the worlds of Alpha Centauri.)

With the retirement of Endeavour we have the end of one technology coinciding with the birth of another.

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"Chip" sats, fundamentally new kind of spacecraft?

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