Will space be more crowded and dangerous with the rapid growth of small satellites

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 Will space be more crowded and dangerous with the rapid growth of small satellites


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Internship journalist Hu Dingkun

In the world, satellites with mass less than 500 kilograms are usually called small satellites. Compared with large satellites, small satellites are not only smaller in size, simpler in function, but also lower in difficulty and cost of development and production. In recent years, with more and more scientific research institutions using small satellites to carry out scientific experiments, more and more companies choose small satellites as the knocking brick to enter the space market, and the small satellite industry has risen rapidly.

From August 5 to August 8, the American Academy of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and Utah State University jointly held the 33rd Small Satellite Conference. The industrys research and commercial giants gathered to discuss the future development of the small satellite industry.

Rapid growth in quantity

Security worries

Between 2013 and 2017, the world launched an average of 160 small satellites annually, and in 2018, 322 small satellites were launched, accounting for about 69% of all satellites, according to SpaceNews.com. However, 2018 is still the eve of explosive growth. With the construction of large and small satellite constellations such as Starlink and OneWeb, Euroconsult estimates that 8,500 new small satellites will be added between 2019 and 2028.

Such a large number will inevitably lead to space congestion. Will satellites collide with each other to produce more dense space debris? The security problems behind the outbreak of small satellite industry can not be ignored.

Greg Weiler, founder of First Net, said at the Small Satellite Conference that collisions like Iridium 33 and Cosmos 2251 in 2009 would have a huge negative impact on the small satellite industry. To this end, First Net will strive to become a responsible operator, build reliable satellites and avoid them. Generate orbital debris.

I dont like launching things in space that are not yet finished, ready or censored. Weiler said he was not worried about competing with at least 150 other satellite constellations, but wanted them to behave in the same safe way in space.

Simplify licensing process

Accelerating Industrial Development

Despite security concerns, the U.S. government has decided to simplify the small satellite launch licensing process to speed up the emerging industry.

On August 1, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to adopt new small satellite licensing rules, providing companies with a faster and cheaper way to protect their spectrum than the current regulations. Under the new rules, small satellite operators that meet certain standards will be able to obtain spectrum licences at about twice the speed, paying only $30,000 and authorizing up to 10 satellites at a time. These standards include satellite weights not exceeding 180 kg, orbital altitude below 600 km, and the ability to disengage within six years.

Prior to that, small satellite companies had to pay a huge fee of $472,000 to apply for FCC authorization, which was a huge burden on start-ups. Tom Strop, president of the American Satellite Industry Association, points out that this is one of the reasons why many companies do not operate in the United States.

The current chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, is a strong supporter of the loosening of satellite surveillance. Back in the Obama administration, he publicly declared that the FCCs satellite licensing rules were a legacy of the 1960s and should be modernized long ago. Christine Zull, executive director of the Board of Governors of the Committee on Procurement and Space Industry of the Ministry of Commerce, said the new licensing system should be implemented quickly.

Carpool Shared Launch

Solve Gods Problem

Previously, small satellites entered space mainly by hitchhiking the launch vehicle of Star David, but with the rapid increase of launch demand, this way of ascending into the sky has obviously fallen behind. Carpooling launching services, which transport several, dozens or even hundreds of small satellites at a time, are on the rise. On the first day of the small satellite conference, Arianespace and SpaceX, two commercial launch companies, simultaneously proposed their own car pooling plan.

Arianespace announced that Ariana 64, launched in the first half of 2022, will carry out a shared orbit mission dedicated to small satellites. The mission, code-named Go-1, can launch a payload of 4,500 kilograms into geostationary orbit six hours after launch.

Knison, president of Arianespace U.S. subsidiary, points out that the demand for Go-1 comes from the emerging small satellite sector. Many companies are developing hundreds of kilograms instead of thousands of kilograms of traditional geocommunication satellites. This is a new market, and there may be similar tasks every year thereafter. They see this as a growing trend, and the small satellite industry clearly needs such services. SpaceX claims that every year from late 2020 or early 2021 to 2023, the Falcon 9 launch vehicle will be used to carpool at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. A spokesman for the company said: We can provide reliable, economical and effective ways to orbit to meet the needs of small satellite operators. In December 2018, SpaceX put 64 small satellites into solar synchronous orbit in a similar way. Source of this article: responsible editor of Science and Technology Daily: Wang Fengzhi_NT2541

Knison, president of Arianespace U.S. subsidiary, points out that the demand for Go-1 comes from the emerging small satellite sector. Many companies are developing hundreds of kilograms instead of thousands of kilograms of traditional geocommunication satellites. This is a new market, and there may be similar tasks every year thereafter. They see this as a growing trend, and the small satellite industry clearly needs such services.

SpaceX claims that every year from late 2020 or early 2021 to 2023, the Falcon 9 launch vehicle will be used to carpool at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. A spokesman for the company said: We can provide reliable, economical and effective ways to orbit to meet the needs of small satellite operators. In December 2018, SpaceX put 64 small satellites into solar synchronous orbit in a similar way.