NASA launched 29 satellites on a single rocket today.
It’s a triumph of miniaturization and it’s the first step into a world where average people can put things into orbit.
All but one of the 29 are CubeSats, from groups around the country. They’re tiny satellites weighing no more than three pounds each and costing very little.
The main satellite was the Air Force’s $55 million ORS-3, built to help the military test new ways to automate satellite deployment. Everything’s getting automated these days.
The rest of the satellites all do a bunch of different things.
The Firefly satellite studies lightning, which strikes somewhere on Earth about 100 times a second. Firefly aims to help reveal how and why lightning can in rare cases produce bursts of gamma rays, which are normally only produced in stars or in nuclear bombs.
The satellite built by students at Thomas Jefferson High School in Virginia isn’t quite so lofty, but it’s still pretty great.
From the Washington Post:
Students anticipate that the satellite will stay aloft transmitting messages and live telemetry data — about its position in space — back to Earth for at least three months. The satellite is equipped with miniature solar panels and could remain in low-Earth orbit for up to two years.
Ultimately, the satellite is expected to fall into the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up, at which point the voice synthesizer will be programmed to say “I’m melting.”