NASA plans sending next-gen small satellites to monitor Earth

NASA will be launching a set of six next-generation satellites which range in size of a palm to a small washing machine. The nano-sized satellites will help to monitor the planets hurricanes, energy budget and weather. Nanosatellites have come to stay and are an entirely new way in which scientists look at Earth observation from the space. One of the benefits of nanosatellites is that it is much economical to launch and also provides a cheaper alternative to testing new technologies and conduct scientific experiments.

One benefit of the nanosatellites is that they can hitch a ride as the secondary payload of another mission’s rocket. According to Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington revealed that the Agency is using small satellites for some research endeavours. It also helps to involve students and researchers to get a firsthand experience with space hardware and space systems.

The new missions including the first five are scheduled to be launched in the coming months and will start a new phase in earth observation. Miniaturisation of instruments has ensured the use of smaller satellites to house them. This has enabled low-cost launches and better use of space technology for social causes.

Among the launches which are scheduled for this month include Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes or RAVAN, CubeSat which will be used to detect small changes in the planet’s energy budget on top of the atmosphere. This is crucial to understanding greenhouse gas effects on climate.

Two more CubeSats are scheduled to be launched in the spring of 2017 and will be launched to the ISS where they are programmed to study the top of clouds from space. The data will help scientists to understand clouds and their effects on climate and weather.

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