Future Developments

The use of nanosatellites for space missions is only at its beginning. They are seen as possible replacements for some of the more costly missions now conducted by traditional satellites. We share the same belief and we have noticed recently that important players in the aerospace domain are starting to focus their attention on this new sector.

One particular development generating considerable attention and funding is directed at using nanosatellites as platforms for distributed data acquisition. Satellites can be either locally distributed – formation flying – or can cover larger areas in a constellation-like configuration depending on the specific nature of the phenomenon that presents interest (local or wide area fluctuations of the properties need to be monitored). One step forward is the utilization of these distributed spacecrafts as nodes in a distributed processing system where all satellites are connected in a mobile ad-hoc network sharing their resources for solving complex tasks and relaying not raw data, but partially or completely computed data to the ground stations. Such a modular system has another advantage in the reduced manufacturing cost for a series of nanosatellites when compared with the manufacturing of a conventional big satellite having the same functions. Moreover one has to take into account that the increased reliability of the complete system that will continue to execute all the assigned tasks even if part of the nanosatellites composing it malfunction.


A second application type employs nanosatellites as a testbed for space qualification of hardware that never performed on orbit. In-flight testing can be implemented on board nanosatellites at similar costs with ground testing, but with more accurate environmental conditions and, consequently, with better estimates on the system’s reliability. Implementation is possible for estimating the space influence on real size subsystems or scaled down models. Also nanosatellites can be used to visually inspect each other or larger satellites to determine effects caused by impact with space debris or micrometeorites.

A related development field targets the use of nanosatellites to validate models and algorithms used in physical modeling of the spacecrafts and the near earth environment. Attitude and orbit control laws and specific algorithms can also be evaluated first on nanosatellites to detect possible problems before the implementation on a larger and very expensive satellite.

All this possible developments are the focus of our future research projects and GOLIAT represents only the initial step in the direction of developing complex space applications using nanosatellites.

Time since launch: