Researchers bust cost barriers by putting $100 satellites into orbit

Chip-sized satellites, or ChipSats, are designed to work together in a swarm to perform tasks that, nowadays, only big, costly systems can do.

A decade ago, while still a PhD student at Cornell University,  Zac Manchester imagined building chip-scale satellites that might work together to study Earth or explore space.

On June 3, as NASA Ames Research Center announces the successful deployment of the largest swarm of ChipSats in history, Manchester, now an assistant professor at Stanford, is already envisioning the future of this technology.

“This is like the PC revolution for space,” said Manchester, who joined the aeronautics and astronautics faculty last year. “We’ve shown that it’s possible for swarms of cheap, tiny satellites to one day carry out tasks now done by larger, costlier satellites, making it affordable for just about anyone to put instruments or experiments into orbit.”



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