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Here's A Picture Of The Smallest Earth-Orbiting Satellite Ever

•, The Economist
If all goes well, it and 103 identical siblings, known as sprites, will be scattered into space on May 4 from a mother ship (itself a mere 10cm by 10cm by 30cm) that rode shotgun on a rocket put up last month by SpaceX, a private rocketry firm, to resupply the International Space Station.

These sprites, which weigh 5 grams and cost $25 a pop, are the creation of Zac Manchester of Cornell University. Each has a microprocessor, a radio powerful enough to transmit a message to Earth, two aerials, a solar cell, a magnetometer and a gyroscope to tell the satellite in which direction it is pointing.

Though this is just a test, paid for by a campaign on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website, and launched gratis by NASA, SpaceX’s customer for the resupply mission, Mr Manchester thinks clouds of sprites could have real applications. Swarms of magnetometer-armed sprites might, for example, be a cheaper and more comprehensive way than existing satellites of monitoring the ebb and flow of charged particles that constitute space “weather,” which sometimes interferes with telecommunications back on Earth.

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