[This is the final post from the first KySat Conference, which was held in Lexington, Kentucky on May 3. All posts from the conference can be found under the KySat Conference 07 in the category cloud, right column.
Image source: Geoff Oliver Bugbee, www.geoffbugbee.com]
Seated left to right are Bob Twiggs, CubeSat pioneer; Greg Schmidt, NASA Ames; and Scott Hubbard, Carl Sagan Chair, SETI Institute. What follows are a few of the questions they fielded in an open question and answer session.
Can a CubeSat be sent to the Moon? - A carrier could get it to orbit, with another booster taking it from there. Using a very elliptical orbit might help a CubeSat escape gravity to get to the moon. Motors in various sizes are needed, but they don't require brand new technology - liquid, solid, hybrid motors are all candidates.
How Will Nanontechology affect Small Sats? - Surrey, for example, has said that satellites "no bigger than credit cards" will be available. GeneSat showed that large equipment is not necessary to get good information.
Small satellites will incorporate attitude control soon. When that happens, solar panels can be pointed in the right direction. Antennas can use gain. That will be a major enhancement. But gigabyte downloads probably won't be possible given the power restrictions. If the cost stays low there are many, many possibilities.
Small Sats will make it economical to bring payloads home for study. "Twenty percent of the ability at two percent of the cost of average satellites" is a good trade-off.
Ion Propulsion to Control Attitude? Ion propulsion is not yet small enough to panel's knowledge. In the thruster business, engineering seemed to plateau by the mid-eighties. Innovative work in this area is now beginning to occur again.
What can Kentucky do for NASA? An Alliance for Commercial Enterprises in space is one way to get involved. Partner with them.
Will CubeSats be Commercialized? Most universities are just glad to get to orbit, but a Scandinavian student consortium has formed to commercialize CubeSats. "There is be a business for flying the thing and giving people their data." Demand, access, platform - get those parameters right and a business could blossom.
The potential is large: "We only know how business works in 1G."