The Revolution That's Filling the Sky with Small Satellites

Satellites are smaller than ever before, and they're operated by companies who sell their sensitive data to anyone.


NSFW    SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA — SF Gate reports that a recent, massive glacial avalanche in Tibet was predicted by scientists who studied images created by a constellation of small satellites, each no bigger than a shoe box.

Operated by a company called Planet, these satellites weigh just over 5 kilograms each and fly in "flocks" of around 175 satellites.

If one fails, the company replaces it, and as better batteries, solar arrays and cameras become available, the company simply updates its satellites.

Thus, a quiet and often overlooked revolution has taken place in the way satellites are manufactured and operated.

The result is an explosion of data and imagery from orbit.

Like computers, satellites have also shrunk drastically. Instead of being the size of a truck, costing as much as 400 million dollars, satellites now are often no larger than a microwave.

They now cost as little as a 1 million dollars or less, and can be mass-produced in factories.

Their numbers have also grown significantly. The number of satellites in operation almost tripled from 2015 to about 3,371 by the end of 2020.
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