This week Utah State University hosted the Small Satellite Conference where researchers, government groups, businesses and students gathered to talk about technological advances driving the small satellite commercial market. Experts in the industry said small satellites are energizing the emerging market.
Jordi Puig-Suari is the inventor of the “cube satellite.” It’s only about three pounds, which allows easier adjustments when it’s time to launch. Before Puig-Suari’s invention, there was no standardized way to launch a satellite. Now it’s easier to put technology into space, opening up new real estate for businesses.
“I think the most interesting thing is the overwhelming number of new players that keep materializing and how much interest there is and how many people are willing to bet on the small-sat market,” Puig-Suari said. “Whether it’s with ground systems, payloads, or components or full space craft. It’s an extremely dynamic industry and that’s something that we haven’t seen in the aerospace industry for a long time.”
Puig-Suari said when people think about satellites in space, you think of objects the size of a bus or the space station.
“Those guys are not here,” Puig-Suari said. “This is just a new ecosystem that has been emerging in the last decade that is extremely energetic.”
Doug Campbell, the CEO of Roccor, said as technology has caught up, small satellites have become a real asset to businesses. These satellites have reduced the cost of access to space and since businesses are all about efficiency, it’s a perfect opportunity.
“To me that’s what’s particularly exciting now it’s not just a bunch of space geeks,” Campbell said. “It’s actually about people that I wouldn’t say care less about space, but there’s some real estate and I need to put my assets up there, but at the end of the day it's all about information."
Campbell said with small satellites being so cost effective, companies can launch more into space with less financial risk. For example a business can launch 900 small satellite so internet on a cell phone is accessible wherever you are.
“So for example, I’m hiking with my kid the other day, up in the Colorado back country,” Campbell said. “And you know he’s 12 so he’s constantly obsessed with what’s going on with his phone. And of course you get into the back country, and guess what? You have no cell service. ‘Dad you’re working to get internet broadcasted from space right? So if we’re up here backpacking, that means we could always get cell service right?’ Yeah son, that’s basically it. So even at a 12 year old’s level, he gets it.”
Campbell said the United States is the world’s leader in technology innovation, even beyond the aerospace market. He said that’s something that makes this country great.
“This is where new technologies come out of,” Campbell said. “That’s something that we as a nation really need to embrace.”