Your smartphone is something like one third of what you had only ten years ago (… yes, mobile phones are around for more than a decade now). A laptop nowadays has much more computing power of a computer of some thirty years ago taking up one room.
I’m not the first one (and I’m not a magician) to underline that we live, since years, in the era of miniaturization. Just a few stuffs make exception. The most remarkable ones, belonging to the class “the larger the better”: yachts, optical lens, televisions, forsurealotofotherstuffs, spacecraft.
Well, the last category… maybe and may be not. Of course (Actually, this holds in general), it depends of the mission goal. And mission budget.
In any case an idea like this one seems to me definitely disruptive.
We are not talking about reducing sizes, we are now talking about making an entire spacecraft over a single PCB. Practically no more “mass” and all issues related to it: costs, launch constraints, shock and vibration problems, mechanical structures, interfaces, etc.
Bit-sized spacecraft. Yet working.
Thousand and thousand smaller than any spacecraft known, cubesat including, still maintaining the basic functionalities (of course we are looking at small and functional aspects, not performances…).
A Sprite is only 3.5 centimeters square and weighs four grams, but packs a solar panel, radio, thermometer, magnetometer for compass capabilities and gyroscope for sensing rotation.
And in future the spacecraft will be completed by cameras (…yes, the one of your smartphone might be sufficient) and MEMS sized thrusters.
In principle each Sprite is independent, but for the first demo flight these spacecraft will hitch a ride into a low Earth orbit on Max Valier and Venta-1 satellites (… yes some radio contact with the main probes are undergoing…)
Now we are definitely on the way of sending something to another star, in the STARSHOT fashion.
In the last decade and a half, rapid technological advances have opened up the possibility of light-powered space travel at a significant fraction of light speed. This involves a ground-based light beamer pushing ultra-light nanocrafts – miniature space probes attached to lightsails – to speeds of up to 100 million miles an hour.
Yes, IMHO, the very only chance that we have to send something really far from us, without thinking of using wormholes or teletransport, is to make is small and small and provide enough energy sufficient to reach some tens percent of the speed light.
PS. A sort of evolution of the past space needles of the West Ford (here).
PPSS. And, in between the “attached chip satellite” version and the interstellar trip, the Sprite satellites are planned to the part of the KickSat project. A NASA project (started with Kick Starter and now part of the ELaNa program) planned to be a technology demonstration mission
It is a 3U CubeSat that will house a 1U avionics bus and a 2U Sprite deployer. KickSat […] will carry over 100 Sprites into an orbit with an altitude between 300 and 350 kilometers where they will be released as free-flying spacecraft.