/ Science / You can touch space: ThumbSat making exploration an everyman enterprise

You can touch space: ThumbSat making exploration an everyman enterprise

Andrea on November 2, 2015 - 2:23 pm in Science


Space exploration is becoming less of an elitist enterprise. Going there, yes, is still limited to those who have a spare $30 million lying around to take a vacation to the International Space Station. But Shaun Whitehead wants to give citizen scientists a cheaper means of experimenting and testing in space.

CubeSats, micro-satellites not much bigger than a box of cereal, have been the best option for anyone looking to run small research operations, from taking images from space to conducting studies on the atmosphere. However, they cost somewhere under $50,000 to build and even more to launch (if you don’t qualify for a free ride).

But Whitehead explained there’s a lot more than price to consider when launching a CubeSat. “Before you even think about your experiment on a CubeSat, you have to buy a kit, put it together, apply for licenses to launch and transmit from space, find a launch and get together plenty of funding to do it,” he explained in an email to Discovery News.

His ThumbSat business, however, takes away many of these barriers, the company takes care of getting the experiment into “space quickly, cheaply and efficiently,” according to the website. “I realized that if we could set up an infrastructure that covered absolutely everything needed to do science in space on a tiny scale, it would leave people free to concentrate on the most important thing — the experiment,” he wrote.

The barrier to entry has been reduced to around $20,000 — still pretty steep. With that, customers will get an 1.9 by 1.9 by 1.3-inches, weighing just 0.9 ounces. The ThumbSat would last around eight to 10 weeks in low orbit, after which time it will burn up in the atmosphere. However, another company Arx Pax is working on a tractor beam to help extend the lifespans of these tiny satellites.

If the $20,000 entry price is still an issue, there are opportunities to collaborate and share a payload.

Image Credit: ThumbSat Inc.

Source: Science – Geek.com


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