Military Review

Miniaturization - a new trend of cosmonautics

Miniaturization - a new trend of cosmonautics
British satellite STRaND-1. Source:

Nanosatellites will soon become part of combat systems on a par with UAVs
In the United States published a report with a commercial forecast of the development of the global market for military satellites. In 2012, this segment of the space industry was estimated at 11,8 billion dollars. The authors of the report believe that it will grow annually by 3,9%. And in 2022, the year will reach 17,3 billion.

It should be noted that long-term forecasts in the field of astronautics have always been, to put it mildly, unreliable. The development of the industry is greatly influenced by politics and economics. Often, project funding depends on the ambitions of the country's leadership. And more often - on the state of the economy. In a crisis, they start saving on the most costly programs with a long-term return cycle. And the easiest way to sequestration is obscure spending on space.

But lately, a stronger influence factor has invaded the space program - the rapid change of technological generations. It is now impossible to stretch the time of creation of a spacecraft (AK) on 10 – 15 years, which used to be the norm. During this time, the device has time to become obsolete, and not starting to work. This happened to heavy communication satellites at the end of the twentieth century. Fiber-optic communication lines, which in a short time have enmeshed the whole world, have made long-distance communication generally accessible, cheap and reliable. As a result, dozens of satellite transponders were not in demand, which resulted in large losses.

The rapid change of technological generations has led to the development of the main trends in the design and production of spacecraft - this is miniaturization, modularity, and economy. Satellites become smaller in size and mass, require less energy, ready-made elements and assemblies are used in the design and manufacture, which significantly reduces the production time and cost. And the cost of launching a light satellite is cheaper.

Navigation is everywhere

Currently, the number of space launches in the world is much lower than in 1970 – 1980-s. This is primarily due to a significant increase in the survivability of the spacecraft. The normal life of satellites in orbit is 15 – 20 years. It is no longer required, since the satellite by this time will inevitably become morally obsolete.

Among military spacecraft, the share of communications satellites is 52,8%, reconnaissance and surveillance - 28,4%, navigation satellites occupy 18,8%. But it is the sector of navigation satellites that has a steady upward trend.

At present, the orbital constellation of the US navigation satellites of the NAVSTAR GPS system comprises an 31 spacecraft, all of which work as intended. From 2015, it is planned to replace the grouping with third-generation satellites as part of the development of the system to GPS III. The United States Air Force plans to acquire a total of up to 32 GPS III spacecraft.

Roskosmos is planning to reach the accuracy of determining the coordinates using the GLONASS system by less than 2020 cm by the year of 10, said the Minister Vladimir Popovkin at a meeting of the Russian government, where the space program before the 2020 was considered. “Today, the measurement accuracy is 2,8 meters, by the 2015 year we reach the 1,4 meter, by the 2020 year by the 0,6 meters,” said the head of Roscosmos, noting that “with the additions that are implemented today, in fact, it will be less than 10 centimeters accuracy. " Additions are ground-based stations with a differential correction of the navigation signal. At the same time, the current GLONASS orbital grouping should be replaced with the next-generation spacecraft, the number of which will be brought to 30.

The European Union, together with the European Space Agency, creates its navigation system. It was planned in 2014 – 2016 to create a grouping of 30 KA - 27 operating in the system and 3 backup. Due to the economic crisis, these plans may move for several years.

Chinese satellite "Beidou". Source:

In 2020, the PRC intends to complete the creation of the national satellite navigation system "Beidou". The system was put into commercial operation on 27 on December 2012 of the year as a regional positioning system, while the orbital constellation was 16 satellites. This provided a navigation signal in China and neighboring countries. In 2020, the 5 spacecraft in geostationary orbit and 30 satellites must be deployed outside the geostationary orbit, which will allow the entire planet to be covered with a navigation signal.

In June, India intends to launch 2013 from the spaceport on Sriharikot Island near the southern coast of Andhra Pradesh, the first navigation satellite of its national system IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System). Launching into orbit will be carried out by the Indian launch vehicle PSLV-C22. The second satellite is planned to be launched into space by the end of 2013. Five more will launch in 2014 – 2015. In this way, a regional navigation satellite system will be created covering the Indian subcontinent and another 1,5 thousand km from its borders with an accuracy of 10 m.

Indian launch vehicle PSLV. Source: Gestalt Publications

Japan went its own way by creating the Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS, “Quasi-Zenith Satellite System”) - a time synchronization system and a differential correction of the GPS navigation signal for the territory of Japan. This regional satellite system is designed to produce a higher quality position signal when using GPS. Separately, it does not work. The first Michibiki satellite was launched into orbit in 2010. In the coming years, it is planned to withdraw three more. QZSS signals will cover Japan and the western Pacific.

Mobile in orbit

Microelectronics, perhaps, has become the most rapidly developing area among modern technologies. Samsung Electronics, Apple and Google literally in the coming months are ready to present a “smart” watch-computer. Is it any wonder that spacecraft are becoming smaller! New materials and nanotechnologies make space devices more compact, lighter and more economical in energy consumption. It can be considered that the era of small spacecraft has already arrived. Depending on the weight, they are now divided into the following categories: up to 1 kg - “pico”, up to 10 kg - “nano”, up to 100 kg - “micro”, up to 1000 kg - “mini”. Even 10 years ago, microsatellites in 50 – 60 kg seemed to be an outstanding achievement. Now the world trend is nanosatellites. They already launched into space more than 80 pieces.

Just as the production and development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are carried out in many countries that previously did not even think about their own aircraft industry, so the design of nanosatellites is carried out now in many universities, laboratories and even individual amateurs. Moreover, the cost of such devices, assembled on the basis of finished items, is extremely low. Sometimes the base of the nanosatellite design is a regular mobile phone.

From India, a smartphone was sent into orbit, used as the basis for the experimental satellite Strand-1 in the framework of the SAT-smartphone project. The satellite was developed in the UK jointly by the University of Surrey Space Center (SSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL). The weight of the device is 4,3 kg, dimensions are 10x10x30, see. In addition to the smartphone, the device contains the usual set of working components - power supply and control systems. At the first stage, the satellite will be controlled by a standard on-board computer, then this function will be fully assumed by the smartphone.

The Android operating system with a number of specially designed applications allows you to conduct a series of experiments. With the iTesa application, magnetic field values ​​will be recorded while the satellite is moving. With the help of another application, the built-in camera will take pictures that will be transmitted for publication on Facebook and Twitter. And this is only a small part of the research program. The mission will last six months. Return to Earth is not provided. Astronautics ceased to be the lot of the elect.

Nanosatellite Projects

The most important conclusion: military and space technologies are no longer the engine of civil industry development. Quite the contrary - civilian high-tech developments allow the development of military space technology. The revenues of companies producing goods of mass demand are many times higher than those of defense corporations. Leaders of world electronics can spend billions of dollars on new developments. And strong competition forces us to do everything in the shortest possible time.

Nanosatellites attack

In 2005, the Russian cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov from the side of the International Space Station simply threw his hand into space the first Russian nanosatellite TNS-1. The device weighing in 4,5 kg was created in just one year at the RNII of Space Instrumentation for the company's money. In essence, what is a satellite? This is a device in space!

Cheap TNS-1 in operation was generally almost free. He did not need the Mission Control Center, a huge transceiver antenna, telemetry analysis and much more. They could be controlled using a laptop while sitting on a park bench. The experiment showed that using a mobile connection and the Internet, you can control a space object. And flight tests passed 10 new hardware nodes. If it were not for the nanosatellite, they would have to be tested in the onboard equipment of one of the future spacecraft. And this is a waste of time and great risks.

TNS-1 was a major breakthrough. It could be about creating tactical space systems at the level of almost a battalion commander, such as small tactical UAVs. An inexpensive unit assembled in the desired configuration for several days and launched by a light rocket from a carrier aircraft could show the commander of the battlefield, provide communication and an automated tactical link control system. Such spacecraft could be of great help during a local conflict in South Ossetia and the North Caucasus.

Another important area is the elimination of the consequences of natural disasters and man-made disasters. And also their warning. Cheap nanosatellites with a validity of several months could show the state of the ice situation in a particular region, keep records of forest fires, monitor the water level during high water. For operational control, you can run nanosatellites directly above the territory of natural disasters in order to monitor online for changes in the situation. But it turned out that the space images of Krymsk after the flood of the Emergencies Ministry of the Russian Federation received as charitable assistance from the United States.

In the future, we should expect the introduction of nanosatellites into the combat systems of the advanced armies of the world, primarily the United States. Most likely, not single use, but launching of small satellites in whole swarms, which will include satellites of different purposes - communications, retransmissions, probing of the earth's surface in different wave bands, electronic countermeasures, target designation, etc. This will greatly enhance the ability to conduct contactless war.

If miniaturization turns out to be one of the main trends in the development of military spacecraft, the forecast for an increase in the market of military satellites will fail. On the contrary, it will decrease in monetary terms. However, aerospace corporations will try not to miss profits and slow down small competitors. In Russia, it was possible. Manufacturers of heavy satellites lobbied for the ban of the RNII of space instrumentation to create spacecraft. Only now we were again talking about the launch of the TNS-2 nanosatellite, which was ready eight years ago.

The need for heavy energy-intensive spacecraft in near-earth orbits continues to decline. Moreover, the ground equipment of users is becoming more sensitive and economical.

Heavy satellites will mostly remain the prerogative of scientists. Space telescopes, high-resolution imaging equipment, automatic stations for exploring the planets will continue to be manufactured and launched in the interests of all mankind.

National programs will focus on cheaper spacecraft suitable for mass production and operational use. The example of UAVs that have been sharply included in the combat systems of developed countries clearly demonstrates this. Literally decades have sufficed, that shock-reconnaissance UAVs have taken their place in the USAF and their allies. There is no doubt that by 2020, the shape of the orbital groups will change just as drastically. There will be whole swarms of pico and nanosatellites.

Now we are talking about femto satellites with a mass up to 100. If computers are reduced to the size of a wristwatch, then satellites of a similar dimension will appear soon.
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  1. Son
    Son 29 March 2013 14: 27 New
    Somewhere I met that it is possible to make satellites at 50 grams ... The booster is launched and in certain orbits it spills out nuts, bolts, etc. ...
    And all .. !!! Who didn’t hide, we are not to blame ...
    1. iCuD
      iCuD 29 March 2013 23: 32 New
      50 grams? it is not real even with the most modern technologies. No, well, of course, you can run simple sawing blanks (and then they will weigh at least 200 grams)
      However, I agree, the idea itself:
      Quote: Son
      in certain orbits it spills nuts, bolts, etc ...
      which by the way will be connected by a certain wireless sensor network is very relevant.
      1. Son
        Son 29 March 2013 23: 46 New
        Thank you ..! But I have to repent ... The idea of ​​nuts was considered in our USSR as an answer to SDI ... But what, a nut of 20 weighs more than 50 grams ..?
  2. astra
    astra 29 March 2013 21: 06 New
    An interesting article, the smaller the size and mass and the lower the cost of putting payload into space
  3. elmir15
    elmir15 29 March 2013 21: 10 New
    The more vehicles in space, and even the small size, the more difficult it will be to dodge the collision over time
    1. Sirocco
      Sirocco 30 March 2013 10: 45 New
      Not in the eyebrow but in the eye. Little garbage flies there. Well, when students of the relevant universities are indulging in this. But when the United States provokes this nonsense, that's too much. Stupid.
  4. not good
    not good 31 March 2013 17: 39 New
    Everyone has already gone and only Roskosmos is still harnessing
  5. Gonoriy
    Gonoriy 20 March 2016 13: 18 New
    Progress cannot be stopped. Question in time and money.