The competition heats up: Using video game software, Surrey Satellite has devised a way for nanosatellites to seek each other out and then dock to form a larger satellite.
If the STRaND-2 satellites are able to dock with one another, it opens up a whole new world of space engineering. Instead of building one large spacecraft, as in conventional satellite manufacturing, or using microsatellites flying in formation as is being developed currently, dockable satellites would be modular “space building blocks” according to [Surrey]. Satellites could be made as plug-and-play components that could be sent up in segments using smaller, cheaper rockets or piggybacked with other payloads and then linked together. This would not only be a cost savings, but would allow for much greater design flexibility. It would also make it much easier to repair, maintain, refuel or upgrade satellites. Today, a satellite with a failing power system is an expensive write off. Tomorrow, it would simply a matter of sending up a new power module.
Even the fight against space junk would benefit, since a dockable micro-satellite with a booster pack could easily dock with a dead satellite and either return it to the Earth’s atmosphere or out to a space disposal area.