Capitalism in space: For the first time a cubesat has used a thruster to not only adjust its orbit but to also avoid a collision with another satellite.
From June 23 to July 3, the UWE-4 cubesat fired its NanoFEEP thrusters several times to reduce its altitude by more than 100 meters. By comparison, natural orbital decay would lower the altitude 21 meters in the same timeframe, according to a University of Wuerzburg news release.
One July 2, as the UWE-4 cubesat was lowering its altitude, the University received a warning from the U.S. Air Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron of a July 5 conjunction with a retired Iridium satellite. When UWE-4 mission operations personnel analyzed the conjunction, they determined the UWE-4 cubesat would not collide with the Iridium satellite because it would be orbiting at a lower altitude. As a result of the analysis, UWE-4 mission operations personnel continued firing thrusters to lower the cubesat’s altitude. They received no further conjunction messages.
The thrusters were built by Morpheus Space. Incorporating thrusters onto a cubesat, the size of which fits on the palm of your hand, is quite amazing, and illustrates the growing capability of these tiny satellites.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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