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Jul 12, 2013, 02:01 AM
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Rent a Satellite

Technical Details (3 min 57 sec)

It's sort of a backwards business model, resulting from the mantra that charging money for data is evil, so they launch a satellite with no software & charge money for the user to write software after it's in orbit. It's not the most efficient way of doing it, but it's the only funding option left when you take out the data.

It does bring to mind a practical application. How much money would a cubesat make as a private communications relay that anyone could rent & bounce their own signal off of? There's certainly a huge win for RC flying. There's also private internet access from anywhere, without a bandwidth cap.

Cubesats have now been around long enough & matured long enough that there's just about a fairly standard satellite bus & fairly standard way of launching them that's just within reach of what a small business can afford.

They're all standardized on the 8 bit Arduino platform & you don't want to reinvent everything the satellite bus does, so your software has to conform to that world. That's the compromise required to get the cost down, the same as adopting Intel so the world could afford PC's.

They quote $40,000 for the launch & $10,000 for the satellite. They don't mention the orbit lifetime, though anecdotally, they're lasting 1 year whether they're transmitting or not. It would have to make $4200/month to recover the cost of the mission before its year was up. It would have to make more to recover the cost of rent & the taxes.

Then of course, the $40,000 just gets it to low Earth orbit, so it's only visible 7% of the time. You would have 7 minutes of communication every 90 minutes, if it had 0 inclination & you were on the equator. Making it available all 24 hours would cost a lot more.

So the limited lifespan & low orbit make it completely impractical for getting unlimited flying range or internet access, but cubesats are the way it's going to be done, someday. It's hard to think of anything the cubesat could do within its current limitations that can't be gotten other ways.

There might be someone else desperate enough to pay $4200/month for a private 7% satellite link right now.
Last edited by Jack Crossfire; Jul 12, 2013 at 04:36 AM.
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