A miniaturized satellite is an earth-orbiting device having lower mass and smaller physical dimensions than a conventional satellite , such as a geostationary satellite . Miniaturized satellites have become increasingly common in recent years. They are well-suited for use in proprietary wireless communications networks, as well as for scientific observation, data gathering and the Global Positioning System ( GPS ).
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Miniaturized satellites are often placed in low earth orbits and are launched in groups called "swarms." In this type of system, each satellite operates in a manner similar to a repeater in a cellular communications system. Some miniaturized satellites are placed in elongated (elliptical) orbits.
Miniaturized satellites can be classified according to mass in kilograms (kg) or weight in pounds (lb). A microsatellite (or microsat) masses between 10 kg and 500 kg, a weight range of 22 pounds (lb) to 1100 lb. A nanosatellite (or nanosat) masses between 1 kg and 10 kg (2.2 lb and 22 lb). A picosatellite (or picosat) masses less than 1 kg (2.2 lb).
Miniaturized satellites have several advantages over conventional satellites, such as:
- Lower cost of manufacture
- Ease of mass production
- Lower cost of launch
- Ability to be launched in groups or "piggyback" along with larger satellites
- Minimal financial loss in case of failure
Limitations of miniaturized satellites compared with larger satellites, especially when placed in low earth orbits, include:
- Generally shorter working life
- Reduced hardware-carrying capacity
- Lower transmitter output power capability
- More rapid orbital decay