On November 3, I joined a Facebook Live discussion with the NASA Ames Research Center to ask some questions about “CubeSats.” A CubeSat is a small and fairly simple satellite that can be launched into orbit and perform simple experiments or data gathering. The smallest CubeSats weigh about 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) and can easily fit in one hand. The largest ones aren’t much bigger than a cereal box.

I’ve cut and pasted my questions and NASA’s answers from the comments on the Facebook Live video. Two of these questions were also asked live during the video, which I’ve embedded at the bottom of the post.

Modern Cereal Box: Do cube sats lose orbit more quickly than traditional satellites? Do they have to be in a lower or higher orbit than traditional satellites?

NASA Ames Research Center: It depends on the altitude that the spacecraft is deployed at and the mission objective.

MCB: What are some types of experiments that you hope to conduct on cube sats in the future?

NASA Ames: There are more biological CubeSat spacecraft planned for the future to study the deep space environment beyond the protections of Earth’s radiation belts. The CubeSat’s low mass lend them to a number of different deep space mission opportunities.

MCB: Do cube sats degrade more quickly in space than traditional satellites would?

NASA Ames: Depends on how the CubeSat is designed and its mission duration.

MCB: How many cube sats could you send up at once? Is there any reason NASA couldn’t launch dozens from a single rocket?

NASA Ames: Launching a dozen or more is possible. It just depends on the launch opportunity.

I’m having some trouble embedding the video right now, but you can find it at the link here. My questions were selected at the 15:59 and 3:41 mark.

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