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An Army of Little Satellites for Watching Earth on the Cheap

An image from the Dove 2 satellite taken on Apr. 26, 2013
An image from the Dove 2 satellite taken on Apr. 26, 2013Photograph courtesy Planet Labs

The only thing cooler than a tiny, cheap satellite is a fleet of tiny, cheap satellites. Or so figure three former NASA scientists who have just unveiled their new company called Planet Labs.

Chris Boshuizen (Australian), William Marshall (British) and Robbie Schingler (U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.) all met at the NASA Ames facility in Mountain View, Calif., and bonded over the wonders of CubeSats. These devices, for the ungalactic among you, tend to range in size from a softball to an oversize shoebox and come with all kinds of wondrous computing innards. Like their larger satellite brethren, CubeSats can take pictures, perform science experiments, and communicate with Earth. They just do so way cheaper than traditional gear by playing off increasingly powerful consumer electronics and free software, such as the Linux operating system.