FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Thursday, March 23, 2006

"Microsatellites" May Point to NASA's Future

Early this morning, NASA launched three 55-pound "microsatellites" into orbit using not a traditional ground-based rocket, but a Pegasus missile strapped to the belly of a Lockheed L-1011 jet airplane. At 39,000 feet, the missile was released from the plane's belly and fired its engine to fly 10 miles into Earth orbit.

The microsatellites are part of NASA's New Millenium Program, designed to test new technologies for future space missions; these particular satellites will measure the Earth's magnetic field from different points.

Part of the project's outcome may be that this type of a launch -- taking a page out of the playbook of private space entrepreneurs -- will prove far more economical than traditional rocket launches or the Shuttle, making Earth orbit accessible to businesses as well as countries that cannot currently afford their own space programs. As a result, NASA's focus may ultimately shift to that of a high-tech think tank and science advocate, leaving actual space flights to the private sector.

Source: CNN.com