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Evaluating the Capabilities of Chip-Sized Spacecraft

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the remember-when-we-had-people-sized-spacecraft dept.

Space 96

kgeiger writes "The Sprite project is testing the feasibility of chip-sized spacecraft. 'Rather than hand building one-of-a-kind spacecraft, we envision constructing spacecraft on wafers in much the same way that common integrated circuits are made today. During fabrication, solar cells and other components would be incorporated with microelectromechanical systems techniques. Instead of exhaustively testing each part, as is done with current spacecraft, engineers will be able to monitor Sprite quality in a less labor-intensive fashion by using statistical process control, testing a few chips from each batch to make sure they meet specifications.' The project's goal is to deploy true 'smart dust,' comprised of 5- to 50-mg single-sensor spacecraft capable of forming deep-space sensor arrays."

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too small - space gravel (5, Insightful)

RichMan (8097) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924080)

How do we track them all? What happens when they die on mission?

What happens when a human occupied vehicle crosses paths with one of these dead objects at 10,000km/h differentail speeds?

We really should not be cluttering up planetary and solar orbits with "gravel", time has done a nice job of cleaning out all the intra-orbit space.

Re:too small - space gravel (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924436)

What happens when a human occupied vehicle crosses paths with one of these dead objects at 10,000km/h differentail speeds?

I'm sure you meant to say "just one of these". Regardless. Space gravel takes the fear of space collision to a whole other level.

Re:too small - space gravel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36924518)

The summary said deep space - I hope they truly mean this. This sort of thing in earth orbit, let alone near-earth orbit is scary. Even deep-space doesn't seem particularly wise in the long run.

Re:too small - space gravel (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924686)

Meh, In the long run as long as they are on an outward trajectory we will never run into them. Even in system they could be save if their trajectory puts them into a gravity well. Just avoid placing them in orbit and they will be fine.

Re:too small - space gravel (1)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925280)

You ever get your windshield smacked by something that fell off a truck (like gravel or rock) and catch up to the offender to get insurance info? I have, a fist size rock almost came through the glass and I and another motorist (also hit) caught up to the trucker to get his info.

So here we are on our little mud ball, and something like the Vogons suddenly show up to collect from us for destruction of something they value... or worse they assume it was a stealth attack on a craft that was just going about it's business someplace far away from us.

Space may not be ours to crap up as we see fit.

Re:too small - space gravel (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925522)

Their fault for sitting at the bottom of a gravity well with no protection against space gravel. Dumb aliens like that will be taken out long before they invent intersteller travel.

Re:too small - space gravel (3, Funny)

uncanny (954868) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925534)

So here we are on our little mud ball, and something like the Vogons suddenly show up to collect from us for destruction of something they value... or worse they assume it was a stealth attack on a craft that was just going about it's business someplace far away from us.

Didn't they see the sign posted that reads "not responsible for damage caused by debris damaging your ship" it was posted in a locked box in a dark corner in the basement of an old ladies house. If they didn't take the time to read it, then that's not our fault either.

Re:too small - space gravel (1)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925780)

Hey, that's the spirit! Maybe we could make the little buggers display a message when they atomize.

"Objects in your face may be IN your face"

"Sorry for the inconvenience"

"If you can read this, you're not done bleeding out"

"Hey, I'm EXPLORING here..."

Re:too small - space gravel (2)

Ultra64 (318705) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924532)

"What happens when a human occupied vehicle crosses paths with one of these dead objects at 10,000km/h differentail speeds?"

The same thing that happens when it hits any other piece of space dust/debris.

Re:too small - space gravel (1)

supertrinko (1396985) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925070)

A lot of damage. Usually anything in a collision course attempts to navigate around any debris.

Re:too small - space gravel (1)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924676)

They are planned to be released in low orbit, where they will enter the atmosphere within a few months at most.

Re:too small - space gravel (3, Funny)

Matheus (586080) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924722)

Obligatory XKCD reference... http://xkcd.com/865/ [xkcd.com]

Re:too small - space gravel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36927010)

I really wish people would stop linking to that particular strip over and over again. It's not funny anymore.

Re:too small - space gravel (1)

wstrucke (876891) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924944)

Shields and deflector arrays.

Re:too small - space gravel (4, Insightful)

suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924992)

What happens when a human occupied vehicle crosses paths with one of these dead objects at 10,000km/h differentail speeds?

While I appreciate the sentiment (and agree), you really need to understand how amazingly, hugely, vastly much empty room there is in space. There are enormous calculations needed to hit something the size of jupiter, even if you start pointed in the right direction.

Let's say a 1km asteroid is 10,000 km away, and you yourself are in a 1km (cross-section) spacecraft. To not hit it, you have to aim to be 1km in any direction away from it--.5km from half of your body, .5km from half of its body. In other words, to hit it, you have to point anywhere within a 1km radius of dead-on. Assuming no course corrections, you have to be pointed within about .005 degrees of the object center, in every direction. Put another way, a sphere of radius 10,000km is billions of square kilometers of surface area, more than twice that of the earth, and you would have to hit around one square kilometer of it.

The moon, which is the only stellar object that could be accused of being close, is not 10,000km away; it's something more than 30x that far. At that range, the object could have a 30x greater cross-section and you'd still have that same tiny angular danger zone. Everything else is millions of km away. The only really clogged region (relatively speaking) is earth orbit, and that's because we have so much that we want to do and to leave in a relatively small space.

Is polluting the solar system still a bad idea? Sure, probably. However, to be honest, by the time our spaceflight capabilities are up to travelling to other planets in earnest, we maybe able to shield against large particulates, and we'll know approximately where they are. (There's not much in the way of interference in space like there are in wind and water; there's solar wind, gravity wells, and inertia, and not much else.) The debris is also comparable to what you might expect from asteroid collisions, comet trails, and the like, which might be substantially harder to track. More importantly, there's a lot of science to be done before we're ready for all that, and this is at least partially helping progress that. Maybe.

Re:too small - space gravel (3, Interesting)

Zinho (17895) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925520)

The flaw in your reasoning is that there are very few interesting places in the solar system to go, so despite the very large volume available for navigating around these obstacles it's quite a bit more likely that a later space mission will be aiming for the exact same tiny angular zone as a previous one. It's similar to the current situation with satellites in Earth orbit - I occasionally hear about congestion in the geostationary orbits despite there being lots of potential orbits around the earth, some orbits are simply more desirable than others.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that there are complexities I'm glossing over (consecutive launch opportunities to the same destination not passing through the same space as each other, for example). But when you said:

The only really clogged region (relatively speaking) is earth orbit, and that's because we have so much that we want to do and to leave in a relatively small space.

you glossed over the fact that any well-explored destination in the solar system is destined to become a "clogged region" for exactly the same reason that Earth is now. Compared to the volume of space contained in the Solar System, the interesting destinations represent a "relatively small space" not significantly larger than Earth's orbital zone.

Re:too small - space gravel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36929158)

Agreed, and I'll go one point farther. These ultra tiny spacecraft/robots/sensors ideas, are almost always created with the concept of deploying them en mass. Deploy them by the thousands, or the millions. They are tiny and cheap, and the more you need simply makes the per unit cost go down.

Therefore you can (theoretically) wind up with large clouds of the devices. The concept of disposability and large scale deployment is essentially built-in to this archecture. They emphasize numbers so as to overcome individual device failures, with a large amount of redundancy in the device swarm.

It's a great idea in many ways. However if you are concerned about high speed collisions with macro scale spacecraft, of which there is only 1 with minimal redundancy, and perhaps passengers, then miniature spacecraft swarms might be a problem.

And it's not good enough to say that the macro spacecraft might be/will be protected against such collisions. Collisions are always best avoided. Whipple shields must be reserved for a last resort, when all other methods have failed.

Re:too small - space gravel (1)

suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) | more than 3 years ago | (#36930032)

While it's true we may end up going back to the same places over and over again, you aren't likely to see congestion until long after any particular location is settled--or at least manned. The resources necessary for interplanetary travel are enormous, so commercial satellites and unnecessary debris will only occur when there is local manufacturing. Local manufacturing isn't likely to be feasible without getting people there on a long-term basis, which is full of logistical hurdles we haven't crossed yet.

Also (and I haven't RTFA), I have to imagine that the sensor-dust they're talking about doesn't need to be sent anywhere near planetary travel lanes, and certainly doesn't need to be positioned there. Part of the overhead in large satellites is that if you have any plans to maintain them, they have to be within viable reach of launch vessels. Throwaway chip satellites could be put on a no-return trajectory into known- or presumed-useless space, or on trajectories that terminate in the sun or a planet's atmosphere. Since they're supposed to be sensors rather than dedicated commo satellites, etc, that could easily be feasible.

Re:too small - space gravel (1)

ModernGeek (601932) | more than 2 years ago | (#36930862)

"Space Exploration is not endless circles in low earth orbit." -Buzz Aldrin

Is that a real quote? I can't find it anywhere.

Re:too small - space gravel (1)

Zinho (17895) | more than 2 years ago | (#36932998)

Yes, but I can't prove it, sorry =(

It was said during a televised interview, and I liked it, so I made it my sig. My memory is that t it was on a major network like C-SPAN, and I assumed that it would be transcribed and on the internet shortly. You're the first person to point out that it's not on Google, and it caught me off guard; I'm kinda sad to suddenly be in [citation needed] territory. It may even bug me enough to change to something I can cite, but I'll keep looking for a while first. Thanks for keeping me honest!

Re:too small - space gravel (1)

ModernGeek (601932) | about 3 years ago | (#37030176)

I trust your word good fellow, and the Internet now has this priceless quote etched into the fabric of time.

Re:too small - space gravel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36926834)

well, just looking at the sky, there's a lot of airspace, or so it would seem. still planes DO collide.

Re:too small - space gravel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36929712)

well, just looking at the sky, there's a lot of airspace, or so it would seem. still planes DO collide.

Yes however for airplanes the origination and destination locations are both in the exact same spot for each trip, and so the path of the plane is pretty much the same each trip.

In space, not so much.

From our perspective (assuming an Earth launch) the starting location is the same, but the destinations are in constant movement, and the objects we might use for gravity assist maneuvers are also in constant movement.

If going straight "from here to there", there is a fairly large amount of time one must wait to pass before the destination is in the same place.
If using other stellar bodies for assistance, it is an extremely insanely long amount of time to wait for all those things to be in the same place, and in all but a few cases of near by bodies, the Earth likely will not exist in the billions of years it would take for those objects to be in the same place.

It is almost a requirement that the path taken be different each time, so very very unlikely that two objects, even to the same destination, would ever be in the same area of space again.

Re:too small - space gravel (1)

RoccamOccam (953524) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925352)

What happens when a human occupied vehicle crosses paths with one of these dead objects at 10,000km/h differentail speeds?

What happens to a toad when it's struck by lightning?

Re:too small - space gravel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925562)

A toad doesn't cost millions of dollars or take decades to educate and train.

Re:too small - space gravel (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925660)

And, more importantly, what's going to happen to my beloved BIG ASS ROCKETS that make lots of noise and look wicked cool at takeoff? You can't very well film home video of a tiny rocket launch and edit it with "Rock Me Like a Hurricane" playing in the background, now can you? NOW CAN YOU?

Re:too small - space gravel (1)

Nebulious (1241096) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926442)

The air force is capable of tracking things as small as 1 cm2, which is the size of these chips. Furthermore, you track and avoid them like everything else in orbit. Their orbital information is added to the huge databases that allow mission planners to use a safe trajectory. Proposed ChipSat missions like this are meant to act as an array that follows a common orbit. As for mission lifetime, federal regulations specify that almost without exception, any assets you put in low earth orbit must be able to naturally decay in 25. If you're geosynchronous, then it's your responsibility to place the satellite in a designated graveyard orbit. A lot of safeguards are in place now to make responsible use of orbital territory. The real danger is from things left up there during more careless times. Oh, and China. They're still being massive dicks about generating space debris.

Re:too small - space gravel (1)

melikamp (631205) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926784)

All of your questions about this 'smart dust' (and more!) were answered by Stanislaw Lem in his Peace on Earth.

OT: CmdrTaco, seriously, it's 2011. A "geek" board without Unicode support? We can't even spell internationally known names correctly.

Re:too small - space gravel (1)

abuelos84 (1340505) | more than 3 years ago | (#36929968)

All of your questions about this 'smart dust' (and more!) were answered by Stanislaw Lem in his Peace on Earth.

OT: CmdrTaco, seriously, it's 2011. A "geek" board without Unicode support? We can't even spell internationally known names correctly.

Wasn't it "The Invincible"?

Re:too small - space gravel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36929332)

How many of these and similar launches until we make a "shield" around the earth that makes it impossible(or at least MUCH more costly) to get anything of significant size into space. Lets propose even 10% of these fail to make it out of earths orbit, we could quickly reach a point where only extremely "hardened" spacecraft can make it out of orbit safely, not to mention the problem with these impacting satellites in geosynchronous orbit. Now suppose that the current round of geosynchronous satellites are damaged by some of these(and other loose pieces) and lose parts of significant size. After a time we may have to wait centuries, or for some future tech that may allow us to clear this debris. I agree with the need to make things less expensive but lets not hamstring our future selves in the process. I would like to see an international ban on small surveillance craft that is not designed with a 5 9's reliability (99.999%) to either return, or be trapped in a decaying orbit in a gravity well. Let us focus on things that will really bring the cost down. New tech rocketry, rail gun style launches, even carbon nanotube space elevators. Think long term now or we will continue to stumble on our past mistakes forever.

Re:too small - space gravel (1)

Puff_Of_Hot_Air (995689) | more than 3 years ago | (#36930040)

5mg is about the mass of a grain of sand, not all that disproportionate to a micrometeoroid. If the human carrying spaceship can't survive a collision with such a mass, I think we've got bigger things to worry about. Cluttering the orbit zones with this stuff may pose a problem from a "grit" perspective, but nothing that can't be solved with some wipers.

Deliberate space debris (1)

joelsherrill (132624) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924094)

With all the existing trouble with space debris, the idea of putting more probably untrackable small items in space seems scary.

Re:Deliberate space debris (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36924524)

Yeah! Space is small and these things are smaller!

Re:Deliberate space debris (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924544)

The article talks about using them for missions into the atmosphere of Titan, sending them to Mars, or for deep space exploration.

Doesn't sound like anyone is planning to put 100,000 of these in earth orbit, aside from the 3 or 4 Endeavour put up to test in space.

Wafer scale integration (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924108)

I wonder why someone like Gene Amdahl didn't think of this before.

Propulsion? (3, Informative)

mrxak (727974) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924116)

Much of the weight and size in spacecraft is not the instruments, it's the fuel and engine. I get that you need a lot less of both if you've got a small mass, but still, how are you going to move the thing around?

TFA says they'll need some crazy new propulsion system, so yeah, we won't be seeing chip ships any time soon, probably.

Re:Propulsion? (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924558)

Could use some kind of miniaturized hall effect drive or some other electrodynamic propulsion. I'm not sure if it would scale down to this size, but theoretically electrodynamic tethering could make a system mobile with no propellant at all.

Re:Propulsion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925888)

how about very tiny solar sails? :)

Sounds like a good idea... (2)

bsharp8256 (1372285) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924118)

How do they plan to keep radiation from frying the chips?

Re:Sounds like a good idea... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36924324)

The deflector shields protect them, just like all of the rest of our space ships. Duh!

Re:Sounds like a good idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36924526)

Each chip will be embedded within a container. Containers are already available, such as the Enterprise, the Atlantis, the Endeavor, etc...

Re:Sounds like a good idea... (2)

uncanny (954868) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925564)

That's a good point, i like baked better, less fat that way!

No need to break spacecraft into deadly fragments (1)

Skidborg (1585365) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924148)

Try our new spaceship bits: prefabricated crunchy plastic wafers, abandoned and ready for all your satellite destroying needs.

isn't it july? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36924310)

My calendar says it's July, not April.

Too bad (1)

fridthjoff (1404069) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924322)

I really first read "ship"-sized...

Sure, ignore SG-1 (4, Funny)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924330)

but don't come crying to me when the replicators show up.

Re:Sure, ignore SG-1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925078)

If they send the Sam-version, fine by me.

The TRUE robotic overlords (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924350)

On our way to space-faring nanomachines, that may employ a collective intelligence.

It would be such a shame if they cannot replicate. After all, what can POSSIBLY go wrong?

get a sense of proportion (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925222)

hey, the self-replicating machines infesting Earth have only converted a miniscule portion of the planet's mass in to more of themselves.

Now if we could design some that could go to an asteroid, digest it, bring it back and building a orbital ring, that'd be nifty.

Re:get a sense of proportion (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925300)

Now if we could design some that could go to an asteroid, digest it, bring it back and building a orbital ring, that'd be nifty.

And it would be even niftier, if, after doing that, it refrained from digesting the Earth and going out to an asteroid and building a ring around the asteroid....

Re:get a sense of proportion (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925340)

As long as they do not convert the mass I am using for my survival and, uhm, for my existence in the material plane (as in "my body"), I think we can get along- should they get any ideas of messing with my synapses though, I would like to have access to a kill switch.

well....sounds like I need to say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36924356)

I,for one, welcome our new Replicator overlords.

Hobbits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36924362)

In other news.... John McCain proposes that the tiny one-way space ships be manned by hobbits

Chip? (1)

Literaphile (927079) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924402)

Am I the only one who immediately thought of a flying potato chip?

Re:Chip? (1)

wmain (636792) | about 3 years ago | (#36948012)

We can call them layships ( as in Lay's potato chips, could be a Canadian only thing...)

How big of a rocket? (2)

georgenh16 (1531259) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924414)

Every time I see the beautiful pictures from a couple guys who put a camera in a balloon and send it 100,000 ft up, I always wonder how big of a rocket is the minimum needed to get something hand-sized or smaller into orbit.

I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations once and determined I wouldn't be launching anything from my backyard anytime soon. Has anyone else taken a closer look at this though?

Re:How big of a rocket? (1)

kcbnac (854015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924484)

Hmmm...interesting possibility. Fixed-frame ring of balloons, with the 'payload' center elevated slightly above the balloons? Get to a certain altitude, and the rocket kicks in - you're not starting from 0 m/s - and you don't have to have enough fuel for the entire launch. Remotely vent the balloons, pick it back up (because you installed GPS and transmitting capability) for re-use.

Big problem: We only have so much helium on the planet.

Re:How big of a rocket? (1)

Yaur (1069446) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924612)

Even from a 100k up you need a lot of fuel to get into orbit and getting it there with helium is impractical... that was my conclusion from doing similar back of the envelope calculations anyway.

Re:How big of a rocket? (1)

Tha_Big_Guy23 (603419) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924724)

Big problem: We only have so much helium on the planet.

We do, however, have plenty of hydrogen. That could be used instead of helium and we can send as many balloons as we wanted without a whole lot of fear of "running out" of the lift fuel.

Re:How big of a rocket? (3, Funny)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924778)

Oh! The humanity!

Re:How big of a rocket? (2)

chill (34294) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924764)

Solution to big problem -- use hydrogen. On an unmanned balloon launch platform, 100 Km in the air, who the hell cares if an accident catches it on fire?

The only reason the Hindenburg was a disaster is because there were people on it. Remove the people and it isn't a disaster, it is an expense. An insurable expense.

Re:How big of a rocket? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925132)

I wonder if there would be a way to create a ballast like submarines have. Perhaps a container that is launch an as close to 0 PSI as possible and when it's time for the ring to descend begin filling it thus increasing the weight of the over all balloon. Of course, it might take several of these to make up for the fact that the ring no longer has the object being lifted to weight it down. Perhaps this container could actually do more than pressurize to the air pressure outside but actually go far beyond that. Of course, one might consider a 20 mile cable. If we ever get to the point of being able to mass produce spider silk I wonder if it would be light enough and something like Hydrogen could lift it and a payload. Might be safer as well, allowing for a more controlled ascent.

Re:How big of a rocket? (1)

elsJake (1129889) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925968)

You'd still loose gas , although at a slower pace. Hydrogen/Helium atoms are small enough that they can and do pass through the balloon material .

Re:How big of a rocket? (1)

wmain (636792) | about 3 years ago | (#36948104)

To load ballast, just open a vent and let air rush into the balloon.

Re:How big of a rocket? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36924530)

Maybe not from your backyard, but with a sufficiently sized rail gun, why not?
(No - I haven't done the math. :)

Re:How big of a rocket? (1)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 3 years ago | (#36928404)

Has anyone else taken a closer look at this though?

Yes, these guys. [copenhagen...bitals.com] They just launched a test rocket on June 3rd this year.

Re:How big of a rocket? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#36932948)

I always wonder how big of a rocket is the minimum needed to get something hand-sized or smaller into orbit. I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations once and determined I wouldn't be launching anything from my backyard anytime soon. Has anyone else taken a closer look at this though?

That's kind of like taking a closer look at the boiling point of water or the value of G - there's no point. The answer is well known. (And your BOTE is correct.)

Re:How big of a rocket? (1)

georgenh16 (1531259) | about 3 years ago | (#36938484)

Well if I make enough money someday, and something like this actually is feasible, albeit with lots of time and say a $20k rocket, then I'd much rather get a cheap $20k car and a satellite than a fancy $40k car.

So in that sense there's more reason (at least for me) to take a closer look at this than the value of G.

Over all mass? (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924476)

Just a thought. Doesn't a cloud of something in space have an over all mass? Wouldn't each object gravitate towards the center?

Re:Over all mass? (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925030)

Ummm, you are aware of how weak the gravitational pull of a 50mg chip would be, right? Even quite a few of them. Sure, there'd be a little pull, but I'm pretty sure Alpha Centauri would effect them more.

Re:Over all mass? (1)

SixAndFiftyThree (1020048) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925570)

Yes ... but it took millions of years for something as massive as the sun to condense. These craft will have be lighter and have somewhat less gravity than the cloud of gas that gave birth to the Sun. By the time they form a compact ball, it's even possible that the US debt limit will have been raised.

tro7l (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36924614)

to look into GNAA and suuport problem stems shower Don't just that they sideline track of where but I'd rather hear numbers continue balance is struck,

Why do they always go over the top? (2)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924636)

Sure, saying those wafers are useless is premature, however, what about common-sized satellites and space probes?

Instead of building yet another mars rover, NASA should have used what it had and just build ten more Mars Exploration Rovers instead of one extremely expensive, completely new rover - with a whole new set of technical issues. All they would have had to do would be to build a new modular spacecraft to carry them with in a Delta IV or Atlas V - because the Delta II is no longer available.

Same goes for just about any space probe build in the last 30 years. Back in the 60ies and 70ies practically all probes were build in series - which they did because of the rather high rate of malfunctions, but it was also more economic.

Those guys at NASA should be forced to watch some Star Trek - maybe then they'll understand what advantages a standardized Mark I Planetary Probe can offer over designing and testing brand new ones each time.

Re:Why do they always go over the top? (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925110)

Instead of building yet another mars rover, NASA should have used what it had and just build ten more Mars Exploration Rovers instead of one extremely expensive, completely new rover - with a whole new set of technical issues.

There are new technical issues because it's new tech. Just think for a moment about how much better digital cameras have gotten over the past 10 years. Sure, we could build 10 more MERs, but we'll get a lot more science value out of one new rover.

Re:Why do they always go over the top? (1)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926500)

Nobody stops you from upgrading some parts while they are still on the ground - but a lot of the mechanical parts, the transfer stage, landing etc. won't need to be redeveloped, and even the upgraded parts will be easier to implement. You could also think about using modularized instruments that you can change depending on the needs of the mission.

Btw. rather than improved cameras, a better computer would do a whole lot more to improve the science output of the mars rovers, because it would enable a lot more autonomous driving.

deep space? (2)

Yaur (1069446) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924646)

how does a chip sized deep space probe transmit anything useful back to earth?

Re:deep space? (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924770)

Deep space probes have nothing to do with useful. It literally probing nothingness.

Re:deep space? (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926380)

Spacetime is NOT nothingness. There is no such thing as nothingness, except perhaps your imagination.

Re:deep space? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36929382)

WRONG

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/0_%28number%29

Double negative Irony (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about 3 years ago | (#36942300)

There is no such thing as nothingness,

Re:deep space? (1)

mcl630 (1839996) | more than 3 years ago | (#36924920)

According to TFA, they're using CDMA. Part of the reason they deployed a few on the ISS is to test whether the signals are strong enough to detect on the ground.

Re:deep space? (1)

Arlet (29997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925240)

From the ISS, it's not exactly 'deep space'.

Oh sir! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36924682)

...it's only wafer thin!

Re:Oh sir! (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925072)

No no, I couldn't possibly track and avoid another satellite, regardless of it's size.

Re:Oh sir! (1)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925176)

Well, you apparently couldn't track the wafer-thin apostrophe that you failed to avoid.

Already Been Done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36924988)

This "Sprite" project isn't as pioneering as it lets on. Chip-sized crafts that can survive hostile environments have been around for decades.

Just ask Ms. Frizzle.

Spacecraft? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925290)

I'd hardly call something unable to navigate or carry anything a craft of any sort.

These are more like the space round of the great NASA rubber-duckie experiment [guardian.co.uk]

Scale (2)

Translation Error (1176675) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925296)

It's in interesting idea, but I can't see it ending in any way other than the whole lot of them being swallowed by a small dog.

A tin can with a solar sail (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925478)

see Accelerando.

Re:A tin can with a solar sail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36926338)

whats wrong with lego bricks?

Seeds, Baby! (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926492)

Someday we'll send out seeds all over the universe (if we don't extinguish ourselves first). Those that evolve from our seeds will think us GODS.

Isn't that cool!

Temperature and power problem (2)

Zorpheus (857617) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926702)

It is probably impossible to thermally isolate and heat such a small spacecraft, since the ratio of surface area to volume is horribly large. So these things will be at a temperature of 3K, unless they are in sunlight.
I don't think that any battery will work for this, since there are no chemical reactions at these temperatures. They can run on solar cells when in sunlight, but when they are not in sunlight they will be dead and useless.

Stanislaw Lem wrote about this in 1964 (1)

Phizzle (1109923) | more than 3 years ago | (#36928206)

Novel by the name The Invincible - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Invincible [wikipedia.org] . Blows my mind how much modern and "future" science is guided by the vision of sci-fi writers of old. Have we had any original ideas in the last decade?!

In space, no one.. (1)

Sneekyknees (771312) | more than 3 years ago | (#36929440)

can eat just one?

Why space? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36930380)

There are plenty of uses for these things right here on earth. Your local police can sprinkle these over any gathering, or over your lawn to find out what you're *really* up to. Complete with camera, microphone, and transmitter what police dept wouldn't want a few thousand of these?

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