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Business Innovations Helping Small Satellites

Evan Hall
The NASA booth at the Small Satellite Conference.

The 29th Small Satellite Conference on the campus of Utah State University, which concludes Thursday, is a gathering of public and private groups involved in space engineering. Small satellite technology is changing. The public’s relationship with satellite development is changing as well.

One of the conference’s roundtable sessions allowed Rex Ridenoure, CEO of Ecliptic Enterprise Corporation, to share his experience working on his company’s LightSail satellite. He said that the Planetary Society, headed by Bill Nye, partnered with Ecliptic Enterprise to use crowdfunding to help finance research for the project. The response was overwhelming.

“While all of this is going on, the Planetary Society’s got a Kickstarter going for this project and it’s setting records for space-themed Kickstarters,” he said. “So, everybody’s following this mission and they set a record for the most donors ever for a Kickstarter for space.”

Engineers are also finding ways to attract business by creating cost-efficient satellites. At the roundtable, Nicholas Dallmann of the Los Alamos National Laboratory explained that the Prometheus satellite project was created with the customer in mind.

“We looked at not only just our development costs, but also the cost to build, launch, operate, and maintain this system,” he said. “I think that where we were most effective was when we kept focus on total cost of ownership and our mission; that every decision we made, we tried to make with those things in mind.”   

Over 120 exhibition booths from universities, private companies, and government agencies were present at the conference.