Early Tuesday morning, two CubeSats were deployed from the International Space Station thanks to NanoRacks‘ CubeSat deployment system. These were the first two satellites deployed of an eventual 28 CubeSat constellation for Planet Labs.
The constellation of satellites, designated “Flock 1,” is designed to provide images of the Earth to monitor changes on the planet over time. According to the company, the goal of the constellation is to “regularly monitor the changing planet and make better decisions to live here in a sustainable way.”
When the full constellation of CubeSats is deployed, it will be the largest such deployment of CubeSats to date. CubeSats are minituarized satellites made to standard specifications developed by several universities working in collaboration. A standard CubeSat is 10cm x 10cm x 10cm, though the designs are scalable.
The CubeSats were deployed through Nanoracks’ Smallsat deployment from the ISS Kibo module arm. This is the first of 3-4 total deployments scheduled for 2014. Nanoracks has partnered with NASA and JAXA (the Japanese space agency) to provide commercial satellite deployment for businesses, governments, non-profits, and other entities.
The advantage of deploying small satellites from the space station is that it saves on costs – rather than having a dedicated launch for small satellites, they can instead be loaded as cargo on the regular trips being made to the ISS.
“This is the beginning of a new era in space commerce,” NanoRacks CEO Jeff Manber said in a statement. “We’re helping our customers get a two year head start in space. They don’t have to wait around for a dedicated launch to space but can instead catch the next rocket to space station.”
More at Forbes: Scientific Research On The International Space Station