When a disaster strikes, victims are one of the consequences, and the avalanche on the Tibetan mountain range was not an exception. Glacial ice coupled with snow went down the range. Its strength was indisputable since the volume that flew down was around 247 cubic feet. Equally important, the speed was high at 185 mph. The event surprised many people, including scientists globally. Unfortunately, the victims included nice people who lost their lives, and animals were also not spared.
It saw the scientists start researching why its magnitude was quite high. The research included the study of images from days and weeks following the avalanche. Surprisingly, this team that studies climate change identified that there were cracks formed on the snow and ice prior to the avalanche.
The interesting part is how small the satellite constellation that the captured pictures of the glaciers back in 2016. It is just 280 miles into orbit, and its size similar to that of a shoebox. The manufacturer is Planet which is a satellite company based in San Francisco. The constellation has satellites that go by the name Doves, whereas the total number is 175. Their weight is 10 pounds only. The company can choose to replace a satellite if it fails or update the functional ones with upgraded cameras, solar arrays, and batteries.
When one thinks about transformations in the space industry, many are times when what comes to mind is human space exploration and rockets. Little do they know how far the sector has come. From observations from orbit to data explosion, the list is pretty long. There is also the similarity that it shares with the technology sector. The same way the supercomputers were large is similar to how big the satellites were in the beginning. Consequently, they have also become relatively cheap, and you don’t need a huge factory to manufacture one. The price has decreased from around $400 million to $1 million.
The decrease in cost and size has seen the number of satellites increase. As far as Bryce Space and Technology is concerned, the operational satellites were twice the number they were in 2015 by the end of 2020. To be precise, the number has changed from 1381 to 3371. On the other hand, the annual launches of lightweight satellites, less than 600 kg, were 39 and 338 in 2011 and 2017, respectively. As of now, they are over 1200 courtesy of SpaceX since it launched quite a substantial number last year. Equally important, the number is likely to increase further as we advance.