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Integrated Satellite Platforms for Weight Transfer

With space technology improving, there are more and more demands for making systems that are less heavy on the pocket and light-weight. The weight of satellite platforms and their carrying capacity are two factors that are very important for properly constructing the system and making the mission successful. There is presently a trend where small satellites are being preferred more. However, what factors influence its weight? We will learn about it in this article.

Weight of a Satellite Platform

As mentioned, there is now an inclination towards small satellites. They are not only affordable but also more feasible when it comes to gathering information about space. They are great for exploring new ideas and devices that will be used in space missions without spending a massive amount of money. However, there are also heavy-weight satellites that are used for different purposes. The weight of a satellite platform is divided into several categories. Let us go over them: 

Large satellites: mass > 1000 kg: They are the traditional workhorses of the space sector. Most large ones that carry much weight are found in GEO (geostationary orbit). An example is ViaSat-1. 

Medium satellites: mass 500–1000 kg: These serve many purposes and come in different types. They are usually found between LEO (low Earth orbit) and GEO (geostationary orbit). An example is Jason-3.

Minisatellites: mass 100–500 kg: Mini ones have gotten more popular in the recent decade and are primarily found in LEO (low Earth orbit). 

Microsatellites: mass 10–100 kg: These have numerous functions and are widely in demand. The two Mars CubeS of NASA are examples.

Nanosatellites: mass 1–10 kg: They are inexpensive for particular purposes such as signal monitoring, geolocation, and communications. 

Picosatellites: mass 0.1–1 kg: These weigh less than 1 kg and do not fall under the nano category. They are mostly found in LEO (Low Earth Orbit).

Femtosatellites: mass <100 g: These are low-cost devices used for gathering information about space and radio relay.

The satellite platform size largely depends on the mass of the payload, which ultimately dictates the launch vehicle’s performance. A satellite platform with a heavier load will require more power than one with a lighter payload since more weight means more required capacity to fight the Earth’s gravitational force.

If you do not already know what a payload is, you should know that it is a crucial part of the device that ultimately serves the objective of the space mission. For example, an Earth Observation satellite that clicks pictures of the Earth as its primary objective will have a camera as the payload.

The performance of a launch vehicle is dictated by its capacity to lift a certain payload mass to the desired orbit and insert its payload(s) into the proper orbit. A satellite that has been launched into space but has not been properly inserted into the correct orbit is useless.

GEO (geostationary orbit) and LEO (low Earth orbit) satellite companies are concerned about a launch vehicle’s payload weight. GEO companies need heavy-lift launch vehicles since their platforms are becoming heavier and are required to journey into a high orbit. On the other hand, LEO companies tend to look for launch vehicles capable of accommodating and deploying several spacecraft into orbit all at once.

Satellite Platforms and The Influence of the Payload

We have briefly discussed what a payload is, but how does it truly impact a space mission? It is the heart of the device that ultimately helps a mission to succeed using satellite platforms. However, as mentioned previously, a payload’s weight dictates a satellite’s weight. There are primarily four factors that influence its weight. They are discussed as follows:

Volume and Mass: The volume and mass of the payload have a direct influence on the satellite. One with a heavier load will require more power than one with a lighter load.

Energy Consumption: Other than the volume of the payload, another factor that determines the weight transfer platform is energy consumption. A payload that requires more energy will also require more solar panels and batteries, which ultimately affects the platform’s weight.

Information Generated: The information the satellite is gathering also affects its weight. For instance, one equipped with a camera that captures high-quality pictures will require more processing capacity and storage space. High-quality instruments usually take up more space since they demand a higher processing capacity. Hence, the instruments used and the information generated, also dictate the apparatus’s weight.

Other factors: Other payload factors determine the weight of the satellite. For instance, the stability or positioning required to perform a particular task also influences its weight.

Space-based operations are exceedingly demanding and unforgiving of managerial, structural, or technological shortcomings — particularly once the satellite has been launched. A spacecraft company must consequently address each of the above categories to succeed. 

Miniaturization and digitalization have increasingly developed the capacity of satellites over the years. However, there is still much room for improvement, especially with the growing requirements.

Final Thoughts

As discussed, the weight of a satellite platform is mainly dependent on several factors, including the importance of the payload. The design of satellite platforms determines how to transfer a considerable weight to space. Small ones are being promoted more now, thanks to several advantages they bring to the table.

Chris Evan was born in Quebec and raised in Montreal, except for the time when he moved back to Quebec and attended high school there. He studied History and Literature at the University of Toronto. He began writing after obsessing over books.


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