Space

Cluster of smaller satellites can provide twice accurate data than traditional satellites

Cluster of smaller satellites can provide twice accurate data than traditional satellites

It is always better to take observations from two or more different locations and then club them together to draw a consensus which gives a better result. Now, a research team from the MIT (Massachusets Institute of Technology) has revealed that instead of measuring from one giant satellite, we can use a system of eight small “shoebox-sized satellites” which can improve the accuracy by 200 percent.

The research team wanted to examine which system is better in measuring the amount of light reflected from the Earth — a powerful single orbiting satellite with nine sensors or a cluster of satellites with a sensor each.

Scientists measured from the both the system and then compared it with the data obtained from NASA Goddard’s Cloud Absorption Radiometer which can obtain data from thousands of different angles on a single spot. It was found that the more satellites were in the cluster, the more accurate the measurements.

“The Earth does not reflect equally in all directions,” said research leader Sreeja Nag. “If you don’t get these multiple angles, you might under- or overestimate how much it’s reflecting, if you have to extrapolate from just one direction.”

Study authors pointed out that cluster of satellites remains effective and working even if a node becomes faulty or inoperational. In such a scenario, accuracy of data will get compromised slightly but rest will work fine. However, if traditional satellite stops working then entire system becomes inoperable as there is only single node.

Also, the cluster of satellites will increase the accuracy which will help in fighting against climate change. Scientists say that better estimates and accurate calculations can help in predicting climate changes and prevent calamities.

Developing smaller satellites are cheaper than building one large satellite. However, research team pointed out that replacing each satellite with a cluster would be too expensive. Thus, replacing few satellites with cluster of smaller satellites is a better and feasible option.

“Our team fully expects that a demonstration mission of this type could be flown within the next decade,” said Oli de Weck, a professor with MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

About the author

Kanishk Singh

Kanishk Singh, co-founder, and editor-in-chief at The TeCake, has forayed in the Science and Space for over five years, he enjoys his stint as an editor of several local magazines. He has written several editorials and high-level documentations.

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