Pin It

Tiny liquid volcanoes that spray beams of charged particles could make space history next year.

They are one of two technologies vying to be the first to let cheap, miniature satellites called CubeSats fly in formation, switch orbits or voyage to other planets – feats usually reserved for large, expensive craft. They could even provide us with a global Wi-Fi system on Earth.

Paulo Lozano leads a team working on CubeSat propulsion at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been given the go-ahead to launch two propelled CubeSats in 2014 – one funded by the US Department of Defense, the other by private donors.

Meanwhile, Benjamin Longmier at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who leads a rival project, announced that his team also has private funding – and a slot to launch their CubeSat on a NASA rocket next year. The race is on.

CubeSats are made from off-the-shelf components. The initial aim was to make access to space easier and more affordable.

To read more, click here.