Not too many years ago, it was very challenging and expensive to launch and operate a satellite. That has changed dramatically over the past few years and now launching and operating a satellite is much easier and far less costly – and those trends are expected to continue and accelerate. Thus, many more governments, companies, organizations, and individuals will have access to space to pursue their governmental and commercial purposes. This change has come about due to two technological momentum drivers that have catalysed the old space industry to where it is today. The first is the invention of the CubeSat, a 10x10x12cm cube, largely using commercial of the shelf (COTS) components, which has created a new type of satellite form-factor that is a fraction of the size and cost of the satellites of the prior generation. The second is the commercial development of the low-earth-orbit launch vehicle, whichmakes the launch of these new CubeSat satellites much easier and accessible and far less expensive.
Before the CubeSat, the only way to get an asset into space was via a massive school bus sized satellite, operating in a geostationary orbit (GEO, 36,000 km), costing millions of dollars and years of effort to make. Years of Moore’s law has exponentially decreased the size and cost of satellites and increased the power of the electronics so that now companies can put COTS sensors on this tissue box sized form-factor-the CubeSat, which can operate in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO, 500-1200km) and orbit the Earth every 90 minutes.