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Nanosatellites Launched in SpaceX Falcon Vehicle

Liftoff of Falcon 1 spacecraft (SpaceX)

Liftoff of Falcon spacecraft (SpaceX)

Among the payloads in the commercial Space Exploration (SpaceX) Technologies Inc., Falcon 9 vehicle, launched into low-earth orbit on 8 December were two two small satellites, called nanosatellites, built by the U.S. Naval Research Lab. The lab, part of the Department of Defense,  says the launch of these satellites will help evaluate their utility  for future experimentation and technology development.

The nanosatellites were developed by Pumpkin Inc. of San Francisco, California, under contract to the National Reconnaissance Office. The nanosatellites were built to the CubeSat standards. A single CubeSat payload is 10x10x10 cm, called 1U. The nanosatellites launched in the SpaceX Falcon were 3U packages, each 30x10x10 cm.

CubeSats are expected to provide space testing services by satellite  faster and less expensively than custom-designed payloads. Even with the cubeSat standards, however, payloads still require 9-24 months lead time from inception to launch, as well as advance scheduling with launch services.

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