Third millennium has started not very long ago and brought us a new stage of development of tiny space vehicles – micro- and nano-satellites. The period of single breakthroughs and first successful test models of small satellites has ended, and now it’s time to start systematic development of regular space systems on the basis of ultra-small space vehicles. Small space crafts are already widely used for Earth remote sensing, ecological monitoring, earthquake predicting and studies of ionosphere.
In the nineties of the previous century universities and small private companies have spent a lot of their time on design and development of small space vehicles, and today giant corporations express vivid interest in tiny spacecrafts and actively participate in their development. Russian pioneer in the field of nano-satellites – science and research institute of space instrumentation – has already created a programme for development and introduction of technological nano-satellites “TNS”, designed for flight exercise of advanced space vehicles and basic technologies for said vehicles. “TNS-0 1” nano-satellite has already performed successful tests of a brand-new technology of spaceship control via “Globalstar” satellite system. Now institute professionals are working on the next generation of nano-satellites for various technological and research purposes.
Another perspective field for nano-satellites is using these little vehicles as basic platforms for performing experiments in nanotechnologies, which are scientific field of high priority in Russia today, tests of nano-materials and nano-components. Possible applications of nano-materials in space industry include coatings of solar batteries, which are made of silicon dioxide nano-particles. Such nano-coatings are optically transparent and at the same time “repel” any possible dirt. Space industry is longing for nano-materials, which show high solidity, durability and plasticity at the same time - a combination, impossible for any materials, built from macro-particles.
Main task, which space professionals face today, is reducing weight, size and energy characteristics of micro- and nano-satellites (weighing less than 10 kilograms). Another important problem is placing said small vehicles to Earth’s orbit, which now is solved by means of cluster launches of nano-satellites on large carrier vehicles, however, this technique has its drawbacks. Scientists are working on a special launching vehicle for small satellites, and suggest following solutions: aerospace complex, based on MIG-3 plane or on short-range missiles “Iskander”, as well as light carrier vehicles “Shtil 2.1”, usually launched from submarine trunks. However, the latter technique is too expensive, thus Russian scientists suggest a project of so-called cannon launching system, which promises to be quite cheap and is based upon a complex of electromagnetic cannons, supplied with energy from same bank of condensers.