Space: Satellites are going micro (and helping poor countries, too)

Thanks to the transfer carried out by the Falcon 9 carrier A space of peace and hope, which Pope Francis declared in St. Peter’s Square on March 27, 2020, in one of the most tragic moments of the Covid-19 pandemic. Cubesat transmits messages that can be collected, for example, by radio amateurs around the world.

The coordination of this space mission, called “Spei Satelles”, according to the instructions of the Dicastery for Communication of the Holy See, is the Italian Space Agency (ASI) in collaboration with the Polytechnic of Turin. This mission, which enriches human and ethical discourse more than brilliantly scientific or research discourse, would not have been considered possible just a few years ago because of the costs that had to be incurred. The purpose of the mission would be considered ephemeral. This is no longer the case: the introduction of new parameters such as “Technology downsizing” and establishing “standards” in the space industry allows the space economy to offer important opportunities to all, with very little investment.

A university with a limited budget (around 70 thousand dollars, but the estimate is really hard to make) can send a significant set of equipment into orbit to, for example, increase the teaching offer. No way the trend of recent years is the development and commissioning of microsatellites. The creation of miniaturized systems that meet the storage standards required by all public and private space agencies has actually favored the launch of devices weighing less than 10 kilograms into orbit.

Not only that: The costs associated with the practice of In-Orbit Service, i.e. a set of activities for the removal and updating of satellites, carried out by specialized space companies, which, thanks to robotics and artificial intelligence, have also been reduced they extend the life of satellites, thereby reducing their operating costs. According to the main observers who follow the space economy, the Earth observation market in particular is in turmoil (in Italy, 65% of the total turnover in this sector is linked to public authorities, while the remaining 35% comes from the upcoming demand from businesses).

The main areas of use of data from space relate to agriculture and fishing sector or territory. Africa has made great progress in space exploration, achieving important results. As of 2022, the data said there were 13 African nations with at least one satellite in space, with which they primarily address environmental, social and economic development issues. For example Climate change-hit Tanzania uses satellites to monitor Lake Sulunga waters to tackle drought risk and other water resources of the country. Like Kenya, it has long received help from NASA to improve its agricultural policies and increase the productivity of cultivated land. Nigeria has used satellites for many years, more for reasons of public order than anything else, as shown in the case of their use in 2014 to track the movements of Boko Haram militants after they kidnapped 273 girls.


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