Along with asteroids, the moon, and the International Space Station, there are hundreds of small, 10-centimeter cubes orbiting planet Earth. Alexa Aguilar, a first-year graduate student in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, is helping these small satellites, called CubeSats, communicate.
“We’d like to expand this to what we call ‘swarm technology.’ Imagine you have three, four, up to, you know, x-amount of little cubes that can talk to each other with lasers,” she explains.“You could have these massive constellations of them! For example, you could have a cluster [of CubeSats] here, a cluster there, and each of the clusters has its own camera. They could talk to each other with lasers, and they could send imaging data, and you could computationally mesh all of the [individual] pictures that they’re taking to form a massive picture in space.”
A picture like this could offer a cost-effective way to monitor Earth. In cases of natural disasters, which require rapid response and constant updates, such observational capabilities could be life-saving.