Small satellites for space science : A COSPAR scientific roadmap

Millan, Robyn M. and von Steiger, Rudolf and Meir, Ariel and Bartalev, Sergey and Borgeaud, Maurice and Campagnola, Stefano and Castillo-Rogez, Julie C. and Fléron, Réne and Gass, Volker and Gregorio, Anna and Klumpar, David M. and Lal, Bhavya and Macdonald, Malcolm and Park, Jong Uk and Rao, V. Sambasiva and Schilling, Klaus and Stephens, Graeme and Title, Alan M. and Wu, Ji (2019) Small satellites for space science : A COSPAR scientific roadmap. Advances in Space Research, 64 (8). pp. 1466-1517. ISSN 0273-1177 (

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This is a COSPAR roadmap to advance the frontiers of science through innovation and international collaboration using small satellites. The world of small satellites is evolving quickly and an opportunity exists to leverage these developments to make scientific progress. In particular, the increasing availability of low-cost launch and commercially available hardware provides an opportunity to reduce the overall cost of science missions. This in turn should increase flight rates and encourage scientists to propose more innovative concepts, leading to scientific breakthroughs. Moreover, new computer technologies and methods are changing the way data are acquired, managed, and processed. The large data sets enabled by small satellites will require a new paradigm for scientific data analysis. In this roadmap we provide several examples of long-term scientific visions that could be enabled by the small satellite revolution. For the purpose of this report, the term “small satellite” is somewhat arbitrarily defined as a spacecraft with an upper mass limit in the range of a few hundred kilograms. The mass limit is less important than the processes used to build and launch these satellites. The goal of this roadmap is to encourage the space science community to leverage developments in the small satellite industry in order to increase flight rates, and change the way small science satellites are built and managed. Five recommendations are made; one each to the science community, to space industry, to space agencies, to policy makers, and finally, to COSPAR.