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`Picosatellites` test microrelays and wireless networks

01 March, 2000

`Picosatellites` test microrelays and wireless networks

Two emerging industrial technologies have been tested in orbit in a pair of miniature satellites, not much larger than a cigarette pack.

The "picosatellites", launched on a US Air Force rocket in January and released in ealy February, incorporate micromachined silicon relays and wireless integrated sensors. The satellites are the smallest ever to be placed in orbit. Each weighs less than 250 grammes and measures just 10cm by 7.6cm by 2.5cm.

Part of their role is to gauge the reliability of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) in space. The satellites have also been testing a networking system based on low-cost, digital, cordless telephone technology.

The system was derived from a technology known as wireless integrated networked sensors (Wins) that Rockwell is developing to link automation components without using wires. The Wins technology was used to network the two satellites with each other and with the ground.

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