LOGAN – If you have driven 400 North this past week you have probably noticed the blue banners hanging along the street. The banners are to welcome rocket scientists and entrepreneurs from all over the world to the Small Satellite Conference, which has been held annually at Utah State University for the past 28 years.
The conference focuses on all aspects of small satellites. It started Saturday Aug. 2 and runs through Thursday Aug. 7, and was bigger this year than it has ever been. It drew more than 1,400 people from 33 different countries who represent about 430 different organizations, including commercial businesses, academic organizations and government organizations such as NASA.
“It is no coincidence that this conference, which is the largest small satellite conference in the world, is hosted at Utah State University,” said Eric Warren, who does public relations for the event. “Utah State University is at the cutting edge of small satellite technology believe it or not. We are recognized as among the world leaders in developing and sustaining this technology.”
A major purpose of the conference is to give businesses and other organizations ideas and methods to utilize satellites in an affordable way. According to Warren, large satellites are very expensive, complex and can take years to build. Small satellites can be built in a fraction of the time, for a fraction of the cost and are normally focused on doing very specific things.
“For a farmer, he might not need the amount of resolution that these very sophisticated cameras can give you in space,” he said. “He might not need that amount of data. He needs to know where water might be around his farm.”
All parts of the small satellite industry were represented at the conference. It included everything from companies that specialize in developing and building the satellites along with companies that specialize in collecting data from them once in orbit.
Chris Flood, an engineer, came to the conference to represent Planetary Systems Corporation, a company from Silver Spring, Md. that specializes in separation systems: systems that detach the satellite from the rocket or the space station and into orbit. Flood used his booth to demonstrate the separation system.
“There’s a DC motor that operates a latch and that allows a door to open,” he said. “As soon as the door opens, it will shoot a payload out.”
As part of the conference, a student competition takes place where engineering students share their ideas and concepts of small satellites. Winning students were awarded scholarships.