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Buy your own satellite

At $45,000 it's an Xmas must-have

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Christmas madness has begun in earnest and the silliest thing we've come across so far is the CubeSat. At four inches across and weighing in at about a kilo, this personal mini satellite has to be the ultimate present for the geek who has everything.

The pair responsible for this festive season nonsense, Dale Richards and Robert Twiggs, reckon that at $45,000, their product is a bargain. And given that a normal satellite can cost millions to launch, they are probably right. They plan to launch the satellites on decommissioned Russian missiles.

So, once you have your mini satellite, what would you do with it? Well, say Dale and Robert, you could use it to test microprocessors and other components in space or equip it with sensors and collect data in orbit. Or they could be fun for ham radio operators, who want to bounce messages to each other in space.

The trouble is though that because they are so small, once all the comms equipment is on board, there might not be room for anything else. But why let practicality get in the way of a cool idea?

Twiggs, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford University commented: "Somebody's going to come along and say 'I'd like my own satellite'."

He said the project was similar to the beginning of the Internet. "What could you do with the Internet five years ago?" he said. "And now look at all the applications they've got."

This is not the first foray into the world of mini satellite. It is quite a small niche market, selling mainly to research scientists. Although there is one company that offers to launch the cremated remains of a loved one into orbit. We say: "Hmm." ®

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