The big deal about SmallSats - Orbit 11.32


Emory Stagmer (@VAXHeadroom) and Craig Elder join us in studio to talk about the recent SmallSat conference and what the big deal about small satellites actually is.

Launch Minute

  • Delta 4 Heavy Launches Parker Solar Probe

Space News

  • NANODIAMONDS in space
  • Cosmonauts play “Toss the CubeSat”
  • Earth material more common than we thought



Interview / Emory Stagmer and Craig Elder.
Wonderful guests. Interviewing these two must be easy, because they both seem to be great at conveying their story, are approachable, and have a lot of things to say.

Interview / Cubesats.
There are various Amateur Radio cubesats up there. It was interesting to listen to Emory and Craig, because I know a little bit about the Amateur Radio ones, and have even bounced transmission off one to other Ham Radio listeners. Want to see what these look like? Look up the AMSAT organization, and find links such as Meet The Fox Project – AMSAT-NA (to see a picture of an Amateur Radio cubesat) or Communications Satellites – AMSAT-NA (to see a broader list). Little of this aspect of Amateur Radio would be possible without cubesats and this interesting new method of ridesharing on various launchers.

Launch Minute / Delta 4 Heavy Launches Parker Solar Probe.
The record highest-speed aspect of Parker Solar Probe might have been mis-conveyed in News. The record high speed will occur at Perihelion (when closest to the Sun) and not anywhere near launch-time nor Earth escape (can you tell I play Kerbal?).

Can’t wait to see SpaceMike try to squeeze SpaceX DM1 or DM2 into 60 seconds :-).

Space News / Cosmonauts play “Toss the CubeSat”
I know a college student who did cubesat design as a senior project. Cubesats include onboard permanent magnents which quickly align the cubesat with the magnetic field of the Earth. So when we see the cubesat flailing about and rotating after a Cosmonaut manually throwing it, don’t worry, it will quickly stop rotating and settle down into a happy orientation.

Space News / Very good news segment!
Weaving discussion/comments/questions into the news is absolutely great, as it compels better understanding, immediate awareness of details and citizen interaction, and keeps your audience from blinking. This new approach is much better than the co-host just wrapping things up by saying “awesome story”. Interaction like what you did strengthens the topic and the delivery. Do more of this.

What is the preferred way for citizens to contribute during News?

This was a great episode! Thank you.


They were talking about landing a cubesat on the moon, and how hard it would be. It would probably be harder than landing on Mars because with Mars you can have the atmosphere to slow you down using parachutes.

Just curious as to what speeds that need to be dealt with when a cube sat hits the Moon surface. and how would you deploy a cubesat to the Moon? i guess from Moon orbit ?

PS : Internet says Luna orbit velocity is “In a theoretical circular orbit at an altitude of 30 km the orbital speed would be 1.67 km/s” What is the lowest possible stable lunar orbit? : askscience

So to land a cube sat safely, you need enough propellant to cancel that and counteract the Luna gravity. Ie you really need a small Luna Lander.


Indeed but the idea floated was to have a larger cubsat covered in airbags. the airbags and outer cubes designed to crush and absorb energy on ‘arival’. i see little reson why the outer cube sats couldn’t hold some ‘fuel’ to power the thursters … thrusting with something inert so any ‘fuel’ dregs in the outer cubes dont ignite on impact.


Dont think the airbag idea will work… since that is only for the last stage of the mars landing. ie ablative heat shield, parachutes, powered slowing THEN airbags…

I think for Luna you need fully powered luna landing module…


any thing would help and gas comression in side a confined space would certainly help spread the load of impact more uniformly across the crush zone… powerd landing = fuel should be possible but using air bag and crush zone would meen a higher impact speed therfore less fuel. i guess it boils down to which is lighter crush zones etc or fuel.


Near 1:08:30 of this episode posted on YouTube, Lisa reads the comment from RyanBlockb5 suggesting to use Kerbal Space Program to visualize launches. For some time now, I have benefited from watching Lukas of KNews.Space and his periodic reports of launches. He uses KSP and other well-formed graphics in an excellent way to visualize what is going on. Make sure to watch more than one of his videos; they are all very good. Take a look at: (and possibly also consider helping him).