NASA 'smallsats' swarm will help space agency study Earth's weather

NASA is set to launch a swarm of small satellites into Earth's orbit, enabling the space agency to study our planet's climate as it changes, as well as the weather patterns that result from that. These small satellites are, appropriately enough, called 'smallsats,' and they're described as being 'next-gen' versions of this technology. The space agency detailed the smallsats yesterday during a conference, and plans to release them into orbit in the upcoming months.

Smallsats are beneficial for numerous reasons, one of the more obvious reasons being their reduced cost. By keeping costs down, NASA is able to conduct necessary research while staying within budget. These small satellites also enable researchers outside the space agency to conduct their own research, as well as test out new technologies without taking on substantial costs.

It seems NASA plans to release these smallsats in small clusters as part of dedicated missions. In the mission taking place in December, for example, NASA will use the satellites to study the regions of Earth that are most prone to hurricanes, helping develop prediction technologies and more. NASA will do something similar in areas prone to tropical cyclones.

Another NASA mission — dubbed the Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes mission — will use several CubeSats to study the effects of greenhouse gases around the globe and obviously help shed light on climate change. Additional missions may take place using similar technologies in the future, though it's not clear whether any other specific missions are currently in the pipeline.