Zachary Manchester

World’s smallest satellites launched in quest to reach nearby stars

Breakthrough Starshot, a $100 million program to launch robotic interstellar missions, has sent into orbit the smallest-ever satellitesScientific American reports. The six prototypes, dubbed Sprites, weigh only 4 grams and contain solar panels, computers, sensors, and radios on a surface equal to that of a U.S. postage stamp. Developed by researchers at Cornell University and transported into space as secondary payloads on a rocket built by the Europe-based company OHB System AG, the nanosatellites are being tested for electronics and communication performance in orbit. The Breakthrough Starshot mission aims to show that Sprites could one day become light-propelled spacecraft that would fly at 20% of light speed and reach Alpha Centauri, our nearest star system, in just over 20 years.