We all know the saying that there is strength in numbers. The next revolution in space technology could be the use of swarms of tiny spacecraft, called CubeSats, that work together to achieve things greater than what any lone spacecraft can. CubeSats, assemble!
Member State delegations pledged a record-breaking €16.9 billion budget for ESA at last week's Council at Ministerial Level in Paris, including renewed support for dedicated R&D programmes employed by ESA’s Directorate of Technology, Engineering and Quality to invent the future in space.
These technologies can be protected as patents, which ESA makes available to entities in its Member States for research or commercial uses. But there is a long way to go before a patent becomes a product.
Part of the Agency’s Materials and Electrical Components Laboratory , based at ESA’s ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands, this test facility is vital for developing materials capable of withstanding the highly-erosive individual oxygen atoms prevailing at the top of the atmosphere, the result of standard oxygen molecules of the same kind found just above the ground being broken apart by powerful ultraviolet radiation from the Sun.