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One of the potential uses for chipsats may be:

Chipsats, which are smaller and cheaper still, are seen as disposable sensors that could be sent on suicide missions to explore hostile environments, such as Saturn’s rings.

It sounds sensible: currently, only near the end of life (such as currently with Cassini) do scientists dare to make measurements that are risky or suicidal. But with cheap, disposable chipsats in the hold of an interplanetary spacecraft, one could push some into the atmosphere of the giant planets or other hostile environments. Although the science payload would be naturally limited, they could provide valuable data where no other in-situ measurements are available.

Are there any concrete plans to bring chipsats along on interplanetary space exploration missions? By concrete plans, I mean chipsats as part of proposals that are under formal consideration by space agencies.

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  • $\begingroup$ The distance of Saturn to Sun is 9 to 10 times the distance of Earth to Sun. A chipsat that has enough energy in an Earth orbit gets only 1/81 to 1/100 of solar light intensity in a Saturn orbit. $\endgroup$ – Uwe May 16 '17 at 19:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Uwe So it will use a battery instead, either charged by the "mothership" or charged before launch. There's a lot of work going on for battery miniaturisation and a chipsat will only need very little power for a short time. Or do you think a battery-powered chipsat will not work? $\endgroup$ – gerrit May 16 '17 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ A battery powered chipsat should have enough energy for some hours to days of operation and for data transmission to the spacecraft. The data rate should be high enough to transmit all measurement data in real time without intermediate storage. A suicidal mission should not end with a lot of unsent measurement data left on a non functional chipsat. A small chipsat without attitude control and without a large directional antenna needs more power for the transmitter to acheive a data rate suitable for the measurment data. $\endgroup$ – Uwe May 16 '17 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Uwe I'm sure there are lots of important aspects to work out in detail, as you rightly illustrate! $\endgroup$ – gerrit May 16 '17 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ I think the term "disposable" applies to nearly all Earth satellites to date. ;) $\endgroup$ – uhoh May 16 '17 at 23:25

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