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Satlets, a new system for assembling satellites in space, could revolutionize the way we design spacecrafts. NovaWurks

Satlets — the latest technology to break the surface in spacecraft design — is gearing up for its first test launch on Wednesday. This technology designed by California-based startup NovaWurks could change spacecraft design as we know it.

The NASA-sponsored mission called "Satlet Initial Proofs and Lessons" is set to test this revolutionary technology on the International Space Station (ISS). This technology aims at making individual parts of a satellite that can be fixed together on land or in space like two lego blocks snapping together to form a fully functioning satellite.

According to a report by, these Hyper-Integrated Satlets (HISats) are identical in weight. They each weigh seven kilograms and can be used to make an entire spacecraft. The team is looking to create individual parts that can perform functions like communications, pointing, power, data processing and propulsion.

Further, the company wants to create a design where any number of HISats can be snapped together like legos, powered up and used as a satellite. The HISats measure 20 by 20 by 10 centimeters and snap together like legos, to their payloads on Earth or in orbit, said the report. A software runs the entire system and makes sure each piece performs the role it has been designed for.

This technology can be very useful when one HISat subsystem begins to fail. The software ensures that another subsystem capable of similar function can help until the defected subsystem is replaced. According to the report, astronauts onboard the ISS plan to link NovaWurks’ spacecraft building blocks in the first on-orbit test of a radically new approach to satellite design and manufacturing.

The technology modifies the way spacecraft parts sync with each other. The traditional rectangular bus component fitting system that companies have used for decades was replaced with 20 by 20 by 10 centimeters cubes that just fit together.

“For 50 to 60 years, we’ve built satellites as monolithic entities,” Barnhart said. “If we can now build something that is held together by cells that can actually function like a satellite, that’s a huge deal.”

The idea was birthed when Talbot Jaeger, founder and chief technologist of Novawurks, based in Los Alamitos, California, came up with a new way for satellite construction while contemplating the wonders of biological stem cells. According to the report, “the architecture comes alive as it starts to grow; it creates an organism you can’t defeat.”

The spacecraft created by assembling satlets will eventually take-off after years of development and ground testing plus two years of storage on the ISS. The team from NovaWurks and their partners are eagerly waiting for the first on-orbit demonstration of the technology.

On Wednesday, astronauts will assemble a small satellite on the ISS by snapping together the six HISats which are on-board and two deployable solar arrays. Then the newly constructed satellite will be launched Friday, using the NanoRacks Kaber Microsatellite Deployer, providing a key test of how well the HISats function as a single unit.

According to the report, teams from Stanford University and NASA’s Langley Research Center will be among the first to test the tools that NovaWurks is developing. They plan on measuring the radiation exposure of airline crews and passengers with a sensor packaged called Rapid Response Radiation Survey.

“The conformal satellite platform allowed us to rapidly integrate a reasonably complex experiment,” Nathanael Miller, a NASA aerospace technologist and mission developer, said in the report with the team describing the technology as “a plug-and-play system for satellites.”