A nanosatellite (or “nanosat”) is a sub-group of the small satellite classification. A small satellite is an artificial satellite of low mass and size, less than 500 kg.
Nanosatellites has a wet mass of 1-10 kg, and can be used in space individually or to support larger constellations. Initially conceived for academic use, this satellite design is being increasingly adopted by the industry as a low-cost alternative to remote sensing. Most nanosatellites are designed for operation in low Earth orbit, but agencies are studying ways to use nanosatellites for deep-space missions. Rather than relying on specialized parts that siphon resources into research and development, nanosatellite construction often elects to leverage commercial off the shelf components (COTS). This compact and cost-effective model enables frequent technology updates as compared to more conventional time- and resources-intensive spacecraft. So although nano is a bit of a misnomer — nanosatellites are not necessarily one-billionth the size of a traditional satellite — their orders of magnitude smaller scale does enable orders of magnitude faster rates of technological upgrades.
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- GeoSpatial World; “What are nanosatellites and why do they matter?” Ishveena Singh. 17 Oct 2016.