January 26, 2012, Updated September 11, 2012

Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology are in advanced stages of the development of three new satellites that will operate together in space. The university plans to launch the nano-satellites – weighing just six kg each – to orbit earth at an altitude of 600 km for one year.

“This is the first time ever that an attempt will be made to launch three satellites, which will fly together in a unified formation,” Project head Pini Gurfil told the Hebrew daily, Ma’ariv.

Gurfil – a professor at the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering — received a $2.1-million grant from the European Research Council last June to develop Disaggregated Spacecraft Architectures (DSA), a method for launching satellites in separate components.

“A launching of this kind has not been possible until now due to the size and weight of the satellites and other problems,” Gurfil said.

Once in orbit, the satellites could serve numerous purposes. They could pinpoint people showing signs of distress and can be used for communication purposes during emergencies.

Israel Defense reports that the nano-satellites can also serve military objectives and photograph targets in space to “increase the area or scanning band for photographic targets or rear examination.”

The trio of satellites could also help conduct surveillance of birds’ migratory patterns across the globe.

The researchers say the experiment, if successful, would assist in the future development of miniature satellites and technologies that aim to miniaturize electronic apparatus for civilian applications.

The project will be officially inaugurated at the Science and Technology Ministry’s International Ilan Ramon Memorial Space Conference at the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies in Herzliya next week. Technion scientists say they hope to launch the three nano-satellites by 2015.

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