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2015-09-15    来源:新东方    【      托福雅思口语高分过

Leaders Satellites Space: the next startup frontier
社论精粹 卫星 太空:下一个

Where nanosats boldly go, new businesses will follow—unless they are smothered with excessiveregulations

AROUND 1,000 operational satellites are circling theEarth, some of them the size and weight of a large car. In the past year they have been joinedby junior offspring: 100 or so small satellites, some of them made up of one or more 10cm (4-inch) cubes. They may be tiny, but each is vastly more capable than Sputnik, the first man-made satellite launched by Russia in 1957. And many more are coming.

Space hardware used to cost so much that it was available only to generals, multinationals andthe most privileged scientists. No more. Many of these nanosats, as small satellites weighing nomore than a few kilograms are called, have been launched for small companies, startups anduniversity departments, sometimes with finance raised on crowdfunding websites. Theirconstruction costs can be down in the tens of thousands of dollars, which makes themthousands of times cheaper than today's big satellites. Admittedly, there is much they cannotdo, but with that sort of price differential, and some ingenious use of the abilities they dohave, they could be surprisingly competitive players on a number of fronts. In the next fiveyears another 1,000 nanosats are expected to be launched.

Two trends are setting up nanosats for further success. Like people working on everythingfrom robots to 3D printers, nanosat builders are harvesting the benefits of ever better, evercheaper components built for smartphones and other consumer electronics. Some nanosatseven contain complete smartphones, making use of the clever operating systems, radios andcameras which phones now contain. For as long as phones go on getting cheaper and morecapable, so will nanosats. The cheapest so far—a tiny chipsat—was assembled for just $25,though it has yet to be successfully launched.

The launch systems too are getting much cheaper. SpaceX, the innovative rocket-makerfounded by Elon Musk, has already brought down the costs of getting into space; it and itscompetitors could reduce them a lot further. The biggest beneficiaries will at first be people whomake big satellites. But more big satellites will mean more opportunities for small satellites topiggy-back on their launches. And some companies are looking at cheap little launch systemstailored specifically to the needs of the nanosatellite. One reason space engineers arenotoriously conservative is that the costs of failure are high. As making and launchingsatellites gets cheaper, it will be ever easier for innovative, risk-taking nanosat-makers to orbitaround the lumbering incumbents.

Size does impose limits. Nanosats cannot peer as closely at the Earth or carry out as manyexperiments as big satellites. But for some jobs that does not matter. The plans thatcompanies already have include using nanosats for monitoring crops, studying the sun andtracking ships and aircraft. Such a system might have been able to track Malaysian Airlinesflight MH370, which went missing in March.

Nano can do
Yet not everyone is thrilled. One worry is that constellations of nanosats will mean a big increasein space junk; but, operating in low-Earth orbit, they burn up on re-entry after a year or so.And being cheap, they can soon be replaced with newer models. A more serious concern is thatthey are a “dual-use” technology: they could be used for military purposes. In America thishas led to onerous restrictions.

Barack Obama's administration has sensibly repealed a law of 1999 that required all satellitesto be licensed by the State Department as munitions under the International Traffic in ArmsRegulations (ITAR). This could mean that most commercial satellites will be removed from ITARby the end of the year and their export administered by the Commerce Department. But somesatellite systems and spacecraft—including anything that can carry people into space—willremain under ITAR.

Care needs to be taken with military kit, but America's regulations still seem excessive. Aregular review to distinguish between systems that pose a real threat and ones that don'twould be a help, as would better intelligence. Tight restrictions on new technologies will notwork, and will damage America's interests: exciting new ventures like nanosats will simply moveto countries from which they can be launched with greater ease.

1.only to 仅仅为了;结果是
例句:They are there only to satisfy their ghoulishcuriosity.
2.a number of 许多;若干
例句:And a number of African countries, too, areslipping through the net.
3.expect to 期许
例句:I do expect to have some time to myself in the evenings.
4.make use of 利用;使用
例句:Not all nursery schools make use of the opportunities open to them.

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