A British company called Surrey Satellite Technology has developed a new nanosatellite that integrates technology from Microsoft’s Xbox 360 Kinect. That Xbox technology allows the nano satellite to dock with another satellite while orbiting the planet. The satellite is called STRaND, which means Surrey Training Research and Nanosatellite Development.
The idea behind the tiny nano satellite is to use traditional consumer technology to build tiny spacecraft. Inside the satellite enclosure is a Google Nexus smartphone. That smartphone will be used as the onboard computer for the satellite. The Xbox 360 Kinect technology would be used to allow the satellites to know where each other is located and to dock with each other. Apparently, docking systems aren’t traditionally used on such small and low-cost satellite missions but the satellite builder wants to give it a shot.
If the technology works, the upside would be that smaller satellites can be launched in stages to connect themselves together and build larger satellites with more functionality. Presumably, by taking a staged approach to building a larger satellite in orbit, it would be cheaper to launch. It would also allow satellites to be upgraded over time by launching new modules with new features that are able to dock themselves with no input from an astronaut. The satellite is smaller than a shoebox and costs hundreds of thousands of pounds and according to the company rather than the millions of pounds a traditional satellite costs.