A combination of new technologies and economic pressures have spurred the creation of new space enterprises. Current commercial space activities provides capabilities like satellite TV, two-way telecommunication between any two points on the globe, telemedicine, GPS, etc. New space enterprises intend to lower the cost of launch as well as the the cost of small payloads. Modular small satellite designs such as CubeSats are impacting not only education and commercial markets, but also creating new ways to do research.
The Academy is involved in various aspects of nanosatellite design and operation. This ranges from novel methods for launch to performance measurement of solar cells to new satellite instrumentation. The Academy has also been studying strategies and technologiesfor extending robotic and human presence to the outer solar system.