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Nano Spacecraft Under Development, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

In April 2016, a project called Breakthrough Starshot was announced which hopes to develop a nanocraft the size of a cellphone that could fly at 20% the speed of light (more than 1,000 times faster than today’s rockets and shuttles).  Backed by a board of directors that includes internet investor Yuri Milner, cosmologist Stephen Hawking and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the $130 million project hopes to send nanocraft to the Alpha Centauri star system, which is about 40 trillion kilometers from Earth as soon as 2046.  NASA’s Ames Research Centre is also involved in the project.

The nanocraft will be small vehicles that carry cameras and communication equipment to send data back to Earth.  The craft is expected to resemble a tiny smartchip-sized probe attached to a thin, lightweight fabric sail of about 3.5 meters in width.  Although many challenges are ahead, including the engineering of the nanocraft, billions of dollars in additional funding and myriad other obstacles involved, the concept is being taken seriously by many observers.



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