posted on Jun, 10 2009 @ 04:20 PM
Actually, either NASA or the US Air Force will launch your amateur (non-commercial) micro-satellite for you for next-to-free as a piggyback ride.
This technique was pioneered by the Amsat community.
Small satellites can ride piggyback because most rockets provide excess thrust for the mass of a typical satellite and for its desired orbit. So dead
weight ballast is added. The OSCAR I group convinced the Air Force in 1961 to carry OSCAR I instead of this ballast for one of its Discovery satellite
launches. A release mechanism freed the craft once the final stage reaches the proper orbit.
The hitch is, as they put it in the ballast, your micro-satellite is considered expendable junk if something needs to be jettisoned prematurely.
Today, it is such a common practice that there is even a website that helps you hook up with a launch to piggyback on according to date of launch,
altitude and orbital state vectors.
I will post the link when I get home to my daughter's laptop that has the info (after reading about a 5th grade class in Australia that did this a
few years back, she decided to do the same for her Science Project next year...so she has all the notes on how to do this).