The scientists need to consider mass, cost, and volume when designing
a satellite. There are numerous instruments that need to be scaled, and
all of the factors mentioned above must be considered.
For instance, if a detector is chosen, the dimensions need to be investigated to determine the final instrument cost. As in the activity, if a dimension is doubled, the mass increases by 2 x 2 x 2, or a factor of 8. In turn, the cost increases in proportion to the mass, which in this case is also a factor of 8.
In addition, any change in the dimensions impacts on the other instruments in the satellite, the labor needed to assemble it, salaries, and the launch vehicle required for the extra mass and size. The IMAGE satellite will require a rocket to launch it. If the satellite's size is quadrupled, it would require the Space Shuttle to launch it. The difference in the launch cost alone is $50 million for the rocket compared to $700 million for the Space Shuttle.
The major constraint on the IMAGE project is cost. The IMAGE satellite must be built, launched, and operated for 1 year at a total cost less than or equal to $60 million. Nearly all of the cost of any mission is in the salaries of the scientists and the engineers needed to manufacture the satellite and the rocket.
In response to the question of why a scientist would want a bigger satellite, it is purely based on the amount of information that is being sought. The IMAGE satellite is designed to provide 2-D images of various phenomena in space. An increase in the dimensions will cause an increase in the size due to the need to acquire more data. Doubling the array size, in turn, quadruples the amount of data it can capture and send down to the scientists on the ground.
However, the question of size is more involved than this. The instruments of the IMAGE satellite, which have been the major focus, are not the only things to consider in satellite design. In terms of scaling, when the size of the instruments double, it does not necessarily mean that the size of the satellite will double. Compared to the overall size of the satellite, the instruments are only a small part of the total size compared to other satellite systems and hardware. The components of the satellite can be scaled independently. Doubling the size of one instrument may not necessarily double the size of the electrical power required to operate it, and so, double the size of the power supply needed to provide the electricity.
Visit the IMAGE Satellite Picture Gallery to view images of the spacecraft.