US: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are preparing for the deployment of nearly three dozen tiny satellites from the orbiting lab over the coming weeks. The spaceflyers have been installing special equipment that will launch 33 cubesats from the space station this month, with the first round of ejections scheduled for Feb 6. "We believe this will be a world-record deployment, of the number of satellites in one deployment," said Michael Johnson, chief technology officer of the space-hardware firm NanoRacks. NanoRacks helps organise and integrate some research activites aboard the space station. The company built eight new deployers that will launch the 33 cubesats.
Twenty-eight of the 33 cubesats were built by the San Francisco-based company Planet Labs. Together, these spacecraft make up Flock 1, which Planet Labs says will be the world's biggest constellation of Earth-imaging satellites. Flock 1 is designed to deliver frequent, low-cost and high-resolution imagery of Earth that could benefit humanity in a number of ways, such as monitoring deforestation and tracking natural disasters.