"CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?"
Australian company Sky and Space Global successfully executed the first voice phone call by means of a nanosatellite (a very small satellite).
Back in June Sky and Space Global sent three nanosatellites, aka the 3 Diamonds, into orbit around Earth. These nanosatellites (nanosats) are tiny compared to most satellites, weighing between 2 to 22 pounds. On September 22, 2017 the company successfully made a phone call via these tiny satellites. This is the first time a nanosat has been successfully used in this way.
Sky and Space Global wants to eventually have a network of around 200 nanosatellites orbiting Earth. Why? To provide better and more affordable phone services, especially to people who live in more remote areas, such as islands or deserts.
NASA: View of three cube satellites (Cubesats), or nanosatellites, shortly after deployment. Image was released by astronaut on Twitter.
Not only was the company able to perform a one minute voice call, but they also successfully sent text messages and images. Nanosatellites are so much cheaper to make and now that they are able to perform these tasks, we could see smart phone-esque services via satellites becoming commercialized in the near future. Using one of Sky and Space Global's nanosats to use apps like WhatsApp or send voice messages would require another device, similar to a wifi router. There are other companies out there who provide phone services through their satellites, but they do not use nanosats and their devices are expensive. Sky and Space Global said they have developed a much more inexpensive device to connect to their satellites, and would be able to lower prices even further because nanosats are so substantially cheaper to create than the larger satellites currently in space. According to Space.com, these nanosats can receive and transmit data from one another over 1,200 miles apart.
In addition to phone services, nanosats could be useful for requests of updated satallite images. There are hundreds of satellites already orbiting and taking photos of the Earth, but there are many images that haven't been updated. Nanosats could be used to quickly and much more cheaply capture up to date images for commercial or academic requests, perhaps even for military or security requests.