NASA has been looking at a series of small science and earth science missions using NanoSats and the potential for lunar missions using CubeSats. The Early Explorer, Vanguard and pioneer spacecraft were all built and flown under the 100 Lb. threshold. NASA STMD has been funding small and NanoSat missions. Small satellites, including CubeSats, are playing an increasingly larger role in exploration, technology demonstration, scientific research and educational investigations at NASA. These miniature satellites provide a low-cost platform for NASA missions, including planetary space exploration; Earth observations; fundamental Earth and space science; and developing precursor science instruments like cutting-edge laser communications, satellite-to-satellite communications and autonomous movement capabilities. They also allow educators an inexpensive means to engage students in all phases of satellite development, operation and exploitation through real-world, hands-on research and development experience on NASA-funded rideshare launch opportunities.
DoD has recognized military utility to payloads at or below 700 lbs and has funded several 150 lb class payloads. DoD views applications to launch small dedicated comms, timing, comms photo recon, weather. A number of small satellite constellations for commercial applications have been proposed including OneWeb, Planetlabs, UrtheCast and technical growth will allow service to existing customers such as ORBComm, Iridium and Globalstar.