NYTimes has an excellent profile of Planet Labs, a startup that makes low-cost satellites:
These satellites are powered by batteries normally found in a laptop, with semiconductors similar to those in a smartphone. “Nothing here was prequalified to be in space,” Mr. Marshall said. “We bought most of our parts online.”
Planet Labs will not disclose its manufacturing costs, but potential customers who have seen the products think the satellites are approximately 95 percent cheaper than most satellites, a figure Mr. Marshall would neither confirm nor dispute. “We leverage the billions of dollars spent on the consumer mobile phone business” for most of the company’s parts, he said.
Chris Anderson calls this “the peace dividend of the smartphone war.” Across a wide range of sectors, startups are now tackling problems that previously required billions of dollars from governments or multinational corporations.