(NBCNEWS) — SAN FRANCISCO — Someday, swarms of satellites the size of a tissue box will be snapping pictures, taking environmental readings and broadcasting messages from orbit — but the entities controlling those satellites won’t be governments.

Instead, they’ll be hard-core hobbyists and elementary-school students, entrepreneurs and hacktivists. In short, anyone who can afford a few hundred dollars to send something to the final frontier.

The technology for this outer-space revolution already exists: It’s a type of satellite known as a CubeSat, which measures just 4 inches (10 centimeters) on a side. The CubeSat phenomenon started out as an educational experiment, but now it’s turning into a crowdsourcing, crowdfunding movement of Kickstarter proportions. And not even the sky is the limit.

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