According to a recent article in Science, 132 CubeSats were launched in 2014. The original 1U CubeSat, designed in 1999, was a 10 cm cube weighing less than a kilogram. They could be launched on Russian rockets for about $30,000. NASA has a program called the CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) which provides opportunities for nanosatellites to fly inexpensively as auxiliary payloads on rockets supporting major missions. Currently they can be launched for about $100,000. The economics of these small satellites is so compelling that there is talk of a constellation of CubeSats replacing Landsat 8, which was launched in 2013 at a cost of $855 million. CubeSats are not restricted to low Earth orbit. It is planned to launch 6U CubeSats into orbits around Mars next year. The more generic terms for these satellites is nanosatellites for satellites weighing less than a kilogram and microsatellites for satellites up to 100 kg.
The company was formed in 2010 under a different name. In April 2013 Planet Labs launched two demonstration satellites, “Dove 1” and “Dove 2”. Planet Labs has launched Flock 1 comprised of 28 CubeSats for Earth observation at an altitude of 400 km. The satellites are intended to provide frequent snapshots of the planet at a resolution of about 5 m, allowing users to track changes such as traffic jams, deforestation, construction progress in close to real time. The primary applications right now are agriculture - monitoring crop productivity, environmental compliance - monitoring restoration after mining, and commercial mapping - identifying new developments that require mapping.
Skybox Imaging, acquired by Google, has launched the SkySat-1 and SkySat-2 satellites (each larger than nanosatellites at about 100 kg) which capture sub-meter imagery and HD-video of any spot on earth, multiple times per day to provide timely high-resolution imagery, HD video, and analytics. First imagery can be seen here.
In November 2013 two nanosatellites, NanoSatisfi's ArduSat 1 and ArduSat X, supported by Kickstarter crowdfunding were placed in orbit from the International Space Station . NanoSatisfi has since been renamed. Spire Global Inc, has launched 4 out of more than 50 planned remote sensing cubesats into orbit at altitudes of 500–600 km. Spire's remote sensing satellites range from cubesat 1U to 3U and are built with Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) components wherever possible to lower costs.
MarketsandMarkets has released a report entitled Nanosatellite and Microsatellite Market [Geographic Information system, Payload, Space Science, Satellite Communication, Satellite Imagery, Remote Sensing, Scientific Research, Reconnaissance, Satellite Launch] - Worldwide Market Forecast (2014 - 2019) in which it attempts to quantify the nano and microsatellite market. Nano and microsatellites includes satellites that weigh about 100 kg (such as the Skybox satellites) and less. According to MarketsandMarkets commercial as well as private ventures have started investing to capitalize on the opportunities presented through low-cost small satellite missions related to communication, earth-observation, remote-sensing, and many others. Integration of commercial-off-the-shelf electronic circuits is accelerating the demand for small satellites. MarketsandMarkets forecasts that the market for nanosatellites and microsatellites will grow at a rate (CAGR) of 21.8% per year from $700 million in 2014 to $1.9 billion in 2019.