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  KickSat: Your personal spacecraft in space

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Author Topic:   KickSat: Your personal spacecraft in space
Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 30714
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-27-2011 09:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Kickstarter project
KickSat – Your personal spacecraft in space!
Open Hardware project Zachary Manchester

Would you like to have your own spacecraft in space?

I'm Zac Manchester, a graduate student in Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University. Over the last several years a few collaborators and I have designed, built, and tested a very tiny and inexpensive spacecraft called Sprite that can be built and launched into low Earth orbit for just a few hundred dollars each!

The Big Picture

My goal is to bring down the huge cost of spaceflight, allowing anyone from a curious high school student or basement tinkerer to a professional scientist to explore what has until now been the exclusive realm of governments and large companies. By shrinking the spacecraft, we can fit more into a single launch slot and split the costs many ways. I want to make it easy enough and affordable enough for anyone to explore space.

You can find out more about the Sprite concept here and from the following articles: Popular Science, Discovery News, IEEE Spectrum and Centauri Dreams.

Sprites are the size of a couple of postage stamps but have solar cells, a radio transceiver, and a microcontroller (tiny computer) with memory and sensors - many of the capabilities a bigger spacecraft would have, just scaled down. This first version can't do much more than transmit its name and a few bits of data — think of it as a shrunken down Sputnik — but future versions could include any type of sensor that will fit, from thermometers to cameras.

KickSat is a CubeSat - a standardized small satellite that we can easily launch. It is designed to carry hundreds or even thousands of Sprites into space and deploy them in low Earth orbit. The Sprites will be housed inside KickSat in several spring-loaded stacks and held in place by a lid. A radio signal transmitted from our ground station will command the lid to open, releasing the Sprites as free-flying spacecraft.

The Mission

After the Sprites are deployed from KickSat, we will track them and record their radio signals using a worldwide network of amateur ground stations to demonstrate their communication capabilities. We will also gather data on how long the Sprites stay in orbit and how well their electronics hold up in the harsh space environment.

Because we will only launch KickSat into a low-altitude orbit, we can guarantee that all of the Sprites will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere within a few days or weeks, leaving no trace of space debris. KickSat itself will last somewhat longer, but should burn up in the atmosphere within a few months.

Read more about Kicksat and how to get your own replica Sprite spacecraft as a souvenir: KickSat.org

Rocket Chris
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Posts: 238
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Registered: Nov 2009

posted 10-28-2011 01:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rocket Chris   Click Here to Email Rocket Chris     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That's nice and this idea might change future space flights and low budget missions...

But how do Zac and his team separate each beeping of the Sprite sats? Does every mini sat has his own frequency? No one of these tiny sats has a propulsion. How will they be coordinated after deploy? There will just be a cloud of Sprites and every tiny sprite will beep.

And what is included in the "Own program package"? If the microcontroller is just able to beep your own initials and not a complete message, than it's a little bit sad. But if you're able to greet anyone or just send up a space message and you'll get the recorded loop, than I would join the 1K package...

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 30714
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-28-2011 07:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Rocket Chris:
Does every mini sat has his own frequency?
From a response posted to the KickSat comments page:
The sprites will all transmit at the same frequency in the 70 cm band (around 435 MHz). We're using CDMA (code division multiple access), where each sprite has it's own unique spreading code, rather than transmitting on separate frequencies. Wikipedia has a decent explanation of how this works
quote:
If the microcontroller is just able to beep your own initials and not a complete message...
From the KickSat FAQ:
How many characters can my initials/message be?

Initials/messages are limited to 4 characters.

If I donate enough to receive a developers kit can I really fly my own code?

Yes. I do need to understand what your code does and make sure that it complies with regulations and fits within technical constraints. I will try to work with developers to resolve issues before launch, however, I reserve the right not to fly code for any reason.

Glint
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Posts: 827
From: New Windsor, Maryland USA
Registered: Jan 2004

posted 10-28-2011 03:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is designed to carry hundreds or even thousands of Sprites into space and deploy them in low Earth orbit.
In other words it's like the final frontier for spam, only it's actual space junk hardware in LEO.

Suppose the good thing is that they're guaranteed to re-enter rather quickly.

Guess there's no chance to recover and keep your own personal "flown in space" artifact.

p51
Member

Posts: 1118
From: Olympia, WA, USA
Registered: Sep 2011

posted 10-28-2011 08:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Glint:
Guess there's no chance to recover and keep your own personal "flown in space" artifact.
That is exactly what I was thinking, and I'm sure several others here as well. I think these commercial operators are missing a key business opportunity to somehow make a satellite that will do a few laps of the Earth then come down somewhere they can retrieve it, and people can pay to put their own items in it.

Yes, I know how tough that would be for a private company to assure it will come down and be able to be recovered. I'm just saying if they could, people would spend big bucks to have an item or two thrown up there.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 30714
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-28-2011 09:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Glint:
Guess there's no chance to recover and keep your own personal "flown in space" artifact.
Maybe not... from the KickSat.org comments:
The reentry idea is actually a big part of the research that has gone on with Sprite-sized spacecraft. It turns out that by making the spacecraft very small and thin (slightly smaller than the current Sprite design), they can reenter without getting very hot at all, and can even continue operating and transmitting data all the way through the atmosphere.

There's more information on the idea here and if you want to get into the technical details, check out the paper listed at the bottom of that page, "Length Scaling in Spacecraft Dynamics".

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