Cracker-sized satellites launch into orbit

Apr 25, 2014 by Anne Ju
Cracker-sized satellites launch into orbit
"Sprite" mini satellites that are now in orbit. Credit: Zac Manchester

(Phys.org) —After years of planning and several last-minute delays, about 100 Cornell-developed mini satellites demonstrating space flight at its simplest have launched into orbit and are now circling Earth.

With just a laptop, antenna and a few other basics, enthusiasts can listen for signals sent by the cracker-sized "" that launched April 18 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as part of NASA's CRS-3 mission. Still inside their mothership craft, the sprites are scheduled to deploy on May 4 to become the smallest free-flying spacecraft.

The project is called KickSat and has been led by Zac Manchester '09, now a graduate student in aerospace engineering, since he was an undergraduate doing research with Mason Peck, associate professor of mechanical and .

Sprites are satellites stripped down to their most basic components: a microcontroller, transceiver and solar cells for power. Manchester took to Kickstarter in 2011 to see if amateur space enthusiasts would help fund the project.

More than 300 people sponsored KickSat and were allowed to transmit whatever signal they wanted from it – for example, their initials or a message to a loved one. The KickSat housing is engraved with the sponsors' names.

Cracker-sized satellites launch into orbit
Zac Manchester '09 with the Falcon 9 rocket before its launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla. Credit: Zac Manchester

The sprites are housed inside a CubeSat, which is a small satellite frequently used in space research. The CubeSat is aboard a capsule that separates from the shuttle, which continues to the International Space Station. The KickSat CubeSat is second in line to deploy. (Other research missions are aboard.)

The big event – when the sprites leave the spacecraft and begin transmitting signals – will be the afternoon of May 4 (subject to change).

Manchester has been updating his Kickstarter blog with mission information.

"After a beautiful launch at 3:25 this afternoon [April 18], KickSat was deployed in low Earth orbit. We at Cornell and several amateur radio operators around the world have made contact with the spacecraft, and it is alive and well. I can't thank all of you enough for your tremendous support over the past two years. Thank you for believing in KickSat!"

Explore further: KickSat nearing launch date despite another delay

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User comments : 4

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Returners
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 25, 2014
Why not add 3 tiny fly-wheels, one on each axis, to allow them to orient themselves?

Also, couldn't you put a very small, retractable solar sail on each of them, so they can modify their own orbits with no fuel cost?

Those two modifications seem relatively rudimentary, so It's a wonder to me why they weren't done.
Uncle Ira
3 / 5 (4) Apr 25, 2014
Those two modifications seem relatively rudimentary, so It's a wonder to me why they weren't done.


It is the wonderment for you because you aren't the real scientist man like the Manchester-Skippy in the picture. When you get to putting together the Returnering-Skippy space satellite then you can put some wheels on it.
Returners
1 / 5 (3) Apr 26, 2014
It is the wonderment for you because you aren't the real scientist man like the Manchester-Skippy in the picture. When you get to putting together the Returnering-Skippy space satellite then you can put some wheels on it.


See, an enthusiastic amateur would have done a better job, because we think of things which are not only "cool" but functional.

He was thinking too rigid, and failed to explore available options for maximum functionality.
Uncle Ira
4.5 / 5 (2) Apr 26, 2014
@ Okayeei Returnering-Skippy. When I hear of somebody getting their cracker satallite ready I'll tell them that they just might want to check with the Returnering-Skippy to make sure they don't forget to put the wheels on it or something like that.

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