Tag Archives: Kicksat

DIY Space: Do You Have Room in Your Life for PocketSpacecraft?

First Earth, then the moon, and finally, the Universe! Are you thinking what I’m thinking Pinky? Image from PocketSpacecraft.com.

“If at first you don’t succeed…”–this is the spirit that is guiding the people conducting the activities at PocketSpacecraft.com.  They originally tried to get their “Mission to the Moon” project funded last year with Kickstarter, but didn’t get the funding level required there. The Mission to the Moon would’ve given lots of people the opportunity to send their very own spacecraft to the moon.  Exciting, right? Except that the money didn’t come in. Such a situation might have discouraged a few people.  And yet, here they are at PocketSpacecraft, still attempting to get more people to become crazy about space operations.

One of the lessons a person learns early in life is that while failures are unpleasant, the way someone reacts to that failure says a lot about the character and ethic driving that person. Instead of taking the easy way out by throwing up hands and walking away, huddling in the corner to cry, or just throwing a tantrum and then just sitting there blaming everyone else, there’s a lot to be said for that anguished shout, that hysterical laugh, or that resigned shrug which is then followed by tenaciously trying to keep a project and people moving towards success.

The latter seems to be the defining characteristic of the people behind PocketSpacecraft.com.  Not only are they carrying on their mission as if nothing kicked them in the guts with Kickstarter, they’re still pursuing the Mission to the Moon, and they’d like your help, moneywise. There are all sorts of funding levels they’ve listed on their site, here (near the bottom of the page). But the fun really begins at the 99 GBP (Pounds Sterling) funding level, where an “Earth Scout” spacecraft is launched into the Earth’s orbit, then attempts to land back on Earth.

The highest level of 5000 GBP is no longer available, but for a mere 1 GBP less, you could gain the title of “Rocket Scientist” with all the perks that entails.  Those would be delivered sometime in December 2014. Of course, an interested individual can start for as little as 9 GBP.  But you won’t get your very own spacecraft.  Any old how, at worst, you’ll just have “a universe” of fun.


KickSat Kicks the Bucket

No Kicksat

According to update #73 on the KickSat Kickstarter page, KickSat is no more.  The nanosatellite had experienced a single event upset (SEU) and the Watchdog Timer reset (those terms are explained in this article, here).  The result of those two events was a reset of a crucial timer that was supposed to release the smaller “sprite” satellites into orbit.

Because of that reset timer, the “carrier” satellite, KickSat, re-entered and burned up in the atmosphere on 13 May before any of the 104 sprite satellites were released.  But the good news is it might have been the least expensive satellite failure in history.  KickSat’s Kickstarter campaign raised nearly $75,000 to launch KickSat and deploy the sprite satellites.  The amount was more than double KickSat’s KickStarter goal of $30,000.

Instead of giving up, the founder of KickSat, Zachary Manchester, has indicated there will be a KickSat 2.  When that will be constructed and launched is to be seen.  But at least he’s learning both about robust spacecraft design and space operations, and at a less expensive rate than some of the bigger satellite builders.  It will be interesting to see the changes and optimizations he’s made to KickSat 2.

A SmallSat/MicroSat Drama Unfolding Above The Earth


It seems there’s a potential setback for the Maker satellite movement above our heads:  the Kicksat cube satellite is experiencing difficulties.  According to a May 3 update on Kicksat’s website, the Kicksat’s watchdog timer experienced a hard reset.  The watchdog timer is a sort of failsafe all satellites have on-board.  It’s meant to protect the spacecraft and get critical systems of the satellite’s “bus” (go here to learn more about the bus) on-line without needing external commands.

Unfortunately for Kicksat, the timer also reset the master clock, which means all 104 of the much smaller “sprite” satellites it was supposed to deploy this week, won’t.  They will now deploy on 16 May–which is a problem.  Kicksat believe their satellite will reenter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up prior to the 16th.  It’s not the most expensive “fireworks” display to ever happen above the Earth, but it’s a little disheartening.

Most satellites have a communications link with the ground, to verify resets, send new commands, etc.  Kicksat also has this, however the “uplink radio” (the radio to receive commands) on the satellite requires a certain amount of power–and there isn’t enough for it to power on right now.  Kicksat’s founder seems to think there’s a possibility of a power build-up to power the receiver before Kicksat reentry.  That might be the best bet.

There are some unknowns with this that Kicksat is wrestling with.  But it’s all a part of learning.  And what Kicksat just learned is sometimes radiation, which is what they suspect triggered the reset, can be unhelpful during satellite operations.  What Kicksat is experiencing is a small part of what satellite operators have dealt with for years.  It sounds like what occurred is similar to a single event upset (SEU) affecting the watchdog timer.  But the beauty of Kicksat is the satellite very inexpensive–especially the sprites.  This means they could try this again, but this time using what they learned to create a robust communications link.  Or to perhaps not link the clock reset to a watchdog timer reset.

Of course, something else will go wrong…but they will overcome that, too.