Zac Manchester an Aerospace Engineering graduate student from Cornell University is developing a low Earth Orbit, inexpensive personal spacecraft called KickSat which is possibly the smallest spacecraft ever to be developed.
KickSat is the mother ship which is 30cm long and comprises of three 10cm (4in) cubed units known as Cubesats. One of the Cubesats will consist of the control system, while the remaining two will contain 200 smaller satellites called “Sprites”. These Sprites are roughly the size of a couple of postage stamps and function through solar power. As a result it is crucial that they are orientated towards the sun when released in order for them to work. Kicksat will be launched as a “piggyback” back payload alongside another satellite and once realised into orbit, the sprites will be ejected.
Once in orbit, each Sprite will transmit a unique identification code which can be picked up by receivers on the ground. Therefore for anyone who has a ground station, they will be able to track their own personal spacecraft as it orbits space.
“I’d like to think of it as the people’s satellite,” says Manchester. “We’re pushing towards a personal satellite, where you can afford to put your own thing in space.”
Back in 2011 Manchester raised funding through a crowd funding website Kickstarter with supporters who donated $300 or more being allocated a Sprite to call their own, $1,000 or more receiving a Sprite development kit, including a fully functioning Sprite and $5,000 or more receiving a tour of the Mission Control in Ithaca with the chance to watch the Sprites be deployed. Alternatively for those who donated less than $300, $25 would get your name printed on a KickSat panel and for $75 you would receive a replica Sprite.
The project is due for launch this September under NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites Program alongside a SpaceX Dragon Capsule.
Watch Zac Manchester explain KickSat below: