Captain’s Log, Stardate 12120.5

The KickSat has a ride to space! Over the weekend the Kickstarter team announced that it has secured a launch slot through the ELaNa (Educational Launch of Nanosatellites) program. ELaNa is a NASA initiative to send CubeSats from research universities into space. The main benefit of an ELaNa launch is that it’s free; had KickSat not been accepted into the program, the team would have needed to look into costly commercial launches.

The KickSat will be launched into a roughly circular orbit at an altitude of approximately 325 km. The orbit will have an inclination of about 51°. Satellite orbits lie in a plane; the inclination corresponds to the angle between this plane and the plane that passes through the Earth’s equator. An angle of at least 50° is required in order to ensure radio visibility to the majority of the populated globe (i.e. ±50 degrees latitude from the equator).

At the time of the announcement, KickSat was number 23 in line for launch. In other words, it’s only a matter of time before the Sprites are orbiting overhead. ELaNa launches do not follow a set schedule; often, the university satellites are placed aboard NASA rockets that happen to have a small amount of extra room. So it’s too early for a set launch date. However, it can be said with a high amount of confidence that the Sprites will be in space in the first half of 2013.

KickSat Webinar no. 2

There will be a live webinar for the KickSat project today at 12:00 PM central time (noon). To view the webinar live visit this web page. Zac has “a very exciting announcement to make,” so look forward to it! Anyone can view the webinar live; it is not necessary to make an account in order to participate, and you don’t have to be a backer of the KickSat project. Tune in and feel free to type in questions. As before, I will update this post once the recorded video is posted.

Edit: The webinar was short and to the point, and I don’t believe that a recording will be made available. I summarize most of the information announced during the session in this Captain’s Log.

Building a Magnetometer

As explained in the first webinar video, one of the long-term goals of the Sprite project is to be able to deploy fleets of them throughout various parts of the solar system. These Sprites would sport a mix of sensors; a portion of them might analyze spectral data while others might have plates for capturing space dust. There’s a long way to go before Sprite fleets are traveling and collecting data outside of low Earth orbit, but Sprites with sensors other than the default temperature sensor could happen much sooner. The design team is considering incorporating a magnetometer, an accelerometer, or a gyroscope into some or all of the KickSat Sprites. While I wait to see whether any of these sensors make their way into my Sprite, I’ve decided to build a magnetometer of my own.

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