Welcome to Starblog! The goal of this site is to boldly go where few have gone before: space. I set up Starblog in November 2011 after backing KickSat and purchasing my own chip satellite to program and track while in space.
The KickSat Kickstarter was posted by the graduate school of Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University. Students at Cornell have developed the Sprite, a small and inexpensive spacecraft that can be launched into orbit at a relatively low cost. Sprites are essentially a circuit board containing solar cells, a microcontroller, a radio transceiver, and room for a few other extras. The idea of the Kickstarter is to launch hundreds of these Sprites at one time, all carried into orbit by a CubeSat. In a way, the Kickstarter is like a Saturn V to my Apollo module, bringing my Sprite into space.
Once the CubeSat reaches orbit, the Sprites are ejected to travel independently around the Earth until reentering the atmosphere and vaporizing. One of those Sprites will be mine, essentially a miniature Sputnik. Before the launch, I will be writing the code that runs on the microcontroller during flight. While the Sprite is in orbit, I will be tracking its radio transmissions. The code that the Sprite runs, and the transmissions that it makes, very much depend on me and the course that this project takes.
Since backing KickSat, the project has expanded. In July 2012, I backed ArduSat as a Team Developer, buying me access to a home development kit that includes a full sensor suite. ArduSat, an Arduino-based cube satellite, shares one of KickSat’s core mission objectives: making space exploration easy and affordable for everyone. However, there are some key differences between these two projects.
Nanosatisfi LLC, the startup behind ArduSat, tackles the challenge of space exploration by shoulder all of the engineering, testing, and initial costs themselves (and through crowdfunding, of course!). Each ArduSat they launch contains an impressive array of scientific equipment available for rent. Sensors range from basic cameras for taking art shots to spectrometers for analyzing the chemical composition of the atmosphere. During the Kickstarter, users could preorder access to the satellite for as little as $150. In other words, Nanosatisfi aims to offer low-cost CubeSat services to universities, individuals, and other organizations as an enticing alternative to the $100,000 that internal CubeSat projects typically cost.
Both satellites are set to launch this year, which means that, by the end of 2013, I will have had two satellites in space!