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.

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