by Robert Brand
Remember the small prototype of our KickSat (photo right)? In mid April, 2014 it was tucked inside its mothership and that was inside the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that blasted into orbit with the ISS resupply cargo module.
Wikipedia says: “This was the SpaceX CRS-3, a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station, contracted to NASA, which was launched on 18 April 2014. It was the 5th flight for SpaceX’s uncrewed Dragon cargo spacecraft and the third SpaceX operational mission contracted to NASA under a Commercial Resupply Services contract.”
“This was the first launch of a Dragon capsule on the Falcon 9 v1.1 launch vehicle, as previous launches used the much smaller v1.0 configuration. It was also the first time the F9 v1.1 has flown without a payload fairing, and the first experimental flight test of an ocean recovery of the first stage on a NASA/Dragon mission.”
So what became of our KickSat? Well this was a joint effort from a few good Facebook friends. We chipped in a $100 each to own our first bit of space hardware and we just hoped it would get into orbit. Shelley Marie Johnson and April Larson joined with me and for US$300 we secured our KickSat.
On the 18th April 2014, the three of us actually owned a piece of hardware in orbit and it was there for 4 weeks!
In Orbit! Let me repeat that much louder:
Sadly it never deployed from the mothership. The clock died in orbit – probably a high energy particle hitting the wrong part of the processor chip! Oh well. None the less our little baby was in orbit. The image on the right shows what it was supposed to do – the KickSat antennas also being the springs used to deploy the Sprites.
This is a quote from Wikipedia and is accurate: The KickSat CubeSat, which was developed by Cornell University and funded through a campaign on the KickStarter website, was intended to deploy a constellation of 104 cracker-sized femtosatellites called “Sprites”, or “ChipSats”. Each Sprite is a 3.2-centimeter (1.3 in) square which includes miniaturised solar cells, a gyroscope, magnetometer and a radio system for communication. KickSat failed to deploy the Sprites, and reentered the atmosphere on 14 May.
On another note, NASA Edge TV wanted to interview me over the KickSat and what it meant to me and others following its progress. An 8 minute interview that was prelaunch. After 2 launch failures, NASA EDGE decided not to got back for the next launch window as the weather was bad. The weather cleared and they launched, so no interview! Maybe next time.
None the less – I had my first piece of hardware in orbit. Something that I owned (with 2 others) circled the earth every 90 minutes for 4 weeks! An amazing and wonderful experience.