Feeds

US student to fill heavens with Sprites

You too can have your own miniature satellite

The Power of One Infographic

A Cornell University postgrad student is offering enthusiasts the chance to get their own diminutive bit of kit into space, in the form of a miniature satellite.

Zac Manchester's Sprite is a solar-powered board "about the size of a couple of postage stamps", which packs a "microcontroller and a radio for communicating with ground stations from low Earth orbit".

Photo of a Sprite

The plan is to tease a swarm of Sprites into a standard CubeSat package, and blast them heavenwards – hopefully as part of NASA's Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program.

Zac Manchester and his SpriteZac (pictured) explained to El Reg: "We're trying to bring the cost of putting a satellite into low Earth orbit as low as possible. Up until now, only governments, militaries, and huge corporations have been able to launch spacecraft. CubeSats have brought space within reach for universities, but they still cost upwards of $100,000 to build and launch. We're trying to make space accessible to as many people as possible: high school students, hobbyists, ham radio clubs – anyone with a few hundred dollars and the desire to explore and experiment."

He added: "Spaceflight today is in many ways analogous to computing in the 1960s. It is mostly done by large organisations with access to huge and expensive hardware. By opening up spaceflight to much broader participation, exciting new ideas and applications are bound to pop up in the same way that they did in computing during the PC revolution of the '80s and '90s."

Zac is raising funds for his initiative down at Kickstarter, and has already attracted over $57k towards getting the thing off the ground. If the ELaNa gig doesn't work out, "we'll keep shopping around for a launch, possibly a commercial one if we have enough money", Zac said.

"Either way, we'll move forward with building KickSat as soon as the Kickstarter fundraising is over, since having flight hardware ready to go will help our chances of getting a launch," he noted.

If you fancy flying your own Sprite, 300 bucks buys you an orbiting board, transmitting the intials of your choice. You'll be able to track the satellite using "an ordinary Yagi antenna (the sort a ham radio operator might use), a rotator for pointing the antenna, a low-noise amplifier, and a software radio interface".

In case you were fretting, Zac assured us that after two to three weeks, the Sprites will burn up in the Earth's atmosphere, meaning headlines such as "Sprite downs ISS" won't be coming any time soon to a RSS feed near you. ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.