Feeds

Planetary Resources may upgrade crowdfunded satellite into alien-finder

'Just give us another million dollars'

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

The Kickstarter campaign to build a satellite for public use is going better than expected, according to asteroid mining company Planetary Resources, and so it has extended its revenue target to help fund hardware upgrades to enable the orbital platform to search for exoplanets.

The campaign, which seeks to partially fund an Arkyd 100 space telescope that can be used by schools and allow images of the general public to be photographed in space, has currently raised $859,880 of its million-dollar target in the 13 days since launch. The company has now extended the goal to $2m if the extra features are to be added.

"While the ARKYD won't rival NASA's US$600 million Kepler spacecraft, which may have to end its mission due to a recent equipment failure, the enhanced ARKYD will be a huge step toward important new scientific discoveries enabled by citizen scientists," said Chris Lewicki, president and chief engineer of the firm.

The updated goals commit the company to building a second satellite downlink station for the Arkyd 100 in an educational institution, which would double the bandwidth the orbital telescope has to play with. But if the target of $2m is reached, the satellite's stability mechanisms will be improved to make it possible to scan for exoplanets using two different techniques devised by MIT.

First, the telescope can be pointed at stars to catch the effects of planets as they transit in front of them. The second method will be to use gravitational lensing, deducing the existence of a foreign planet by noting the effects it has on light waves.

The Arkyd 100 satellite

Lewicki with the pocket telescope

"We're excited about this game-changing approach that could transform how we do science in the future," said Dr. Sara Seager, Professor of Physics and Planetary Science at MIT. "It's not just about advanced technology in a small satellite, but a crowdfunded approach to space science that could be revolutionary."

"The enhanced version of the ARKYD telescope will be an important source of data for exoplanets that can only be obtained from space, above the blurring effects of Earth's turbulent atmosphere," she said.

So far over 9,500 cash pledges have been made for the telescope, the vast majority of those paying $25 so that they can have their picture displayed on a screen on the side of the satellite and photographed with the Earth in the background. But there have been some larger donations.

The most expensive package, the $10,000 "Grand Benefactor and Education Ambassador" pledge that includes having an asteroid named after you, has attracted 11 buyers. A further 26 people have signed up to become "Planetary Advocates" for $1,000, which buys them a visit to see the satellite being made.

With any luck, the satellite will be launched in 2015 and begin operations shortly afterwards. The crowdfunded system won't be the first satellite Planetary Resources fires into orbit, but it could well be the most popular spacecraft in years. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.