Feeds

Did cosmic radiation nuke $25 satellite swarm? 100 snoozing Sprites face fiery death

Crowd-funded birds stuck in mothership 'KickSat'

New hybrid storage solutions

Bad news for lovers of amateur space exploration: a crowd-funded project that managed to send aloft 100 tiny satellites around Earth looks set to fail.

The project in question is the KickSat, which kicked off in 2011 with the promise to create 100 satellites, each about the size of a pair of postage stamps and dubbed 'Sprites', and to launch them from a mothership dubbed “KickSat”.

The project more-than-doubled its US$30,000 Kickstarter target as investors enthused about the chance to own 1/100th of each Sprite and the bonus of having their name written on the mothership.

Each Sprite was designed to send a short signal back to Earth to prove the concept and give funders a thrill. That may not sound like much, but with sponsorship costs starting at just US$25 it's not half bad!

The ITU's 2014 internet population data

A prototype 'Sprite' satellite

The project has had, pardon the pun, its ups and downs as it tried to get onto the launchpad. But to cut a long story short, the 100 Sprites and the KickSat made it aloft aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 that launched on April 18. The KickSat was successfully launched not long afterwards.

The mission plan then called for a 16-day wait before KickStat opened its doors and ejected the Sprites into space. That event was due to take place on May 4th, but sadly something went wrong on the mothership.

Cornell student Zac Manchester, the prime mover behind the project, writes that “the packets we've been receiving [from KickSat] have changed in the last couple of days”. And not in a good way: Manchester reports “a hard reset of the 'watchdog' microcontroller on KickSat” restarted the countdown on April 30th. That's bad news because by May 16th it is expected that KickSat will re-enter the atmosphere, with dire consequences, and before the Sprites can be released.

Manchester says “the likely culprit was radiation” rather than a buggy system.

Worse still, KickSat can't currently receive signals from Earth because its battery does not possess sufficient charge, so the team can't override the countdown timer.

Manchester feels “there is still some hope that the batteries may recharge sufficiently to command the satellite” and also says “There is also a small chance that KickSat could remain in orbit until the 16th, at which point the timer would set off the deployment as originally planned.”

His overall assessment, however, is that “the situation looks a little bleak”.

Which is sad: this looks a grand project. Here's hoping something better than a fiery death awaits KicSat and the 100 Sprites. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Chelyabinsk-sized SURPRISE asteroid to skim Earth, satnav birds
Space rock appears out of nowhere, buzzes planet on Sunday
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Square Kilometre Array reveals its 1.6TB-a-day storage and network rigs
Boolardy Engineering Test Array - aka BETA - is about to come out of Beta
LOHAN invites ENTIRE REG READERSHIP to New Mexico shindig
Well, those of you who back our Kickstarter tin-rattling...
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.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
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.