From the people that developed SkySafari, the highly popular astronomy app for iOS, Android and Mac OS X, comes the SkyCube. It's a nano-satellite measuring only 10-by-10-by-10 centimeters that will be launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in the first quarter of 2013. A contribution to the SkyCube Kickstarter campaign will reserve your chance to broadcast messages or take pictures from it during its mission.
The primary mission of the SkyCube is to bring space exploration to the masses, giving ordinary people the ability to fund and use their own satellite. It is equipped with a low-resolution camera (the specs on the camera have not been specified) which will take pictures of Earth, space and perhaps the similar ArduSat which completed its Kickstarter campaign with over $100,000 just a few days ago. I hope there are talks of battle-satellites in space!
The satellite is required to "ping" every 10 seconds to indicate the device is functioning and alive. The SkyCube team got the bright idea that they could send data, or "tweet", instead, and use this as the way to fund the mission. Every $1 will sponsor approximately 10 seconds of the mission, thus giving you one personal 120-character message, or one "ping."
Starting at a $6 pledge, you get six 120-character messages and the ability to request one image from the satellite. The pledge option tops out at $10,000, which gives you complete access to the SkyCube for a whole day (that's 10,000 messages and 2,000 image requests), two round-trip tickets to Cape Canaveral to see the liftoff, a radio receiver that can pick up the transmissions and some SpaceX Falcon 9 and SkyCube swag.
An iOS and Android app will be available to track the satellite, send messages to it and request images from space. If you're not the participating type, inexpensive radio equipment or an internet-connected device is all you need to receive the SkyCube messages since they will be archived on a server, accessible at any time.
90 days after the launch, an 8-gram CO2 cartridge will inflate a 10-foot wide balloon that is coated with titanium dioxide power to increase reflection. The SkyCube team claims that it will be as visible as the Hubble Telescope or a first-magnitude star, easy to see with the naked eye. Within three weeks the satellite will be pulled out of orbit due to atmospheric drag and will end in a fiery spectacle, leaving no build up or space debris.
I hope that the popularity of crowd-funded space projects continues to grow as NASA winds down many of their launches. Over the last couple of years companies like SpaceX have been making privately-funded rockets a reality, bringing us one step closer to a more public space. Now many projects have been popping up all over Kickstarter, proving that the curiosity and interest in "where no man has gone before" is still prevalent, and growing.
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