Editor's Note of 4/21/14: The spacecraft successfully launched on April 18. On April 20, it rendevouzed with the International Space Station.
Editor's Note of 4/15/14: The scheduled launch described below was scrubbed and is now planned for Friday, April 18.
Some of the world’s smallest satellites are set to fly into orbit on April 14th, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The satellites, called Sprites, are only about the size of saltine crackers. But they can still transmit basic measurements of the space environment back to the surface.
Each one contains a tiny single-chip computer with a magnetometer, a gyroscope, an antenna and a solar panel. They’re made from the type of basic consumer electronics inside smart phones.
One-hundred-four Sprites are ready to fly on this demonstration mission. “It has the potential to really open up access to space to an entirely new demographic.” That’s Zach Manchester, the Cornell University aerospace engineering graduate student who founded the project.
“In a few years it really could be the case that you could buy ‘My First Satellite’ kit for, like, a thousand bucks online. And put together your own satellite and then send it off and have it launched.”
Manchester aimed to raise $30,000 on Kickstarter to build and launch his satellites. He ended up pulling in almost $75,000.
“The idea that just about anybody could be able to launch a satellite and do whatever they want with it. And I think that’s supercool.”
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]