The ambitious folks that run Southern Stars have finished work on their Skycube project.
Last summer they raised over $116,000 in a Kickstarter campaign to build the diminutive satellite. The project raised about $34,000 more than was needed to make and launch the satellite. This allowed the team to make a twin Skycube in case of any mishaps. This marks the first space mission designed and funded by amateur astronomers and others.
The satellite is now sitting Houston awaiting its launch on the SpaceX CRS-3 mission to the International Space Station on November 28th, 2013. The SkyCube will be deployed from ISS approximately two weeks later.
Once in orbit, SkyCube will let you send simple broadcasts – “tweets from space” – that amateur radio operators around the world can hear, and anyone with a smart phone can follow. You will be able to request images of Earth from the cameras aboard the satellite, using the Satellite Safari app on your iOS or Android device.
At the end of its 90-day mission, SkyCube will inflate an onboard balloon. The balloon will make SkyCube visible to the unaided eyes, and de-orbit the satellite cleanly through atmospheric drag, ending the mission in a fiery grand finale that avoids any buildup of space debris (unlike some other missions still stuck in orbit….ESA heeellooo?).
Don’t worry if you didn’t have time or didn’t know about the Kickstarter, you can still participate and send space tweets and/or take pictures from the Skycube and help fund the next mission. Go here to purchase a tweet/image package. They make some awesome astronomy apps and telescope control hardware as well.
Because of the timing of the launch and deployment, a package would be a great gift for someone (or yourself). Just think, being able to take a live image, from space, on your smartphone!!! The only thing missing is the Kickstarter to purchase the ISS before they decommission it in 2020. I just need to figure out how many pictures I want to take!
Remember, just because there are billions being spent on the commercialization of space, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a part in history.
– Ex astris, scientia –
I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +