Hey Buddy, Can I Hitch A Ride?

In contrast to yesterdays post, this one focuses in on how you, an ordinary citizen of the planet, can have your own satellite.

This past week,104 backers of the KickSat project have their own, individual, satellite in orbit, for less than $300 each.  It has been called The age of personal space exploration.

The Kickstarter project attracted more than double its initial asking amount, pulling in nearly $75,000.

Three years later, KickSat’s 104 satellites have hitched a lift into orbit aboard SpaceX’s CRS-3 resupply rocket to the International Space Station.

The idea behind the KickSat project is to make satellites so tiny that the cost of getting into space can be split hundreds or even thousands of ways.  It typically it costs on average $2,500/lbs to get into low Earth orbit (LEO).


The satellites, called Sprites, are dramatically smaller than current satellites.  Each Sprite weighs 0.18oz (5g) and can fit in the palm of your hand.  Each Sprite is essentially a circuit board with a processor, solar cells and an antennae.

Sprites by themselves may not provide useful data, but a swarm of Sprites can collect significant and meaningful data.

The Sprites were released into orbit from a CubeSat.

Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson, co-founder of Kicksat, acknowledges that space debris is a problem. “There’s always a risk that they could damage a communications or weather satellite. If care isn’t taken, problems of debris and space junk could become a lot worse.”

But not to worry, the Kicksat team Mr designed a limited lifespan into the Sprite satellites.  All of the Sprites should fall back to Earth within a few weeks of launch and burn up.

With an average thickness of 20 microns (0.02mm), the Scout is designed to allow thousands to be packed into a single launch, reducing the costs per satellite considerably.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  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 +