KickSat deploying Sprite satellites – Image by Ben Bishop VK2FBRB
The largest ever launch of 437 MHz satellites is planned for March 16 at 0841 UT when 104 Sprite satellites will fly on the SpaceX Falcon 9 CRS 3 mission to be deployed into a 325×315 km 51.5 degree inclination orbit. You should be able to watch the launch live on NASA TV.
The project was originally conceived by AMSAT-UK member Michael Johnson M0MJJ at Cornell University. Michael was the first project manager who specified many aspects of the project, making it technically and financially viable. He left the project in 2012 to found PocketSpacecraft.com.
KickSat 437 MHz Sprite Satellite
A Sprite is a tiny, 3.5 by 3.5 cm, single-board spacecraft that was developed by Zac Manchester KD2BHC.
Each Sprite has a microcontroller, radio, and solar cells and is capable of carrying single-chip sensors, such as thermometers, magnetometers, gyroscopes, and accelerometers.
The 104 Sprites are carried in a 3U CubeSat called KickSat. They are stacked atop a spring-loaded pusher and secured by a nichrome burn wire system.
On reaching orbit KickSat will perform a de-tumble maneuver and establish communication with Cornell University’s ground station. After check-out, the spacecraft will be put in a sun-pointing attitude and spun up to maintain that attitude.
A command signal from the ground station will then trigger the deployment and the Sprites will be released as free-flying spacecraft. After deployment, telemetry and sensor measurements from the individual Sprites will be received through Cornell’s ground station in Ithaca, NY, as well as several other amateur ground stations around the world.
Equipment for receiving the Sprite 437 MHz signals
Due to the low orbit Sprites will have a short lifetime before they reenter the atmosphere and burn up. In the best-case scenario the orbital lifetime could be six weeks but realistically it may be considerably shorter depending on atmospheric conditions, maybe a matter of days.
All the Sprites operate on a single frequency of 437.240 MHz and use Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA). The transmitter runs 10 mW output of Minimum Shift Keying (MSK) modulated binary data with each data bit modulated as a 511 bit Pseudo-Random Number (PRN) sequence. The ITU emission designator is 50K0G1D.
The KickSat CubeSat has downlinks on 437.505 MHz and 2401-2436.2 MHz.
Watch KickSat Sprite Deployment by Ben Bishop VK2FBRB
In this video Ben Bishop VK2FBRB gives an alternative view of the deployment
KickSat Sprite Ground Station by Andy Thomas G0SFJ
British Interplanetary Society: Sprite Technical Summary
KickSat Sprite satellites deployed – Image by Ben Bishop VK2FBRB
KickSat project information http://zacinaction.github.io/kicksat/
KickSat on KickStarter
How the Sprite radio works
More images by Ben Bishop VK2FBRB http://imgur.com/a/FYrpN#p5IOdWZ
BBC Worldwide TV interview with Zak Manchester KD2BHC. Unfortunately this is censored in the UK only overseas viewers can see it. A proxy server may be a way around it. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140128-the-smallest-spacecraft-in-orbit
Check this site for the latest CRS 3 launch date http://spaceflightnow.com/tracking/
437 MHz Sprite
Pocket Spacecraft http://www.pocketspacecraft.com/
UK radio ham’s Lunar CubeSat to go ahead