KickSat Sprite deployment may not happen



An unexpected reset of the master clock on KickSat may mean that the deployment of the 104 Sprite satellites will not take place before the KickSat CubeSat burns up in the atmosphere.

Radio amateur Zac Manchester KD2BHC has posted this update:

First off, I’d like to sincerely thank all of you for your support over the past two years. KickSat has been a success up to this point because of you.

As those who’ve been keeping up with the telemetry data coming in from KickSat on our mailing list may have noticed, the packets we’ve been receiving have changed in the last couple of days. This was due to a hard reset of the “watchdog” microcontroller on KickSat – the sort of “reptile brain” of the satellite that manages turning on and off the rest of the subsystems and keeps the master clock. It appears the reset happened some time in the morning of Wednesday, April 30th. The reset doesn’t seem to be the result of power issues (the watchdog should run until the batteries reach 5.5 volts, and they’ve been holding steady around 6.5 volts). Instead, it seems the likely culprit was radiation.

KickSat Sprite satellites deployed - Image by Ben Bishop VK2FBRB

KickSat Sprite satellites deployed – Image by Ben Bishop VK2FBRB

One consequence of the watchdog reset on KickSat is that the spacecraft’s master clock was reset, thus also setting the deployment countdown for KickSat back to 16 days. That would put the deployment some time in the morning of May 16th. Unfortunately, it looks like KickSat will most likely reenter and burn up before the 16th. We’ve spent the last couple of days here at Cornell trying to think of every possible contingency, but it seems there aren’t very many options right now. KickSat’s uplink radio, which we could use to command the deployment, can’t turn on unless the batteries reach 8 volts, and it doesn’t look like they’ll reach that level in time.

KickSat 437 MHz Sprite Satellite

KickSat 437 MHz Sprite Satellite

While the situation looks a little bleak, there is still some hope that the batteries may recharge sufficiently to command the satellite. There is also a small chance that KickSat could remain in orbit until the 16th, at which point the timer would set off the deployment as originally planned. We’ll continue tracking KickSat over the next few days with the help of the ham community, so that we can keep track of its battery voltage and the Sprite deployment status. I’ll post updates here, as usual, but you can also see the latest data as it comes in on our mailing list.

Thank you again for your support. I promise that this won’t be the end of the KickSat project.

– Zac

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