SkyCube: a social space mission


Southern Stars Group LLC, the company responsible for the popular SkySafari apps for iOS, Android and Mac OS X, is thinking a little bigger with its next project. The publicly funded SkyCube is a miniature CubeSat satellite that will orbit the planet, transmitting low-resolution images of the Earth while broadcasting short messages from sponsors in the form of data pings. In short, it’s the world’s first social space mission.

The hardware involved in the project isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. The satellite itself is a 10x10x10 cm (3.9 cubic-inch) “1U” CubeSat, which is the current leading picosatellite standard with nearly 100 of the devices built and launched to date. The SkyCube will be the second payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, set to launch sometime in 2013.

Once deployed, it will orbit more than 300 miles (483 km) up, taking low-resolution pictures and broadcasting short, simple messages from the project’s sponsors as it crosses over most of the world’s inhabited regions. At the end of the mission, the SkyCube will deploy its 10 ft (3 m) diameter balloon, making it visible from the Earth, with a brightness akin to that of the Hubble Space Telescope. If everything goes to plan, the miniature satellite will eventually return to Earth, brought down by atmospheric drag.

So if you want to broadcast your own short message from space, the Southern Stars Group has got your back, with pledges starting at just US$1. This base option gives you a ten-second time slot on the mission, in which you can broadcast a single 120-character message. The sponsorship options go all the way up to $10k, for which the company will fly two people out to Cape Canaveral from anywhere in the continental US. From there, sponsors can watch the satellite lift off and once it’s successfully in orbit, they can control the SkyCube for an entire day to take pictures, send messages, or just sit back and contemplate the balance of their bank accounts.

The company is also making use of its app-making skills, creating applications for both iOS and Android. These will allow users to track the satellite, send messages and request images.

The SkyCube marks the next step in a series of initiatives and projects that are making space programs far more accessible to the general public. Rocket and spacecraft construction company Interorbital Systems recently announced its project to make space available to all. For $8,000, customers receive both a TubeSat Personal Satellite Kit and launch to low Earth orbit. That’s significantly cheaper than the SkyCube’s CubeSat miniature satellite, which costs around $100k to put in orbit.

So, have something important to say? Well, in 2013 you’ll be able to say it from space. The SkyCube has 57 days to go on Kickstarter, meaning that you’ve got until Wednesday September 12 to secure your chance to “tweet from space.”

Source: Southern Stars