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Zac Manchester and KickSat
KickSat Sprite prototype

KickSat was a small-satellite (femtosatellite) project inaugurated in early October, 2011, to launch a large number of very small satellites from a 3U CubeSat. The satellites have been characterized as being the size of a large postage stamp.[1][2] and also as "cracker size".[3] The mission launch was originally scheduled for late 2013[4] and was launched April 18, 2014.[5][6]

Kicksat reached its orbit and transmitted beacon signals that were received by radio amateurs, telemetry data allowed the prediction of the orbit and the reentry on 15 May 2014 at about 01:30 UTC. Due to a non-redundant design, a timer reset while on-orbit and the femtosatellites were not deployed in time, and burned up inside the KickSat mothership when the undeployed satellite-deployment mechanism reentered Earth's atmosphere.


The project was crowdfunded through Kickstarter.[7][8][9] The project was advertised with the goal of reducing the cost of spaceflight so that it could be affordable on an individual basis.[10][11][12][13]


In its minimal configuration, each Sprite femtosatellite will be designed to send a very short message (a few bytes long) to a network of ground stations.[14] The chipset of use is a TI CC430F5137 (MCU + RF) with codebase from panStamp. Firmware developer kits were sent to donors who contributed enough to qualify for customizing their own Sprite.[15]

Sprites can be organized into fleets; one of them was to be named for the British Interplanetary Society.[16] London Hackspace had begun work on its own ground station.[17]

Inaugural mission[edit]

KickSat launched on an ISS commercial resupply mission, SpaceX CRS-3, originally scheduled for late 2013,[4] but ultimately delayed until April 18, 2014.[18] On April 30, 2014 the microcontroller managing the master clock was found to have reset due to a technical problem, an effect of space radiation. This reset added two weeks to the deployment schedule for the sprites, and started a race against time to charge KickSat's battery enough to power deployment of the sprites before KickSat began atmospheric reentry. On May 14, 2014 KickSat reentered the atmosphere and burned up; all sprites were lost.[19]

Other missions[edit]

Sprites were launched onboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour during STS-134 in May of 2011, They were then mounted to the outside of the ISS for 3 years. They faced away from Earth which prevented their signals from reaching the planet. However, once they were brought back, they were still in working order.

On June 23 the PSLV-C38 launch carried 31 satellites into low Earth orbit. Among them were Max Valier and Venta-1, built by OHB of Germany, which were carrying six sprite spacecraft as secondary payloads.

On the launch KickSat-2 was announced.[20] Launched KickSat-2 in 17 November 2018 in UTC. In February 2015, NASA announced it had selected KickSat-2 for launch as part of its CubeSat Launch Initiative.[21] In 2016, the KickSat Sprite was mooted as an early-stage prototype of the interstellar probe proposed for Breakthrough Starshot.[22]


  1. ^ Radu Tyrsina (October 11, 2011). "KickSat to Launch Postage Stamp-sized Satellites into Space for $300". Mobile Magazine. Retrieved 2011-10-16.
  2. ^ Fish, Elizabeth (Nov 14, 2011). "Explore Space With A Spacecraft The Size Of A Postage Stamp". Geek Tech (blog). PCWorld. Retrieved 2011-11-15.
  3. ^ Garling, Caleb (2012-12-24). "Personal satellites that fly into space". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-12-26.
  4. ^ a b Bruce Dorminey (November 28, 2012). "First Kickstarter Funded Satellites To Launch In 2013". Forbes. Retrieved 2012-12-26.
  5. ^ "KickSat Has Been Deployed in Low-Earth Orbit". 2014-04-19. Retrieved 2014-04-26.
  6. ^ O'Neill, Ian (2014-04-14). "Helium Leak Forces SpaceX Launch Scrub". Retrieved 2014-04-15.
  7. ^ Zachary Manchester (Oct 4, 2011). "KickSat -- Your personal spacecraft in space!". Kickstarter. Retrieved 2011-10-16.
  8. ^ Mark Brown (10 October 2011). "Kickstarter project will launch hundreds of personal satellites into space". Wired UK. Retrieved 2011-10-16.
  9. ^ Wayne Hall (Nov 17, 2011). "An orbit of your own, "KickSat" crowdsources spaceflight". Kentucky Science & Technology Corporation. Archived from the original on 2011-11-19. Retrieved 2011-11-20.
  10. ^ Boonsri Dickinson (October 10, 2011). "Send your own satellite into space". CNET. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  11. ^ Michael Doornbos (Oct 21, 2011). "Evadot Podcast #86 – Would you like to have your own spacecraft in space? says you can". Retrieved 2011-11-20.
  12. ^ Johnson, Michael; Manchester, Zachary; Peck, Mason (Jan 30, 2012). " - an open source ChipSat dispenser and citizen space exploration proof of concept mission" (PDF). Rhode-Saint-Genèse (Brussels), Belgium: Von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics. p. 91. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 3, 2016. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
  13. ^ von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics. "Fourth European CubeSat Symposium". Archived from the original on 13 July 2013. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
  14. ^ Peter Murray (October 15, 2011). "Sprites – The Computer Chip-Sized Spacecraft That Will Send You a Text Message (for $300)". Singularity Hub. Archived from the original on October 17, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-16.
  15. ^ John Biggs (October 9, 2011). "KickSat: Send Tiny DIY Satellites Into Space". Techcrunch. Retrieved 2011-10-16.
  16. ^ Andrew Vaudin (Oct 24, 2011). "Join the BIS in space". Featured Articles. British Interplanetary Society. Retrieved 2011-10-25.
  17. ^ AMSAT-UK (November 19, 2011). "London Hackspace work on HackSat1". AMSAT-UK. Retrieved 2011-11-20.
  18. ^ "Worldwide Launch Schedule". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 2012-12-03.
  19. ^ "KickSat has reentered". Retrieved 2014-05-18.
  20. ^ Alasdair Allan (April 13, 2015). "NASA Approves Kicksat's Tiny DIY Satellites for Second Attempt". Make. Retrieved 2015-04-17.
  21. ^ "NASA Announces University CubeSat Space Mission Candidates". NASA. February 6, 2015.
  22. ^ Dave Gershgorn (April 13, 2016). "This Is The Tiny Spaceship That Could Take Us To Alpha Centauri". PopSci. Retrieved 2017-05-13.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]