KickSat is 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. and also as "cracker size". The mission launch was originally scheduled for late 2013 and was launched April 18, 2014.
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 clock reset, however, the femtosatellites were not deployed but burned up inside the KickSat mothership.
The project was crowdfunded through Kickstarter. Part of the appeal was in offering "personal spaceflight", the chance to effectively and affordably own and operate one's own satellite.
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. Firmware developer kits were sent to donors who contributed enough to qualify for customizing their own Sprite.
KickSat launched on an ISS commercial resupply mission, SpaceX CRS-3, originally scheduled for late 2013, but ultimately delayed until April 18, 2014. 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.
- Sprites were launched onboard the space shuttle endeavor in may of 2011, They were then mounted to the outside of the iss for 3 years. They Faced away from earth and thus preventing Its 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.
Plans to launch KickSat-2 have been announced. In February 2015, NASA announced it had selected KickSat-2 for launch as part of its CubeSat Launch Initiative. In 2016, the KickSat Sprite was mooted as an early-stage prototype of the interstellar probe proposed for Breakthrough Starshot.
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