SkyCube: The First Satellite Launched by You!

by Tim DeBenedictis

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    1. Missing avatar

      Ralph Megna on

      Wallops has a long and distinguished history, especially in flight testing. It is actually a pretty cool place. OSC also has a relatively long track record of successful space missions. If SkyCube is ready to go, take the ride on Cygnus.

    2. Stephen Bice on

      Comfortable with choice 1, even if it is weighted by the tone of the choice. But prefer Choice 2. At the end of the day, up to you.

    3. PotatoHandle on

      Option 1, because the blatantly loaded "question" is infuriating, you've got funds for a second cube, and the project is already overdue.

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      Arthur Fentaman on

      Sorry Tim. I know you guys have worked hard on this and no one wants to see it fail, but I'm with the majority on here. If you have the funds for 2 then let's launch this year so option 1!

    5. Joseph Shivak on

      whichever is best.. bought the app for my android. Can't wait for the photo and the tweet to go out 6 times :)

    6. Tim DeBenedictis Creator on

      Arthur and others - I'd like to counter a possible misconception. We have indeed built two SkyCubes, but have only paid for one launch. If we lose one, then getting the other into orbit will require another $100K. That's part of the reason why reliability of the launch vehicle figures so strongly into our equation. I don't mean to imply that Orbital won't succeed - they probably will - but it's hard for us to weigh the track record of one vehicle against another, when one of those track records (Cygnus) doesn't yet exist.

      Second - our own preference is strongly toward a spring 2014 Florida launch. I think that's clear from my admittedly heavy-handed phrasing of this update. And one of our kickstarter rewards is a flight to Florida to see a SpaceX launch. All of the sponsors who've contributed at that level have voiced a clear preference for a Florida launch, even if later, over a Wallops launch in December. We have to weigh those preferences more heavily than the preferences of the backers who have not contributed at that level.

      Someone below asked "Is there a problem with SkyCube that requires extra time?" The honest answer is: yes. We'd really like more time to work out nagging loose ends. Most of the remaining work involves the ground communication leg of the mission. Remember, we're not building our own ground stations - we're relying on the Navy's MC3 network. And it's my honest opinion that we haven't done enough testing with that network. As of this date we have yet to demonstrate bulk image transmission from either SkyCube unit, through MC3, to our servers. We have every reason to believe it should work, but it has not been tested. That is a pretty big "if".

      There are several reasons we're behind on this. Partly, it's been difficult because, under a sequestered federal budget, many of the relevant Navy personnel are furloughed or are on summer leave. And, honestly, I underestimated the amount of paperwork NASA requires to get our satellite aboard ISS. As soon as our program touches manned NASA spaceflight in any way, the safety concerns, however small, are scrutinized in unbelievable detail. The final SkyCube safety report is over 1000 pages long. And the time we've spent working with Nanoracks on that paperwork, or going over the details of our electrical power system, or changing the EPS to meet their requirements, or shipping batteries to them for testing, is not time spent testing ground communication software, or tweaking firmware, etc. Yet it all must get done. And we're really a 3-person core team.

      If there's anyone to blame for this situation, I accept that blame. I underestimated the amount of work that would be required, and the amount of time it would take. It's not a pleasant situation to be in. Nevertheless, we are in it now, and we need to get out of it. The best answer to all of these problems, as far as I can see, is: more time. In the end, if SkyCube fails because we rushed the job and launched a dead satellite, or launched a satellite without receiving data on the ground, that is a far worse outcome than if we waited another 6 months, but got a satellite that actually worked. At least that's how I see it.

      And right now, we have an opportunity to get more time, and to get back onto a SpaceX launch that is closer to what was promised to the supporters who sponsored this project at the highest levels.

      The reality of the space business is not like the reality of commercial airline flight. When you buy an airplane ticket to fly to New York, you reasonably expect to fly to New York on the date your ticket says. In our case, we've bought a $100,000 "ticket to New York". And then we found out that we're going on a different airline, on a different date, from a different airport. We don't get compensation for this, as you'd expect if your airline had done this to you. Instead, we're told (by the airline) - "you're lucky to have a flight at all!" I've been offered a compromise that at least gets us back on the original "airline", from the original "airport". That is far more than most people are offered in this very, very young commercial spaceflight business. Given everything else, I think we should reflect on that heavily before turning the offer down.

      Space is about taking risks, but it's not about taking stupid risks. I apologize for the biased tone of this update, but I hope this additional information gives you a better window into the thought process that led to it.

    7. Yorik on

      I see this project as forging a path and being a pioneer for bringing space to the common person. In that sense, there is only option and that is to forge a path with others and be a pioneer.

      Option #1

      It is the best for all communities.

    8. Patrick Coyle on

      Option 2 makes sense to me.

    9. David Dahlgren on

      I vote to go for the Spring launch from Cape Canaveral.

    10. Missing avatar

      Roger Blunden on

      I vote for option 2. Happy to wait.

    11. Missing avatar

      Bill Salina on

      My initial reaction was to launch in December. But after reading Tim's update below, it sounds like more time is needed to get the satelite and ground stations fully tested and the required safety paperwork completed.

      Based upon that, I vote to wait for the 2014 Q2 Falcon launch (keeping in mind that we could get bumped again, and again...). But I'm not a big fan of "Go Fever". Do it once and do it right.

      I'm good with whatever decision the SkyCube Team makes.

    12. Missing avatar

      Greg Hellard on

      Take your time, get it right and launch reliably. Option 2 for mine

    13. Missing avatar

      Arthur Fentaman on

      Thanks for the reply Tim. I am happy to wait and I respect the decision of the team. You guys are on the ground and know what's best for the project and as I said earlier we all want a successful launch. Option 2 it is!

    14. Michel on

      I prefer a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch => 2014, Florida, Cape Canaveral option 2.

    15. Missing avatar

      Mark Heckler on

      And that...makes perfect sense. Thank you for giving us a better look at what is going on behind the scenes, Tim. All things being equal, I'd prefer the sooner launch...but all things aren't equal. Based upon your latest update, the better option would seem to be to wait for the offered SpaceX launch.

      Please don't hesitate to share your thought process as things unfold, unwind, or whatever! Really...we can take it. :) And we do appreciate the candor.

      Onward & upward!

    16. Jonathan Brier on

      Based on the detailed explanation in the comments by Tim regarding the reasons for preferring the later launch. I vote for the Spring 2014 launch in Florida on the SpaceX Falcon 9.

    17. Missing avatar

      Heather Eberhardt on

      Much though I'd love a launch on my birthday, I'd vote for the Spring 2014 launch :(

    18. John Sicker on

      I would like to see SkyCube fly on a falcon 9 from SpaceX. I followed spaceX since their start.
      Go Falcon 8 Go Skycube !!

    19. Missing avatar

      Jon and Susan on

      Option 1 - in the spirit of boldly going ...

    20. Richard P. Grahman on

      The Virginia swamp...try new things.

    21. Missing avatar

      Thomas Iwancio on

      I would prefer the Falcon 9 route. It's hard to argue against the solid track record to date, especially compared to an unknown vehicle.

    22. Missing avatar

      Ed Hodder on

      I'm not against the Wallops option (much better chance to make the launch) but based on Tim's comment I'm on board with waiting.

    23. Sherry Sakamoto on

      I would wait until 2014. Get everything organized in the best possible circumstances for optimum success. No worries about waiting. Good luck!

    24. Michael Kostiuk on

      Wait until 2014 and Launch from Cape Canaveral. Let's do it right!

    25. Nick Foong on

      Launch in q2 2014.

    26. Missing avatar

      Steven Richardson on

      I'm ok with waiting.

    27. Missing avatar

      Nestor Velez on

      Option 2 i have no problem with waiting

    28. The Sylvester Computer Guy on

      Let's wait and do it with the right airline and from the right airport!

    29. Missing avatar

      Bas on

      Tim, after your last comment: Go for 2014 and let's hope that this opportunity will work out as promised... Thanks for your honest update about the testing situation. This is the kind of communication that keeps us committed. Keep up!

    30. Missing avatar

      Veljko Roskar on

      Stay with launch in Q2 of 2014 aboard the Falcon 9.

    31. Raam Dev on

      2) Launch next spring/summer on a SpaceX Falcon 9 with a proven track record, from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

    32. Andrew Taylor on

      I prefer the Cape Canaveral launch in Q2. I have no interest in going to a swamp in December. I like the idea that you can use the extra time to make your systems more solid!

    33. Missing avatar

      Caryn Cameron on

      Wait for Canaveral.

    34. NSU MBA on

      My vote is the spring launch at Cape Canaveral. It sounds like it's the best choice all around.

    35. Terry Alden on

      Hi Tim,
      I am extremely disappointed that we have yet another launch postponement. I think we've had three already. I'm beginning to feel like a laughingstock in giving out launch days to my friends and colleagues which keep getting pushed back, it seems indefinitely, so that I don't want to mention them anymore because they will be postponed over and over again.
      This time is really embarrassing since I have produced a Press Release which gives the date as Thanksgiving Day, 2013. Now I will have to change it. The postponement, by going into Q2 of 2014 (I notice you don't even give an exact date anymore) sounds as though you can't settle on a time within a six month period! And what guarantee do we have that it will ever take place? They obviously don't give this much urgency or priority.
      Glad I only made ten copies of the Press Release so far. Eventually it will be sent out to the world's media This procrastination by NASA is starting to cost me, not to mention that it makes this project look rather "fly-by-night." NASA is costing everybody credibility - for really no good reason that I have yet heard. I wish they'd get their act together and stick to one date for once.
      I'm a bit disappointed also that I haven't had so much as an acknowledgment of receipt of my sending it to you, much less commentary. As it contains, among many other things, a proposal for mitigating global warming which could merit some investigation, I do not relish the thought that it was simply filed in the circular file. I have, in fact, written to you a total of three times, with only the first question being recorded and answered on your dashboard.
      I know you must be very busy but a few words would have been welcome. Why do you have a dashboard if you don't communicate?
      Let me give something complementary too. I used to write for a big planetarium and operate a Zeiss Mark 4, but I never ever expected to hold the equivalent of one in my hand. I now have SkySafari and today bought Satellite Safari - two very excellent apps! Congratulations on creating these!
      Finally, in answer to your question, you should probably go with the tried and true, which most people recommend from what I can see. We'll just agonize six months longer. I hope this is the final postponement! Terry Alden, Cupertino, CA 7/30/13

    36. Missing avatar

      Neal Oberholtzer on

      I vote to wait for launch on a more proven system.

    37. Missing avatar

      AM Seiler on

      Hold out for Canaveral.

    38. Tricia Hoffman on

      I think delays are part of the space process. How many times have shuttle launches and satellites been delayed? Sometimes years? It's okay with me. And if more time improves the chance of success, then even better.

    39. Brent Thompson on

      Wallops Island is within driving distance of the populations centers from Washington DC to New York. It is a well established facility. The only issue is if you don't trust the launch vehicle then you should wait.

    40. Mauricio Fonseca Beltran on

      Space X is the best solution.

    41. Stephanie Sansoucie on

      Here's another vote for Option 2/Cape Canaveral in Q2 of 2014. This seems like a solid choice all the way around given the current state of the project and the need for a reliable launch vehicle. Thanks for your transparency on the situation!

    42. Missing avatar

      John Gabriel on

      Stay with SpaceX Falcon9 from Florida. Now you will have time to sent my Free T shirt, Please.

    43. Tim DeBenedictis Creator on

      John - you don't have T-shirt because we don't have a survey returned from you, with your preferred T-shirt size, and we also don't have a shipping address for you. If you can email that information to we'll get that T-shirt on its way to you.

    44. Missing avatar

      Greg Lynn on

      Go with Space-X, just say no to the swamp.

    45. Roxanne Ready on

      I realize I'm woefully late to this party, but since there haven't been any updates since this one, I'd like to throw in my vote for postponing the launch, if it's still in question.

    46. Missing avatar

      Chris Furner on

      Anyone who thinks these delays are unreasonable doesn't know much about the space launch industry. Especially on a newer launch platform. NASA had no problem delaying shuttle launches for months, and that was on a platform decades old. In addition there are schedules for other launches as well as space station launch windows, so they cant launch any old time they want to.

      I have a big bias towards SpaceX. I say wait it out. The odds of a failure, while small, are higher with Orbital than SpaceX. Unless you have insurance, that second SkyCube is going to have a hard time getting into orbit.

    47. Missing avatar

      Michelle Jackson on

      SpaceX!!! I want to watch it from the Cape.