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A nano-satellite that lets you take Earth images and "tweet" from space, then inflates a visible balloon, and de-orbits cleanly. Read more

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Funded!

This project was successfully funded on September 12, 2012.

A nano-satellite that lets you take Earth images and "tweet" from space, then inflates a visible balloon, and de-orbits cleanly.

Welcome to ISS

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The Cygnus cargo craft carrying SkyCube to the International Space Station arrived this morning at 8:05 AM EST today. The Nanoracks CubeSat deployers containing our satellite will be transferred by the ISS crew from Cygnus to the Multipurpose Logistics Module (PMLM), and will be stored there until deployment.

Here’s how the capture looked this morning:

The ISS will be our home for the next few months. You might get to know it! It’s the largest, most massive, and longest continuously-occupied structure in orbit. We thought it might be fun to provide a quick factual comparison between SkyCube, and the station it now occupies.

First, a visual comparison:

The International Space Station - typical view
The International Space Station - typical view
SkyCube in packed-for-launch configuration - typical view.
SkyCube in packed-for-launch configuration - typical view.

Here's how the facts and figures stack up:

Dimensions
Station: 357 x 239 x 167 feet (109 x 73 x 51 m)
SkyCube: 4.5 x 3.9 x 2.9 inches (113 x 100 x 100 mm) 

Mass 
Station: 924,000 lbs (420 metric tons) 
SkyCube: 2.9 lbs (1.3 kg)

Volume 
Station: Pressurized, 32,000 cu ft (388 cu m) 
SkyCube: Unpressurized, 0.019 cu ft (0.001 cu m)

Solar Arrays
Station: 8 panels, 73 m length, total area ~1 acre (0.4 hectare)
SkyCube: 9 panels, 113 mm length, total area approx 76 sq. inch (492 sq cm)

Solar Power Generation
Station: 84,000 watts
SkyCube: 3.6 watts

Lines of Computer Code
Station: ~2.3 million
SkyCube: ~13,000

Operational Lifetime
Station: 30 years (launched 1998; certified thru 2028; funded thru 2024)
SkyCube: 90 days

Total Cost to Date
Station: approx. USD $160,000,000,000
SkyCube: approx. USD $255,000

Go See ISS!

If you’ve grabbed the latest version of our Satellite Safari app from the iTunes Store or Google Play, you can use it to see the ISS pass overhead in the night sky. This is good practice for the last phase of SkyCube’s mission, when we inflate SkyCube’s balloon to make it briefly visibile before it de-orbits.

1) Search for “ISS.” (Without the quotes, duh.)
2) The data table shows when it will pass over your location. Many passes are not visible because they take place in daylight or while the ISS is eclipsed in Earth’s shadow.
3) Scroll down to find a visible pass.  Get ready.

Satellite Safari's Info view shows ISS pass times.
Satellite Safari's Info view shows ISS pass times.

When the pass time arrives, you can use Satellite Safari - and your iPhone or Android’s compass - to find ISS (and SkyCube!) in the sky.

1) Make sure time is current! If not, tap “Time” in the main toolbar, then “Now.”
2) Tilt your iPhone or Android up at the sky, to turn on its compass.
3) Follow the ISS orbit with your phone to the ISS itself. Wait and watch as it passes across the sky.

Tilt your phone up at the sky to use its compass for finding ISS
Tilt your phone up at the sky to use its compass for finding ISS

If you haven’t run the app in a while, let it update its orbit data from Celestrak.com. The ISS moves frequently, to avoid space debris, and is periodically reboosted. Satellite Safari updates its orbit data automatically every time you start it. You can also force an orbit data update at the bottom of the Settings screen. Updating takes about a minute.

Also make sure you've got the very latest app version (1.5 for iOS, 1.5.2 for Android). Earlier versions do not support the compass.

Best viewing times are just after dusk or just before dawn. Clear skies, and happy station spotting! Remember - this isn’t just cool. One day, if all goes well, you’ll use the same technique to spot SkyCube.

Aloha from Lanai, Hawaii,

-Tim

Comments

    1. Creator Tim DeBenedictis on February 24, 2014

      Ian - see most recent post. Austin - yes. You're surprised that this project had some cost overruns? I'm surprised the cost overruns were as small as they were! Jeffrey - thanks!

      -Tim

    2. Creator Ian Hennes on February 16, 2014

      Will I need the Satellite Safari to take my photos using sky cube? When will that be available? Thanks.

    3. Creator Austin Boeddeker on January 13, 2014

      wait? skycube has cost 250 grand? funding was a little over a hundred?

    4. Creator Jeffrey C on January 12, 2014

      I would just like to say "Woohoo", very excited here down under.