Hello Team SkyCube!
I'll begin this update with the mission statement of the Space Frontier Foundation, whose conference we attended this week:
"We are transforming space from a government-owned bureaucratic program into a dynamic and inclusive frontier open to people. We are determined to convert the image held by many young people that the future will be worse than the present, and we reject the idea that the world’s greatest moments are in its past."
I couldn't have said it any better myself.
It's a beautiful sunny Sunday here in California. In London, the Olympics are off to fantastic start. And right here, on Kickstarter, you've done something stunning and unexpected:
In one week, you've doubled your number.
Team SkyCube is now 500-strong! Impressive! And we can do it again. Here is the challenge for each of us to meet, before this week is out:
Find one more person - a friend, relative, or someone new - to join our team, and to sponsor SkyCube at at least the same level as yourself.
In other words: multiply yourself. If each of us doubles ourselves this week, we'll double collectively - again!
Here's what we've been up to since our last update.
A Look Inside SkyCube
Our CubeSat builders, Kevin and Tyler of Astronautical Development, LLC, have made great progress on SkyCube's design this week. We're sharing the details here with you first. The image below shows three views of SkyCube:
The left image shows SkyCube as it will be packed inside the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with solar panels folded up, for launch.
The middle image shows the solar panels partly deployed under the satellite, using spring-loaded hinges. The radio antennas have begun to emerge from the top of the satellite as well.
The right image shows SkyCube's final configuration. The solar panels and radio antennas are fully deployed, exposing the cameras, and giving them an unobstructed view of the Earth. With this design, SkyCube has twice as much sunlight-collecting, power-generating area as before. And yet it still launches in a single 1U cube - without obscuring any camera views!
Think this design is too crazy? Well - Kevin and Tyler have done this before. Four of their designs are in orbit right now. You can download a high-resolution PNG version of the SkyCube deployment sequence image by clicking this link.
And here's something even cooler: Evan Neumann of Orbiting Eden has converted the SkyCube design into a live 3D model. You can rotate and explore it using just your web browser! Here's a preview:
Click here to view Evan's 3D SkyCube model with your web browser. Use Firefox, Chrome, or Internet Explorer; the model takes about 20 seconds to load. If you're a Mac OS X Safari user, you can see the 3D model too, but you need to enable WebGL first. Here are simple instructions from Apple which tell you how.
Are you wondering about the big empty gray area at the top of the satellite? It's the "balloon box", which holds SkyCube's reflective balloon and inflation mechanism. We'll provide more information about those in a forthcoming update.
More About Those Cameras
Perhaps you saw this video we made about a week ago, showing our state of progress in getting the cameras to talk to SkyCube's on-board computer. Since then, we've gotten the cameras fully communicating.
Many of you have asked questions about what kind of images you can take with SkyCube's cameras. We thought it would be best to show you some examples:
These are images of the Earth as seen from the exact orbit altitude that SkyCube will have, at the exact same resolution (640 x 480) and field-of-view (90 degrees) of SkyCube's real cameras. SkyCube isn't a spy satellite - you can't use it to see your house from space, or you car's license plate - but you'll be able to see things that would be impossible from the ground.
Press and Media Update: Thank You, MacTech!
SkyCube continued to receive great media coverage this week, spearheaded by MacTech magazine's press release:
Here's the full article on MacTech's web site. Mashable picked up the story, too! MacTech will be offering special SkyCube sponsorship packages at the MacTech conference in Los Angeles in October, 2012.
Speaking of conferences...
The New Space Conference, Us, and You
We exhibited SkyCube at the New Space Conference in Santa Clara, California, on July 26th through 28th. New Space was sponsored by the Space Frontier Foundation, an advocacy organization founded in 1988. Here are the logos of the SFF, and some of the New Space's conference's major sponsors:
These are big aerospace organizations, and you've probably heard of many before. But what impressed us most was the number of small companies at New Space: groups like Celestial Circuits, Moog CSA Engineering, the Robert A. Heinlein Prize Trust, the Open Luna Foundation, and Sierra Nevada Corporation. The private spaceflight industry really does seem to be taking off, now, after many decades of appearing elusively around the corner.
We were also impressed by the number of students from places like San Jose State, Hartnell College, and the University of Michigan. And we were relieved that SkyCube's mission was as well-received as it was. Was SkyCube going to be "old news" to aerospace industry veterans, or to university students who'd launched CubeSats before?
The clear answer was: no. SkyCube really is a new idea, and it's a good one. All of those big companies, university students, and everyone in between, were incredibly supportive - and the reason is you. SkyCube isn't just a science project. It's a social project. Its real mission is to unite people around the globe, to share costs and rewards as widely as possible, and to reawaken interest in science, space, and astronomy among the general public in a way that has never been done before.
I'll close this update with some words that Gary Parkerson, the editor of Astronomy Technology Today, shared with us after learning about SkyCube:
"SkyCube caught me by surprise because I did not believe unmanned space exploration could inspire me – or the billions like me – so far removed from NASA projects. But SkyCube introduces a dimension that NASA has lost: SkyCube is, by its very premise, personal."
In other words, SkyCube is you. And you can double yourself! So let's boldly go - together - where none of us could have ever gone before.
-Tim, Joe, Chris, Scott, Kevin, Tyler, Mark, David, Bill, and the rest of Team SkyCube.