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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.
2,711 backers pledged $116,890 to help bring this project to life.

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Double Yourself!

Posted by Tim DeBenedictis (Creator)

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.

The cameras we are using are all the uCam TTL from 4D Systems.  They've been successfully flown on CubeSats before.  We expect them to work beautifully for SkyCube, too.

Press and Media Update: Thank You, MacTech!

SkyCube continued to receive great media coverage this week, spearheaded by MacTech magazine's press release:

Southern Stars and MacTech Magazine Take You Into Space with SkyCube

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.

Happy Apollo Day!

Posted by Tim DeBenedictis (Creator)

Hello Team SkyCube!

On July 20th, 1969 - exactly 43 years ago today - Apollo 11 landed on the Moon.  If you're old enough (and I'm not!) you probably remember where you were, and exactly what you were doing at the time.

We want to do for a new generation of explorers what Apollo did for the generation before us.  But we want to do it with a new, 21st century social twist.  SkyCube is your satellite.  You are making it happen!

Fundaising Update

SkyCube's sponsor base is growing rapidly.  You raised $1500 the first weekend; and we're up to $8000 in our first 6 days.  We're on pace to succeed.  Team SkyCube is about 250-strong as I write this.  If we can grow to 1000 members, we can get into orbit for $80 each.  If we grow to 10,000 sponsors, the average sponsorship only needs to be $8 each.  We're less than a week into this campaign, and there are 7 weeks left to go.  We can do this.  Here's how:

If you've sponsored SkyCube, get two more people to sponsor is.  Post www.skycube.org to your Facebook page; tweet it, and - here's a crazy idea - talk about it.  Tell your family what you've become a part of.  Tell your friends.  Invite them to join a movement that just might become as historic as what happened 43 years ago today on the Sea of Tranquility.

Press Coverage

SkyCube has gotten a lot of press coverage in its first week.  Here are some of the stories that have come out:

And not just in English!  The story has begun to spread around the world:

The video from IDG News's story is now linked on our main project page.  Feel free to post any or all of the above to your blogs, newsgroups, Facebook pages, twitter streams.  Or just talk about them, with anyone whom you think might be interested in joining us.

Project Status

A number of you have asked very good questions about our satellite's broadcast frequencies, camera capabilities, and other aspects of the mission.  We've collected your questions and put their answers in the FAQ section at the bottom of our main project page.  And ask us directly if you have additional questions which are not answered there.

On the technical front, we've now gotten our satellite computer processor, radio, and camera talking to each other successfully.  Video demos of the current state of progress of SkyCube's radio and imaging cameras are available on YouTube.  We've also made progress on our FCC and NOAA licenses, both of which are required before we launch in 2013.

Around this time next week, we'll hope to show you progress on the satellite's mechanical structure, power system, and balloon inflation mechanism.  Stay tuned.

Wrapup

We're off to a strong start.  I'm impressed that most of our sponsors are people I have never met in person.  But perhaps that reflects what SkyCube is really all about.  Its real mission is to bring people together, on Earth, through what we do in space.

And perhaps that kind of unification is really the single greatest achievement of the Apollo program.  Though I'm too young to remember it, people who do tell me that the moment Neil Armstrong left the first human footprints on the Moon was the only time in their memory when the whole world was united, together, in achievement and celebration.

Let's do it again.

-Tim, Chris, Kevin, Tyler, Mark, David, Scott, and the rest of Team SkyCube.