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Firefly is an Arduino compatible system with onboard power, charging, data logging, and radio communications. Read more

Weaverville, NC Hardware
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This project's funding goal was not reached on August 31, 2012.

Firefly is an Arduino compatible system with onboard power, charging, data logging, and radio communications.

Weaverville, NC Hardware
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About this project

Your exploration begins now

A lot of space nerds speak longingly about the space program of yore. NASA made this huge leap to the moon, and if we can only get the country to rally like that again, then maybe we'll get that future in space we all imagined.

That might work.


Advances in technology have created another possible path to exploration of the Universe.


What if YOU could do real exploration yourself? On a small budget, with a small team.

Today, real science, engineering, and even space exploration is happening outside the walls of large organizations and facilities.

What if…

  • We drove down the cost of exploration?
  • Allowed ANY inventor to do big things?
  • We made standardized systems with reusable, sharable code?

Start at step 10

All exploration projects seem to recreate the first several steps. From battery and charging systems, to data logging and communications, there are countless projects that make all of these systems from scratch.

If you were going to build the next killer web game, would you have your developers start by building their own laptops? Would they solder battery circuits together, and then make their own compiler?


Why do the same with your exploration project?

Skip steps 1 through 9.  Start at step 10.

So what can you do with it?

Firefly is a flexible-use fully assembled board that can serve as the basis for the brains, fuel, and voice for many different applications including:

  • high-altitude balloons 
  • suborbital flights
as well as terrestrial applications such as
  • a weather station
  • robotics platform 
  • remote control home automation
  • education and classrooms

With some planning and modifications you might even be able to use it for something out of this world. 

Firefly is an Arduino with super powers

  • Onboard radio communications
  • Onboard Data Logging (micro SD card)
  • Onboard Power and charging (through mini USB and barrel plugs)
  • Arduino Shield compatible
  • Use the power of the existing Arduino community and share code

Your money drives down the price

We need your help to make these cheaply so that many people can start projects on a tight budget.  It's much cheaper to have 1000 made than 100.


Everyone who pledges $35 gets one of these super cool T-Shirts:

You'll be the envy of all of your friends
You'll be the envy of all of your friends

Get a "kickstart" (pun intended) on your exploration project.  

One of the rewards is a ticket to a "Space hackers" workshop:

Firefly will be featured at the Cubesat Space Hackers Workshop Oct. 26 - 28 in San Jose, California. The event will be hosted by the Silicon Valley Space Center.

Learn from veterans of space exploration. The original do-it-yourself space pioneer and creator of the Cubesat, Bob Twiggs, will talk at the workshop about defining, designing and carrying out picosat-class missions in space. Most importantly, at the workshop conclusion you will learn how YOU can get to space. The creator of Firefly, former Kentucky Space embedded systems engineer Daniel Erb, will also be present at the San Jose workshop and lead sessions on the specific uses of Firefly.

Firefly Technical Details

  • Main Processor: ATMEGA 328 - High performance, lower power Atmel® AVR® 8-bit Microcontroller
  • Mini USB 
  • Push Button Reset Switch
  • Barrel Plug for Solar Recharging
  • 18650 LiPo battery carrier 
  • Analog I/O Pins: 6 
  • Digital I/O Pins: 14 (6 PWM) 
  • ON/OFF Switch
  • Header Pins for Vbat, GND, 3.3V, & AREF 
  • Operating Voltage 3.3V
  • Micro SD card slot for Data Logging
  • Linx Technologies: LT Series transceiver module (433 Mhz) for wireless data transfer 


Arduino / Shield Compatible
CubeSat Kit Compatible
Battery Powered: 1x 3.7V Li-Ion 2400 mAh

Rechargeable by:

  • USB
  • Solar – A solar array may be attached FireFly through the barrel plug. Firefly incorporates diode protection to protect the battery from back-discharging through attached solar arrays when not in the sun. The open-circuit voltage of the solar array should be at least 4.2V to ensure a fully charged battery though lower voltages will work. An open-circuit voltage of 4.5-6V is recommended.

Physical Characteristics

  • Length (mm): 95.63 (inches): 3.765”
  • Width (mm): 89.92  (inches): 3.540”
  • Mass w/o Battery & Antenna (grams): 43.7
  • Whip Antenna Mass (grams): 6.5
  • Battery Mass (grams): 45 

Who and when?

Firefly has been designed by the Cubesat experts at Kentucky Space and provided by Evadot. Originally designed for the first "Space Hackers" workshop in 2011, it quickly became apparent that a board like Firefly could be useful to a large number of people.  Before Firefly, the average cost to start a proof of concept for a balloon or cubesat project was over a thousand dollars.  Firefly is designed to disrupt that price barrier and help to standardize the first steps in a project. 

Kentucky Space

Kentucky Space LLC is an ambitious, non-profit enterprise focused on R&D, educational, small entrepreneurial and commercial space solutions. Their focus is on areas such as communications, systems engineering, exomedicine research, and education.  Kentucky Space has flown several free flying satellites as well as ISS payloads into space.


Highlights opportunities in the Space industry for organizations.  Lead by Michael Doornbos, a hacker, author and speaker, Evadot is building the community around the Firefly platform and coordinating the software development.

How and when

We have about 6 functional prototypes painstakingly hand soldered and being used to develop code and get people excited.  The final delivered product will be produced by a large American based board manufacturer and assembler who has the designs in place and parts lists prepared for production.  We will begin production when the Kickstarter campaign is completed.  We expect manufacturing to begin in late September of 2012.


  • We didn't really set out to create a $160 long duration space platform, but you could certainly use it on one of the many suborbital flights that several major companies are getting set to start providing. If you wanted to use it for a longer duration flight you’d need to start by coating the board in an epoxy and changing out the battery carrier.

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  • Approximately 30 to 45 days after the project is funded.

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  • Firefly is a "general computing platform" subject to ECCN 5A991. If you choose to use it for a space application, such as a cubesat, your project may be subject to ITAR.

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  • YES. The radio works on UHF 433.92 Mhz. In the United States, the base Amateur Radio license (Technician class) is all you need.

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  • Sure, if you want to build those first 10 steps in the project, go right ahead. You can even use the code in our library if you want.

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  • Like every familiar microcontroller environment, Firefly will accept and run code on custom circuits so that specific goals can be intelligently accomplished, like monitoring the local environment or building small robots that can navigate a course. Crucially, Firefly also includes data-logging and radio capabilities in the amateur radio band (in the United States, you will need a Technician class license), which means it can communicate its findings.

    Accelerometers, spectrometers and CO2 detectors are just three of the many, many kinds of sensors that can be used with Firefly. If the sensor will work with an Arduino board, chances are very good that it will also work with Firefly.

    Kentucky Space plans to use the board in its active high altitude balloon program.

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  • NO! But Firefly has been designed to be familiar to Arduino fans. The Arduino development environment, for example, can be used to compose and download sketches to Firefly.

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  • The board has so that interested parties and Firefly users can find support as well as code for their projects.

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  • We’re developing a radio shield for Arduino boards to be available in late 2012. You could also easily use a second Firefly on the ground. You'll probably want a directional antenna on the ground as well.

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  • You selected
    $5 reward

    10 backers

    Support Firefly with a donation. Every dollar helps, also, open source and citizen science rule!

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $12 reward

    6 backers

    Sticker pack and our thanks via Kentucky Space Twitter account AND Evadot Twitter account like: (@KySpace) “@[yourtwitterhandle] thinks outside the atmosphere. Thanks for supporting Firefly!”

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $20 reward

    7 backers

    Sticker Pack, a shout out on Twitter AND we’ll take your name to space on a future Kentucky Space suborbital or orbital mission.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $25 reward

    3 backers

    If you're interested in supporting Firefly without getting stuff in return other than our eternal gratitude and the satisfaction of knowing you helped further Citizen science.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $35 reward

    8 backers

    "Where are you going?” Firefly T-Shirt and Sticker Pack

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  • You selected
    $65 reward

    1 backer

    2 Firefly T-Shirts and Sticker Pack

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $100 reward

    0 backers

    If you're interested in supporting Firefly without getting stuff in return other than our eternal gratitude and the satisfaction of knowing you helped further Citizen science.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $160 reward

    26 backers

    1 Firefly Board + Firefly T-Shirt and Sticker Pack

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $300 reward

    5 backers

    2 Firefly Boards Plus Firefly T-Shirt and Sticker Pack

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $475 reward

    4 backers Limited (16 left of 20)

    Firefly board plus attendance at the "Cubesat Space Hackers Workshop" workshop.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $1,400 reward

    0 backers

    10 Firefly Boards

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $6,500 reward

    0 backers

    50 Firefly boards

    Estimated delivery:

Funding period

- (30 days)