My name is Marc Choueiri and I am one of KickSat’s newest members. This is my first blog post and although I can’t entice you with the same technical details as Zac, I can tell you a little about myself, what I do for the project and why I love working for KickSat.
A born and raised New Yorker, I followed in my father’s footsteps coming to Cornell to pursue mechanical engineering. I joined KickSat this past summer and have stayed on the team for the academic year. I am part of the project’s mechanical team and am responsible for all mechanical components of KickSat.
Recently, my main focus has been working on KickSat’s deployment system for Sprites. For those of you who are unfamiliar with ‘KickSat’ terminology, Sprites are the femtosatellites we expect to deploy in low Earth orbit. They are 3.5cm x 3.5 cm x 2mm circuit boards with sensors, solar panels, a radio and an antenna. I have been improving the design of the deployment system and building two new iterations for our planned future launches. The system consists of several aluminum deployer pieces tensioned with springs and held in place by a locking mechanism. When the satellite is at the proper altitude, a burn wire is activated that releases the locking mechanism. The Sprites, whose antennas double as deployment springs, are released into orbit at an altitude of around 300 km. See the pictures and video below to get an idea of how the deployment system works:
I enjoy studying mechanical engineering but most of the work we do is theoretical and not hands-on. That is one reason I am grateful to be part of this project. I work with the worlds' smallest satellites and something I help build with my own hands will be soon be in space. KickSat has given my colleagues and me a unique opportunity that not many other engineers at Cornell get to experience. Most importantly, the work we do also has direct application to life outside the classroom.
A question I get a lot is what is KickSat's ultimate goal? When can it be determined the project was successful? Although I can't speak for Zac, I say one of the two milestones that will signal to me the full accomplishment of the KickSat mission is to have Sprites deployed (by anyone) into another planet’s atmosphere. The concept is very inexpensive and would be ideal for studying other planets. It would be unfortunate to see KickSat have the same fate as most research projects and end up on the shelf. The other milestone would be to see crowd-funded space exploration projects being done on a mass scale. KickSat is a leader in inexpensive space exploration so hopefully it will pave the way for many other future projects. With those two things accomplished, I will be fully content with how far KickSat has come.
We know so little about space so hopefully the technological innovations from the KickSat project will help us change that. It's not on the same scale as the Curiosity Rover or MAVEN but certainly a step in the right direction.
Thanks everybody for reading. Happy holidays!