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Would you like to have your own spacecraft?  Kickstart the personal space age by helping launch tiny spacecraft into low Earth orbit.
Would you like to have your own spacecraft? Kickstart the personal space age by helping launch tiny spacecraft into low Earth orbit.
315 backers pledged $74,586 to help bring this project to life.

KickSat's Current Status

Posted by Zachary Manchester (Creator)

Hi Everyone,

First off, I'd like to sincerely thank all of you for your support over the past two years. KickSat has been a success up to this point because of you.

As those who've been keeping up with the telemetry data coming in from KickSat on our mailing list may have noticed, the packets we've been receiving have changed in the last couple of days. This was due to a hard reset of the "watchdog" microcontroller on KickSat - the sort of "reptile brain" of the satellite that manages turning on and off the rest of the subsystems and keeps the master clock. It appears the reset happened some time in the morning of Wednesday, April 30th. The reset doesn't seem to be the result of power issues (the watchdog should run until the batteries reach 5.5 volts, and they've been holding steady around 6.5 volts). Instead, it seems the likely culprit was radiation.

One consequence of the watchdog reset on KickSat is that the spacecraft's master clock was reset, thus also setting the deployment countdown for KickSat back to 16 days. That would put the deployment some time in the morning of May 16th. Unfortunately, it looks like KickSat will most likely reenter and burn up before the 16th. We've spent the last couple of days here at Cornell trying to think of every possible contingency, but it seems there aren't very many options right now. KickSat's uplink radio, which we could use to command the deployment, can't turn on unless the batteries reach 8 volts, and it doesn't look like they'll reach that level in time.

While the situation looks a little bleak, there is still some hope that the batteries may recharge sufficiently to command the satellite. There is also a small chance that KickSat could remain in orbit until the 16th, at which point the timer would set off the deployment as originally planned. We'll continue tracking KickSat over the next few days with the help of the ham community, so that we can keep track of its battery voltage and the Sprite deployment status. I'll post updates here, as usual, but you can also see the latest data as it comes in on our mailing list.

Thank you again for your support. I promise that this won't be the end of the KickSat project.

- Zac

Jeff D. Hamann, Chris Norris, and 5 more people like this update.


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    1. Zachary Manchester Creator on

      Hi Jay,
      The timer was set to 16 days after a lot of back and forth with the ISS program office at NASA. We basically had to make sure we didn't interfere with any of their operations.
      - Zac

    2. Jay Bryon on

      Well, cosmic rays happen. Bummer, but still holding out hope for now.

      Just out of curiosity, why was there a 16 day delay for deployment? To ensure enough drift from the other cubesats, or another reason?

    3. Ben Bishop on

      Samuel, it doesn't seem like there is any uplink capability at the moment, Zac says in the update above that the uplink radio won't switch on unless the batteries reach 8 volts - currently it has been holding at 6.5 volts.

      Zac, sorry about this latest development. Still, our names have whizzed over just about every part of the Earth, so that's something.

      Here's to surviving till the 16th (and slightly beyond), but I'm assuming there's a real risk of another watchdog reset between now and the 16th?

    4. John Zanchetta on

      Hi Zac,

      2 years of fascinating insight, info and excitement - that's what this project has provided to just me. If the worst happens and kicksat burns up, well it would be a dissapointment, sure, but that's just the nature of space flight, afterall this is not a trivial thing to do.

      However, look at all the positives.. You designed and built a spacecraft, its actually in orbit, its sending data, you've literally engaged hundreds of people across the globe, from all walks of life. So by all accounts, this project has been a massive success, irrespective of what happens next.

    5. Samuel H Dupree Jr on

      Has any thought been given to implementing a patch to bias KickSat's clock making the on-board software believe it later in the timeline than it is?

      The idea would be to write and uplink a software path and the bias value that would bias the time output by KickSat's clock making subsystem software, say the software that initiates events on the satellite to think that it is later in the timeline that it is in reality so as to initiate the activities that culminate in deploying the sprites. After the sprites have been deployed, and a clock reset is needed, either have the patched software zero out the bias and on-board resume as normal.

      Just a thought.

    6. Chris Norris on

      Zac, thanks for the update. Fingers crossed that everything works out but you know don't be too disheartened. Space projects always carry a huge risk - even if my 'sat doesn't deploy at least I know it was in orbit riding in the launcher and it has been fascinating following the project's journey over the last 2 years.
      Any any case - here's to Kicksat II :o)

    7. Wesley Faler on


      Thank you for keeping us all informed! I appreciate your efforts to bring us KickSat and to keep it on-mission. It will be interesting to hear about the design trade offs that went into KickSat. It seems the battery and timer choices have unexpected side effects and it makes a good lesson in satellite design for all of us.