Some Sprites Return Home After a Long Trip
Remember the prototype Sprites I showed off during my original Kickstarter video?
Those were from the first batch of Sprites we made back in 2010. As some of you may know, we were lucky enough to be able to send three of those early prototypes to the ISS on STS-134 (the second-to-last Space Shuttle mission). The Sprites were installed on the outside of the space station as part of the MISSE-8 experiment, where they stayed for three years. Here are a couple of pictures from the spacewalk when MISSE-8 was installed (notice the three Sprites in the second photo).
In a very cool turn of events, MISSE-8 was returned to Earth on May 18 inside the same Dragon capsule that KickSat rode into space with as part of the CRS-3 mission. A few days ago our Sprites finally finished their long journey, making it all the way back to the lab at Cornell where they were made. As you can see, they've clearly been through a lot.
We were very curious to see how well the Sprites' off-the-shelf electronics held up to three years of space radiation. After a quick trip to the hardware store to track down an incandescent lamp (thanks to Ithaca's rainy weather, there wasn't enough real sunlight to power the Sprite's solar cells), we were to detect strong radio transmissions from two of the three Sprites. We still have a lot more testing to do, but this is a very promising first indication that the components we're using on the Sprites can survive for long periods of time in the harsh space environment. I'll keep you all posted as we learn more.