Faulty Clock Might Doom Crowdfunded KickSat Satellite

Faulty Clock Might Doom Crowdfunded KickSat Satellite

KickSat CubeSat 310x

Kickstarted satellite project might fall victim to irradiated master clock.

It's been a few years since KickSat successfully funded through Kickstarter -- just under $75,000 to send a bunch of tiny, programmable satellites into Earth's low orbit.

But that Sprite dream might be dashed, as the KickSat holding all of the crowdfunded satellites has been hit with a serious timing problem.

According to the latest post on KickSat's Kickstarter page, the microcontroller in charge of the master clock and subsystem booting went through some sort of crash.

"...the packets we've been receiving have changed in the last couple of days," said project leader Zachary Manchester. "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."

With the master clock reset, the KickSat has reset its Sprite deployment back to 16 days from the reset. The problem? The mother KickSat is set to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere before that 16-day period is over, taking all the Sprite units with it.

There are two possibilities for KickSat that could keep the Sprites on-track, however; if the batteries recharge enough in the next few days, the satellite could be taken under manual control. If that doesn't work, there's an outside chance that KickSat could hold onto its orbit long enough for the Sprites to be released. Hopefully one of these two things happens, because it would be shame for so many satellites to go to waste.

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That it's up there at all for $75k is already impressive. Hopefully this will work out but this is already far more successful than I'd have bet on it being.

Lightknight:
That it's up there at all for $75k is already impressive. Hopefully this will work out but this is already far more successful than I'd have bet on it being.

Exactly! It's far cheaper than something NASA would have pulled out of their behind, that's for sure.

I hope it succeeds, it'd be good to see space exploration becoming something within reach of the public and not just for a few self serving governments.

Deathfish15:

Exactly! It's far cheaper than something NASA would have pulled out of their behind, that's for sure.

When NASA sends something out, it can work for decades. And honestly, NASA isn't that expensive. The total amount of funding NASA got since its inception is less than the funding the US military gets in one year.

http://www.upworthy.com/defense-budget-1t-50-years-of-nasa-budgets-800b-chart-of-this-ridiculous-dispari

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/21/air-conditioning-military-cost-nasa_n_881828.html

RA92:

Deathfish15:

Exactly! It's far cheaper than something NASA would have pulled out of their behind, that's for sure.

When NASA sends something out, it can work for decades. And honestly, NASA isn't that expensive. The total amount of funding NASA got since its inception is less than the funding the US military gets in one year.

http://www.upworthy.com/defense-budget-1t-50-years-of-nasa-budgets-800b-chart-of-this-ridiculous-dispari

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/21/air-conditioning-military-cost-nasa_n_881828.html

Being Cheaper than the military doesn't say a lot at nearly one thousand billion dollars a year there's some major government corruption going on there.

Jessta:

RA92:

Deathfish15:

Exactly! It's far cheaper than something NASA would have pulled out of their behind, that's for sure.

When NASA sends something out, it can work for decades. And honestly, NASA isn't that expensive. The total amount of funding NASA got since its inception is less than the funding the US military gets in one year.

http://www.upworthy.com/defense-budget-1t-50-years-of-nasa-budgets-800b-chart-of-this-ridiculous-dispari

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/21/air-conditioning-military-cost-nasa_n_881828.html

Being Cheaper than the military doesn't say a lot at nearly one thousand billion dollars a year there's some major government corruption going on there.

Dude. You misread the chart. NASA got a little over $800 billion in 50+ years, not 1 year.

RA92:

Deathfish15:

Exactly! It's far cheaper than something NASA would have pulled out of their behind, that's for sure.

When NASA sends something out, it can work for decades. And honestly, NASA isn't that expensive. The total amount of funding NASA got since its inception is less than the funding the US military gets in one year.

http://www.upworthy.com/defense-budget-1t-50-years-of-nasa-budgets-800b-chart-of-this-ridiculous-dispari

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/21/air-conditioning-military-cost-nasa_n_881828.html

It's not whether or not NASA is more expensive. It's whether or not A few $75 launches a year can accomplish what one multi-million dollar launch would accomplish. You'd start saving those launches for the very big items instead. Ones that actually require a real rocket. Things like satellites that are expensive enough to need to last a decade+ or deliveries to the space station. But communications could potentially be better served by a swarm of cheap satellites rather than a couple large and hugely expensive ones. We've seen benefits in several areas with arrays of satellites rather than just a handful.

I don't know if our tech is really there yet price-wise. These very basic units cost $300 each and have extremely basic functions. But that we can get anything into orbit for $75 should mean we're not far away from cost effective launches and should the tech be cheap enough we should stop thinking of launching satellites as only monolithic devices requiring hundreds of thousands if not more to use.

It's something to think about if nothing else. Personally, I'd love NASA to get more money. I'm just saying that there could be a different and more cost effective way to do things.

Sad to hear they got hit with something rather preventable through lead foil, unless they did have lead foil and by chance a micrometeoroid poked a hole large enough that radiation could get though to irradiate the microcontoller.

RA92:

Jessta:

RA92:

When NASA sends something out, it can work for decades. And honestly, NASA isn't that expensive. The total amount of funding NASA got since its inception is less than the funding the US military gets in one year.

http://www.upworthy.com/defense-budget-1t-50-years-of-nasa-budgets-800b-chart-of-this-ridiculous-dispari

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/21/air-conditioning-military-cost-nasa_n_881828.html

Being Cheaper than the military doesn't say a lot at nearly one thousand billion dollars a year there's some major government corruption going on there.

Dude. You misread the chart. NASA got a little over $800 billion in 50+ years, not 1 year.

I didn't say they did, I was referring to the military, it's not a great thing to measure things against seeing as how it's essentially a giant sink hole of funds for a handful of corrupt politicians making millions,thousands of underpaid soldiers making shit all and an ever evolving stockpile of weapons & vehicles that become out graded faster than an apple product.

Unfortunately, it looks like they did indeed burn up in the atmosphere:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/zacinaction/kicksat-your-personal-spacecraft-in-space/posts

"Hi Everyone,

KickSat reentered the atmosphere and burned up last night some time around 9:30 PM EDT (01:30 UTC). Unfortunately, we were not able to command the Sprite deployment in time. While we are certainly disappointed that things did not go as planned, I think we still have a lot to be proud of.

Over 300 people from all over the world came together to make KickSat happen. We built a spacecraft, tested it, and launched it. Hundreds of people had their names flown in space, more than a dozen radio amateurs were able to receive signals from KickSat's beacon radio, and volunteers collected and processed telemetry data and predicted KickSat's orbit and reentry. This kind of participation is exactly what KickSat is all about and I'm glad we all got to share in this experience.

We've learned a lot from KickSat, and I plan to take those lessons and build an even better KickSat-2. This is only the beginning! Thank you all for your amazing support over the past two years. I hope you'll stick with us as we continue to try to make space something everyone can take part in.

- Zac"

Yes, they do have a LOT to be proud of.

 

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