Tag Archives: AGU

KickSats - An Interview with Zac Manchester

Another AGU related post, but this time one that offers a future opportunity for participation! While walking around the vendors areas I approached a space company and began talking with a student at their booth. He turned out to be Zac Manchester, the main driver of the KickSat campaign. We chatted for a bit and I thought this would make a great post as well as letting you know about an upcoming opportunity to help telemeter data down.

Zac Manchester showing off an example satellite at the AGU Fall Meeting.

Zac Manchester showing off an example satellite at the AGU Fall Meeting.

You can find out some about the project from KickSat.net. After the meeting Zac was kind enough to answer some questions for the blog. There will be a future post as well where I'll share my personal ground station setup and then posts during reception of the data in Feburary. It's fun to see these tiny satellites that are just a printed circuit board with a solar cell and no battery. Amazing design and great use of a Texas Instruments microchip with a built in radio! Zac actually repurposed these chips as they are designed to be used in wireless key entry systems in cars. Fantastic!

What inspired you to start the KickSat program?
Mostly desperation. Our research group at Cornell has been working on
"ChipSat" scale spacecraft for a number of years and we got to a point
where we felt we were ready to actually fly some in space. We were
able to get a free launch through a NASA program called ELaNa, but we
still needed some money to build the flight hardware. KickStarter was
still pretty new at the time (2011), but I had heard of it through
some friends. After thinking it over a lot and not really having many
other options, we decided to go for it.

What was the most difficult challenge during the project?
The most difficult technical challenge was probably the communications
system. We're trying to simultaneously receive signals from over 100
tiny satellites, each with only about 10 mW of power, from 500 km
away, all on a very low budget.

How will the satellites be deployed and where can we find tracking data?
The Sprites will be deployed out of a 3U CubeSat "mothership" (called
KickSat), which is being launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 in late
February or early March. The Sprites will be deployed 7 days after
launch vehicle separation and we will have tracking data available on
our website (kicksat.net).

When is launch?
Officially February 22, 2014, but that will likely be subject to delays. This is now set for March 16, 2014.  You can check for updates by looking for spacecraft "SpaceX CRS 3" on  SpaceFlight Now.

How long will the satellites be in orbit?
KickSat, the 3U CubeSat "mothership" will stay in orbit for a few
months, while the Sprites will reenter in a few days, probably less
than a week, after they are deployed.

How can educators and radio operators receive the data? How should be send in any data we receive?
We'd love to have participation from as many radio amateurs as
possible. Information on how to set up a ground station, receive
signals, and submit recorded data will be posted on kicksat.net in the
coming weeks.

That's it! Thank you for reading and be sure to check out any follow up posts.  I'll be setting up my ground station over the next week.

AGU Education Demonstrations

I recently got back from the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco and wanted to try out adding some videos to the blog. The education section had a poster session during the last day of the conference that was on collection of data in real time in the classroom. Some of the demonstrations were very interesting and I thought it would be fun to share here. I didn't have my good HD camera at the conference, but I did have my iPhone.

That being said these are rather rough videos. If you think these are interesting be sure to say so and I'll try to take some better camera gear to conferences!

Demo 1: Mantle Convection

Using a set of cross driven PVC rollers Gary Glesener (UCLA) demonstrated a basic, historical plate tectonic model with his classroom Griggs apparatus. I got most of the explanation and demonstration on video.

Demo 2: Internal Waves

This demo used a small tank with saline water in the bottom and a layer of fresh water floating on top to demonstrate the standing waves setup at the density contrast. Then with two conductivity probes they show the passing wave and phase offset to allow students to calculate quantities such as the Brunt–Väisälä number. Again I think that most of the explanation is on the video. This is one of many demos from Dr. Jonathan Aurnou's group at the UCLA SpinLab.

Demo 3: The Geodynamo

The last demonstration was very interesting, but sadly I only have the explanation on video. Luckily I have video of a similar apparatus I built years ago to supplement! The idea was to show how rotating fluids in the Earth can create our geomagnetic field. That is rather difficult to show, but the inverse is pretty easy. It is also the basis for magneto-hydrodynamic propulsion. Below is the video of the project being explained and a video of my apparatus from many years ago. This is another UCLA SpinLab demo!

My old version of a similar idea:


UCLA Modeling Educational and Demonstrations Laboratory
SpinLab YouTube Channel
SpinLab Webpage