Technology miniaturization and affordable electronics have allowed us to design tiny satellites that can perform the same functions as their larger, more expensive cousins. CubeSats and PocketQubes have allowed academic institutions and private tech startups to put their satellites into space for everything from research to explorations, which wasn’t a possibility just 20 years ago.
With that said, there are still a few obstacles that need to be overcome before launching anything into space — including licenses from government agencies, which are difficult to get, but the most notable problem is money. It still takes significant funds to put anything into orbit, which is why Joe Latrell and a team of engineers has turned to Kickstarter to get his version of the PocketQube into orbit.
Latrell and his team designed their PocketQube Discovery around FriendlyARM’s NanoPi Neo Air board, sensor suite, and cameras; all packed into a reinforced 3D-printed enclosure. The team partnered with UK-based Alba Orbital to help launch and deploy the Discovery into a 500km sun-synchronous orbit for optimal viewing of the Earth.
“The ultimate objective for us is to build a constellation of Earth-monitoring satellites. Instead of large and expensive satellites, we want to create a new system using very tiny satellites that talk to each other and relay data to Earth as a group. This will allow for near constant monitoring of resources, nearly in real time. Because they are small, easily built, and inexpensive, we can launch a large number of them, and if one fails, the rest can continue to function. With a 5-year lifespan, inexpensive cost, and low, sun-synchronous orbit, they should be perfect.”
To meet that goal, Latrell and his crew need funds to test the Discovery satellite in space, as they’ve already done what they can through simulations here on earth. Latrell states that his Kickstarter campaign will aid in getting heir satellite off the ground by balancing launch costs, appropriating additional hardware (including radios), further testing, and licensing. Pledge rewards include sending personalized messages and photos into space, a 3D-printed model of the Discovery satellite, and more.