SkyCube: The Mission

SkyCube's mission is to make a shared space exploration experience available to as large a number of people as possible, at minimal cost, using the modern web, mobile apps, and social media. If you're reading this page, the mission has already begun - and you're a part of it.

Once we've assembled and tested SkyCube on the ground, it will be delivered to our payload integrator, Spaceflght Services. The integrator handles manifesting, certification, and integration with SpaceX - SkyCube's launch service provider. The satellite is intended for launch a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in Q1 2013. Once in orbit, SkyCube will be ejected from the primary satellite using a standard spring-loaded ejector called a P-POD (for Poly-Picosatellite Orbital Deployer), along with three or more other CubeSats.

SkyCube's destination is a circular orbit 750 kilometers above the Earth's surface, at an inclination of 56 degrees to the Earth's equator. It will pass over most of the world's inhabited regions many times per day, completing an orbit every 99.7 minutes. This is when the real fun begins. SkyCube's cameras will image the Earth, and you can request its images directly from your iOS or Android device. When SkyCube passes over one of our ground communication stations, it will beam the images down - and our servers will relay them to you across the internet.

In addition to images, SkyCube will also broadcast data. All CubeSats are required to broadcast "pings" every 10 seconds to indicate that they're alive. SkyCube's pings will be different. Sponsors can send any message they want, up to 120 characters in length, from their mobile app or web browser. We'll relay them to the satellite - and your messages will become our pings, "tweets from space" broadcast at a frequency of 915 MHz. Your "messages in a bottle" can be detected by anyone on the ground with inexpensive amateur radio equipment. Our apps will tell you when to listen for them, and what the current message says - just in case you don't want to become a ham satellite radio operator yourself!

The mission's final phase begins when SkyCube's balloon inflates. The satellite will transform from an invisibly small 10-centimeter cube into a brightly reflective object nearly ten feet in diameter. It will be easily visible in twilight skies, even from large cities and other light-polluted areas. Though this new "star" in the heavens won't last long, it will provide an equally transformative experience for everyone who helped put it there. It's one thing to get tweets and images from space on your phone; it's an entirely different thing to see the satellite that sent them to you.

SkyCube's mission isn't cutting-edge scientific discovery. Rather, it's a mission of personal discovery for all of its participants. It's a mission that each of its sponsors will own in a very literal way, a spacecraft that millions of people can interact with, and a reality that everyone can see with their own eyes.

SpaceX Falcon-9 Dragon launch from
Cape Canaveral AFB, 22 May 2012