Tiny KickSat Sprite satellites hitch ride into orbit
Exploring space has long been the sole diversion of governments, big business and academics. With each galactic jaunt potentially costing hundreds of millions of pounds and demanding decades of planning, it's hardly a surprise that we're not all reaching for the nearest astrophysics textbook.
As of this week, however, 104 regular Earth citizens can now claim to each have had their own satellite in orbit, each for less than £200 ($300). The age of personal space exploration has begun. The space pioneers are all backers of the KickSat project. Started in December 2011 on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, the project attracted more than double its initial asking amount, pulling in nearly $75,000.
Three years later, KickSat's 104 satellites have hitched a lift into orbit aboard SpaceX's CRS-3 resupply rocket to the International Space Station. The big idea behind KickSat is to make satellites so tiny that the cost of getting into space can be split hundreds or even thousands of ways.
The major expense of space flight, perhaps unsurprisingly, is getting off the Earth - typically it costs up to $100,000/kg to ride a rocket into space. The KickSat satellites, called Sprites, are drastically different to the large and costly satellites currently orbiting above our heads.