|Your Own Space Cargo for Less Than $150|
|By JON M. CHANG (@JonMChang)||Jul 1, 2013, 4:35 PM|
For about the same price as a dress in a department store or a pair of tickets to a Justin Timberlake concert, you can buy your own piece of a space mission, the people behind Pocket Spacecraft are telling their Kickstarter supporters.
Like many entrepreneurs these days, Michael Johnson, the founder of Pocket Spacecraft, turned to the crowdfunding site after the traditional ways of securing money didn't pan out.
"We applied for funding from the major space agencies but it never quite made it past that," he told ABC News.
The Pocket Spacecraft is a disc a little smaller than a CD, but as thin as a sheet of paper. Using specialized equipment, the company will print resistors, capacitors, and all manner of circuit parts directly onto the disc. Some backers will have access to the actual circuit diagrams themselves and will be able to modify their own electronics for their spacecraft.
This isn't the first time someone has offered a cheap spacecraft on Kickstarter. Kicksat, funded back in December 2011, is set to launch at the end of this year.
Following in Kicksat's footsteps, Pocket Spacecraft plans to use a device known as a CubeSat in order to get off the ground. The CubeSat is a rectangular container about a foot long. Though much of it is filled with specialized equipment, there is room in the CubeSat to stick in whatever a sponsor wants to bring up into the space.
Multiple CubeSats are launched aboard the same rocket and are then ejected whenever the rocket is far enough from Earth.
Where Kicksat offered a one-type-fits-all spacecraft for its launch, Pocket Spacecraft is promising a deeper level of customization and interaction.
That isn't to say that you'll be able to make a replica of the Death Star and launch it into space. However, Pocket Spacecraft will let people choose any picture they want to send into space and physically print it on the spacecraft. It could be as small as a Twitter avatar or as large as the disc itself, depending on their contribution to the Kickstarter campaign.
Johnson is also allowing backers to write code that interacts with the spacecraft's sensors and systems.
"People can design their own experiments," he said. "They can ask questions like 'How many cosmic rays are passing through?' or, 'How quickly is my spacecraft rotating?'"
Once Pocket Spacecraft's CubeSat is released from its rocket, it will spit out the individual discs to float back down to surface of the Earth, the moon, or even just to freely float in space.
Regardless of the amount they give, all contributors will have access to mission control, albeit virtually. They will be able to either use a personal computer to log in, or they can download an app to their smartphone. In addition to relaying data of the space devices' travels, the app will allow users to point their phone into the night sky and find where their "ship" is.
Kickstarter allows Pocket Spacecraft to distribute the cost of the mission among thousands of potential backers.
For the company's first run, Johnson is predicting to launch about 8,000 "spacecraft." If the campaign is successful, it could claim the title of most spacecraft launched simultaneously.
Johnson added, "That's even more than what's been launched since the beginning of the space age."