It’s getting easier and easier to own your own spacecraft. Not the giant, fly-to-Mars variety, but miniature CubeSat satellites or tiny paper-like structures that drift over alien surfaces. The Pocket Spacecraft project on Kickstarter is offering up personal CD-shaped spacecraft called Scouts for about $154 or $310, depending on if you want it to land on Earth or the moon. Backers who pledge less than that can own a spacecraft with a team of up to 50 other people.
Three days shy of their crowdfunding deadline, Pocket Spacecraft has raised nearly $100,000. That’s far from the more than $450,000 for which it originally asked, but the Bristol, U.K.-based company has a plan. It’s raised at least $350,000 from other private sources, including the European Space Agency, the Watershed and the Satellite Applications Catapult, meaning the project will proceed anyway.
Scouts are roughly 3 inches across and thinner than a sheet of paper. They’re packed with customizable software and flexible electronics that can collect data from the surface of the moon.
Most backers will have the chance to customize a Scout with an image. While only higher-level backers can create their own experiments, lower-level backers will still have a say in who gets to use their Scout.
“We’ll do this by providing an online science exchange to match backers of Scout spacecraft with scientists who want to do experiments,” Pocket Spacecraft founder Michael Johnson said. “So a scientist can say, for example, that they need 10 Scout spacecraft to fly their experiment, and Scout spacecraft backers can volunteer their spacecraft to take part in the experiment if it interests them.”
Pocket Spacecraft plans to release Scouts over the Earth in June 2015 and over the moon in June 2016. A CubeSat will enter space on a rocket and then be released into orbit. It will use a propulsion system to move into a location suitable to drop all of the Scouts, which will then flutter down to the surface of the Earth or moon. Before then, backers will have the chance to follow along with production, launch and the release on a mobile app.
“We see ourselves as a platform and tool provider,” Johnson said. “So although we will fly some technology demos and demonstration science experiments ourselves to show what is possible in the short term, in the long term we see our role as flying experiments for others, amateur and professional.”