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KickSat meets early demise after a month in orbit

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida
SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The KickSat radio satellite is no more.

The popular cubesat, funded by the Kickstarter crowd sourcing website, fell out of orbit and burned up sometime late Tuesday or early Wednesday, according to the KickSat user's group on

Estimates are the satellite, which contained more than 100 tiny unlaunched "sprite" transmitters, came down over a portion of Africa in the early morning hours, local time.

KickSat ran into technical problems on April 30, when its controller was reset by a radiation-induced power glitch, which also reset the timer that was supposed to release the wafer-size sprites on or around May 10.

Ground controllers at Cornell University were unable to override the system, and as a result, the sprites were still on board KickSat at the time it fell out of orbit.

Zac Manchester, a Cornell graduate engineering student and project leader, is already planning a follow up project, to be dubbed KickSat II.

He doesn't consider KickSat a total loss:

"Over 300 people from all over the world came together to make KickSat happen.

"We built a spacecraft, tested it, and launched it. Hundreds of people had their names flown in space, more than a dozen radio amateurs were able to receive signals from KickSat's beacon radio, and volunteers collected and processed telemetry data and predicted KickSat's orbit and reentry," he posted on his KickSat blog.

"This kind of participation is exactly what KickSat is all about and I'm glad we all got to share in this experience."

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