KickSat-2 (KickSat-2) - 09.26.18

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Small satellites launched from space are used for a wide variety of tasks. But truly tiny satellites called ChipSats, which integrate power, computing, sensing and communication equipment onto a 3.5-centimeter-square circuit board, open up new possibilities for exploration around Earth, asteroids and other planets. The KickSat-2 mission tests 100 Sprite ChipSats demonstrating that tiny, massively distributed satellites using commercial off-the-shelf technology can work in space.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Zachary Manchester, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
Zachary Manchester, Ph.D., Stanford University, Stanford, CA, United States

Belgacem Jaroux, Ph.D., NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States
Stanford University, Stanford, CA, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Technology Demonstration Office (TDO)

Research Benefits
Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery, Space Exploration

ISS Expedition Duration
October 2018 - April 2019

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
KickSat-1, the predecessor mission to KickSat-2, was launched on the SpX-3 mission in 2014.

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • KickSat-2 contains 100 centimeter-scale “ChipSat” spacecrafts which are built and launched for very low cost.
  • ChipSats enable massively distributed missions that utilize hundreds or thousands of individual spacecraft.
  • ChipSat-based missions collect many data points simultaneously over a large volume, producing data sets with much higher spatial resolution than is currently possible.
  • ChipSats carry a wide variety of payloads including optical, electromagnetic, and micro-electro-mechanical (MEMS) sensors.


KickSat-2 is a CubeSat technology demonstration mission designed to demonstrate the deployment and operation of prototype Sprite “ChipSats” (femtosatellites). ChipSats, like the Sprite, represent a disruptive new space technology that enable new kinds of science and exploration missions, as well as dramatically lower the cost of access to space. Sprites have been developed and tested to Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 5-6 and an orbital demonstration is necessary for their continued advancement. A successful KickSat-2 mission would advance the Sprite to at least TRL 7.
The Sprite is a tiny spacecraft that includes power, sensor, and communication systems on a printed circuit board measuring 3.5 by 3.5 cm with a thickness of a few millimeters and a mass of a few grams. It is intended as a general-purpose sensor platform for electromagnetic, micro-electro-mechanical (MEMS), and other chip-scale sensors with the ability to downlink data to ground stations from low-Earth orbit.
KickSat-2 is a 3U CubeSat built as much as possible from commercial off-the-shelf and flight-proven components. A 1U bus provides power, communications, and command and data-handling functions while a 2U Sprite deployer houses 100 Sprites. Sprite deployment is triggered with an encrypted signal from a ground station when the spacecraft reaches an orbital altitude of 325 kilometers, chosen to mitigate debris concerns. The Sprites’ extremely low ballistic coefficient guarantees a predictably quick reentry.
The KickSat-2 mission addresses several of NASA’s Strategic Goals. One is to demonstrate the technical feasibility of a new space technology with many applications to future science and exploration missions. ChipSats also provide a way to study the mesosphere in unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution and could help improve our understanding of Earth’s atmosphere, as well as those of other planets.

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Space Applications
Launching a satellite into space is difficult, risky and expensive, so satellites often contain many different instruments that enable many types of communication or measurement, adding to their weight and cost. A fleet of tiny ChipSats enable low-cost, massively distributed space missions using simple commercially available technology. The KickSat-2 mission demonstrates the feasibility of tiny printed circuit board satellites that may benefit many future science and exploration missions, both in Earth orbit and in distant destinations like the moon, asteroids or other planets.

Earth Applications
Earth’s mesosphere is a difficult atmospheric layer to study because it is located above the maximum altitude that airplanes and balloons can reach yet is too low for satellites. Future missions using ChipSats could study Earth’s mesosphere in unprecedented resolution, improving scientists’ understanding of the atmosphere. In addition, ChipSats lower the cost of accessing space, which enables new teams of students and hobbyists to send their own small spacecraft into orbit, inspiring new generations of aerospace explorers. Undergraduate and graduate students at Cornell University developed the hardware for the spacecraft, developing unique experience in the space program.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols
NanoRacks CubeSats are delivered to the International Space Station (ISS) already integrated within a NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD). A crew member transfers each NRCSD from the launch vehicle to the JEM. Visual inspection for damage to each NRCSD is performed. When CubeSat deployment operations begin, the NRCSDs are unpacked, mounted on the JAXA Multi-Purpose Experiment Platform (MPEP) and placed on the JEM airlock slide table for transfer outside the ISS. A crew member operates the JEM Remote Manipulating System (JRMS) – to grapple and position for deployment. CubeSats are deployed when JAXA ground controllers command a specific NRCSD.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites

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