Credit: Robotic Exploration Lab/Stanford University


NanoRacks has announced the firm has successfully completed its sixth CubeSat deployment mission from Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft.

Cygnus (S.S. John Young) departed the International Space Station on February 8th, 2019 and performed a number of on-orbit activities, including the NanoRacks deployment on February 13th.

Northrop’s Cygnus departs International Space Station.
Credit: NASA


One of those deployments was the KickSat-2, let loose well below the International Space Station altitude due to the satellite sub-deploying smaller “ChipSats,” also known as “Sprites.”

Given their size they are dubbed femtosatellites.

These ultra-tiny spacecraft include power, sensors, and communication systems on a printed circuit board measuring 3.5 by 3.5 centimeters, with a thickness of just a few millimeters and a mass of just a few grams.

Chip-scale sensors

The Sprite has a microcontroller, radio, and solar cells and is capable of carrying chip-scale sensors like magnetometers, gyroscopes, and radiation sensors.

To lower costs, Sprites are designed to be deployed hundreds at a time in low Earth orbit and to simultaneously communicate with a ground station receiver.

The ChipSats are expected to be in orbit for merely a few days before burning up.

KickSat2 depiction of a hundred ChipSats.
Credit: Robotic Exploration Lab/Stanford University/Screengrab Inside Outer Space

Technology testbed

The goal of KickSat is to dramatically lower the cost of spaceflight, making it easy enough and affordable enough for anyone to explore space.

This can be realized by shrinking the size and mass of the spacecraft, allowing many to be launched together.

KickSat also serves as a technology testbed for networking and swarming algorithms for small spacecraft.

For a video on KickSat-2 effort, go to:

For more information on the innovative NanoRacks company, go to:

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