Launch Nears for Mini-Satellites

Imagine a small satellite "kicking" 104 satellites the size of a large cracker into orbit around the Earth. That's about to happen and each of the satellites, called "Sprites" will have its own solar panel, logic circuitry, communications gear and sensors. 

The Sprites operate in transmit mode only and will share the same frequency (437.24 MHz) in the amateur radio band. They'll use code-division multiple access (CDMA) for frequency sharing. The effort was organized by a Cornell University professor, Zac Manchester. The Sprites will be launched using the "KickSat" satellite funded by Zac Manchester's Kickstarter project. They will transmit either the call letters or initials of contributors. The ARRL has more information on the project in its article KickSat CubeSat to Deploy Smallest Earth-Orbiting Satellites.

The Sprites will only operate when in sunlight and they will use a bandwidth of approximately 60 kHz, so a wideband receiver (or Funcube dongle or RTL-SDR) and a Yagi antenna will be needed to receive their signals. The launch is expected to take place on March 16 and the satellites could last as long as six weeks in a best-case scenario; however, you might want to listen for them soon after the launch date as they will be in a low orbit and, depending on atmospheric drag, may not last that long.

Technical details are available from British Interplanetary Society KickSat Technical Summary webpage.

Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. As vice president of Broadcast Technology for NBCUniversal Local, H. Douglas Lung leads NBC and Telemundo-owned stations’ RF and transmission affairs, including microwave, radars, satellite uplinks, and FCC technical filings. Beginning his career in 1976 at KSCI in Los Angeles, Lung has nearly 50 years of experience in broadcast television engineering. Beginning in 1985, he led the engineering department for what was to become the Telemundo network and station group, assisting in the design, construction and installation of the company’s broadcast and cable facilities. Other projects include work on the launch of Hawaii’s first UHF TV station, the rollout and testing of the ATSC mobile-handheld standard, and software development related to the incentive auction TV spectrum repack.
A longtime columnist for TV Technology, Doug is also a regular contributor to IEEE Broadcast Technology. He is the recipient of the 2023 NAB Television Engineering Award. He also received a Tech Leadership Award from TV Tech publisher Future plc in 2021 and is a member of the IEEE Broadcast Technology Society and the Society of Broadcast Engineers.