Mission to the Moon

Would you like to send your own spacecraft to the moon?

Have you ever dreamt of exploring the solar system with your own spacecraft?

Well finally you can!

We’ve developed a very low cost, open source, open access, mass space exploration system that anyone can use, and we need your help to send your very own Pocket Spacecraft, and thousands of others, on a first of its kind expedition to the moon.

We’re a global team of scientists, engineers and designers that have worked on this concept at some of the world’s leading universities and come together to kick start the personal interplanetary space age and give you the opportunity to become a hands on citizen space explorer. Explorers who back the project can personalise their own spacecraft by adding a picture and customising the message it transmits using just their web browser. More technical explorers can even customise software and hardware.

20130627a_Scouts and slices

Upload a profile picture/avatar (left) or school, club or company pennant (middle) to a shared spacecraft, or customise the whole of your Earth or Lunar Scout personal spacecraft! (right)

Smaller than a CD and as thin as a piece of paper, you’ll be able to watch online as your Pocket Spacecraft is built in the lab and loaded into an Interplanetary CubeSat Mothership. Having hitched a ride into space on a commercial rocket, some Pocket Spacecraft will be released into space to flutter to the ground to demonstrate landing on a planet with an atmosphere (the Earth). The mothership will set off to the moon where, when it arrives many months later, the rest of the Pocket Spacecraft will be released, photographed and then land on the moon to complete the mission.


Pocket Mission Control will allow you to monitor your spacecraft telemetry (d), onboard apps (e), your training achievements (f), ground station status (g), and where your spacecraft is in space (h)

You’ll monitor progress throughout with your own Pocket Mission Control app – track the progress of your spacecraft as it is designed, built and travels through space. See data from your spacecraft’s instruments as it arrives, relayed from space by a global ground station network direct to your smartphone. Hold your phone up to the sky and use the augmented reality feature to point out exactly where your spacecraft is!

Never before have private individuals have had such a hands on opportunity to take an active part in interplanetary space exploration – this is your chance to be a true space pioneer!

The Team

Members of our team co-created the first space mission funded on KickStarter (KickSat – due to be launched by NASA later this year), and have created or co-led influential workshops such as the Interplanetary CubeSat Workshop at MIT, and the Keck Institute for Space Studies Small Satellites: A Revolution in Space Science workshop at Caltech.


More than 100 volunteers from twenty countries have inspired, worked on and presented the elements underpinning this project at universities and conferences around the world.

We’ve created more than twenty open space projects since 2009 building the elements we need for this mission, with contributions from more than a hundred volunteers in twenty countries (and counting) led by our co-ordinators in Europe (Bristol, UK) and America (Pasadena, USA). In short, we’re serious.

Your Mission

We’ll tell you how the project will work in a moment, but first a little about your mission, should you choose to accept it…

Space is big – really big! Mankind has only sent a few dozen successful robotic exploration missions into the solar system since the start of the space age, yet there are millions of places waiting to be explored including asteroids, moons, planets, ring systems and more.


The 88 largest solar system objects (diameter >200 miles). There are more than a million planets, moons and asteroids in the solar system >500m in diameter. Graphic: kokogiak.com

Although space agencies do an amazing job launching high end exploration systems to interesting places, there are many more missions proposed than can ever be funded as high end missions are typically one offs that cost many many millions or even billions.

We need your help to provide another option – to explore space at scale needs a generation of interested minds with access to affordable exploration tools. By supporting this mission you can help make this happen and be the first of this new generation of space explorers.

We want to demonstrate that thousands of technical and non-technical people can design their own spacecraft, send these spacecraft into space, land some on a planet with an atmosphere (Earth this time) and send the rest a significant interplanetary distance to a body without an atmosphere (the Moon), and do useful science while having fun.

That’s bold, crazy some people might even say, but thanks to Moore’s law and advances in flexible and printable electronics, it’s now possible and we need your help to prove it. If we succeed, one day every child may be able to have their own spacecraft to take part in robotic field trips around the solar system as a normal part of growing up – and you’ll have helped make it happen!

Your spacecraft

The key to our approach are ‘Pocket Spacecraft’. These spacecraft (that can also function as landers and rovers to some degree), are small enough to fit in your pocket, both physically and financially – we’re talking the cost of a nice birthday present here.

Your Scout spacecraft


Photograph of a Pocket Spacecraft: Thin-Film Scout prototype consisting of a polyimide substrate, bonded solar cells and thinned die, printed passive components, antennas and images.

Your Pocket Spacecraft will be a Thin-Film Spacecraft / Lander / Rover ‘Scout’. These will be loaded by the thousand into an Interplanetary CubeSat Mothership which will fly to the body of interest, send out the Scouts to explore it, and relay their discoveries back to Earth and amongst each other.


Prototype Thin-Film and CubeSat Pocket Spacecraft hardware in the lab. We try and use consumer equipment whenever we can to make it cheaper for anyone to replicate our work.

Your Scout is a polyimide disc (a material used for flexible circuit boards, spacesuits and, of particular relevance for this application, high performance solar sails) held taut by a NiTi memory metal hoop that can also double as an antenna.


Pocket Spacecraft are built from thinned system-on-a-chip dies and printed or offcut space rated solar cells to maximise performance at minimal cost.

Solar cells, a thinned commercial off the shelf system-on-a-chip die (ground down with diamond sand paper) and support components, sensors and instruments are bonded or printed on the polyimide and protected with a conformal coating resulting in a spacecraft with an average thickness less than one twentieth of a millimetre (two thousandths of an inch), and a mass much less than a gram (a thirtieth of an ounce).


5µm metalised and unmetalised polyimide substrate (Kapton®) with a penny for scale.

This thinness and lightness allows us to pack thousands per mothership, act as very small solar sails (when coated with a thin metal layer) to move about space, and potentially survive re-entry from orbit to the surface of bodies with suitable atmospheres.

Your Interplanetary CubeSat mothership


A CAD drawing of the CubeSat bus we will modify. The solar panels are in the process of unfolding to make room for a solar sail (centre) to deploy.

CubeSats revolutionised low cost access to space a decade ago when professors Bob Twiggs at Stanford and Jordi Puig-Suari at CalPoly created a 30x10x10cm,<5kg ‘3U’ spacecraft that could be launched inexpensively. ‘CubeSat: An Unlikely Success Story’ describing the CubeSat story can be watched here.

Since then, 70+ have been launched to low earth orbit by companies, space agencies and universities. Two years ago NASA funded the study of interplanetary CubeSats, last year more than 120 researchers gathered at our first Interplanetary CubeSat Workshop, and this year NASA announced an interplanetary CubeSat pathfinder.

Your mothership is a 3U CubeSat designed to inexpensively piggyback on pretty much any American, European, Russian or other rocket that supports CubeSats and is launched into a suitable starting orbit. We have to be flexible enough to hitch a ride along with a high end commercial or scientific spacecraft going in roughly the right direction, then we’ll be dropped off and make our own way on to where we want to go. Think of it as interplanetary hitchhiking!


An engineering model of a 3U CubeSat, the largest most commonly launched CubeSat format.

To allow us to hitch rides on rockets going to as many different orbits as possible (we’re compatible with upcoming GTO, GEO, LLO and earth escape launches), about two thirds of the mothership is a modular propulsion system plus control and communications systems.

Propulsion systems we can drop in include a solar sail module (based on The Planetary Society/Stellar Exploration LightSail-1), which uses the force of light from the sun, and an electrolysis propulsion system, which breaks down liquid fuel (basically water) into hydrogen and oxygen using solar power and ignites it (like these systems from Cornell and Tethers Unlimited).

Which we use depends on the launch we book. Ideally we would love to be able to launch CubeSats with each type of propulsion system. Your generous support can make this happen.


(a) The 32m2 solar sail module we plan to use during a deployment test from a 3U CubeSat (Image: Stellar Exploration). (b) A bench top prototype electrolysis propulsion system.

Radiation hardened/shielded avionics, solar cells and other subsystems to control the propulsion system, protect, release and photograph the Scouts, and to allow us to communicate with Earth and find where we are, complete the mothership.

We’ll fly a low energy/weak stability boundary transfer from our drop off point to the moon that doesn’t require much fuel but takes many months, unlike the days of the Apollo missions. This is the fundamental trade off of this mission – we can do interplanetary space exploration at very low cost, but everything takes much longer.

Navigation and communication at lunar distances is challenging. We are refurbishing two high performance ground stations for the project, and work with amateur radio enthusiasts, universities and commercial ground station providers and will apply to use systems such as the Deep Space Network and the Very Long Baseline Array.

If you are, or would like to be, a radio amateur, we’ll show you how to communicate directly with your spacecraft in space when it is nearby using inexpensive UHF and S-band equipment. Communication at (cis-)lunar distances is more expensive (typically requiring 5-24m+ steerable dishes), but available to some clubs and enthusiasts.

We’re ready to do a complete demonstration mission, and here’s what we plan to do…

Concept of operations

Your mission has five phases taking place over approximately thirty six months (subject to launch windows and delays) and we’d love you and your spacecraft to be involved every step of the way.


The (very much simplified) path to the moon using a Weak Stability Boundary (WSB) transfer from a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) around the Earth.

Mission phases:

  • Provide online tools to allow you to design/personalise your own Scout spacecraft and take part science and technology experiments using your web browser (~12 months)
  • Build, test and load your Scout spacecraft onto the Interplanetary CubeSat Mothership while you watch how it’s done and follow the progress of your Scout from laboratory to launch pad (~6 months)
  • Launch the mothership into a suitable orbit with you following from your mission control. Once in orbit, the Earth Scouts will be released and test their ability to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and (hopefully) land in one piece, transmitting their location to aid recovery. We hope you’ll help us try to track and recover some of them (~3 months)
  • We’ll then engage the motherships propulsion system and fly it and the Lunar Scouts on a Weak Stability Boundary (WSB) transfer (or similar) to an unstable Low Lunar Orbit (LLO). You’ll be able to track progress every step of the way (~6-12 months)
  • Once we arrive, we’ll release and photograph the Lunar Scouts and then they will land (at very high speed…) on the moon (~0-3 months)

You and your spacecraft will have made history, and contributed to a system that we can then try flying elsewhere in the solar system such as Mars, Venus and to some asteroids.

So perhaps you’re asking…

How can I help make history and change space exploration for ever?

Sponsor one or more Scouts and encourage your friends and family to do the same!

This concept only works in the long term with mass participation and we’d like to find 2000, preferably 8000 or more people, willing to help make history and change space exploration forever.

The Scout we’ve designed for you is a solar sail disc less than 80mm (about three inches) in diameter (there’s a <34mm/1.33″ version for atmospheric re-entry only) and averages less than a twentieth of a millimetre (two thousandths of an inch) thick with solar cells, computer, radio transceiver and instruments. About three quarters of the Scout is available for you to customise. You don’t need any technical skills, but if you have them, we’d love you to help expand what Scouts can do.


You customise the appearance, software or hardware of your Thin-Film Spacecraft / Lander / Rover Scout using just your web browser and we do the rest.

At the simplest level, you upload a picture or message which will be printed on your own Scout spacecraft that will be sent into space. You decide where you would like your Scout to go – load it onto the Earth Scout deck, and soon after it is launched into space, we’ll release it into Earth’s atmosphere to attempt re-entry and recovery from the surface of the planet. Load it onto the Lunar Scout deck and we’ll try to send it to the moon and release it to deorbit to the surface of the moon.


You can develop custom software for your spacecraft using a standard Arduino development environment on your computer, or just your web browser and our web based system.

Scouts are solar powered with integrated optical and radio transceivers and can have sensors including a single pixel optical sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, temperature sensor, strain gauges and more. If you are comfortable with Arduino level software development, you can run your own software on Software and Hardware Development Scouts. We’ll provide a web based integrated development environment (IDE) so you can write code, test on a Scout simulator and in a virtual solar system and upload your design to your own Software Development Scout.

If you are an educator or would like to support a school or club, the Software Development Scout Education Edition allows a group of up to 50 users with email addresses from the same institution to share a Software Development Scout and work on different types of customisation. The Scout can be placed in Crowd, Team or Earth/Lunar Scout customisation mode so users can customise their own part of the Scout or work together on a bigger design. Users have access to the online Scout software IDE, Scout simulator and virtual solar system allowing many software customisation ideas to be developed and one chosen to fly.

You can support a specific group or else we will provide a mechanism for people who have great ideas and people who wish to support them to connect. Your donation will be acknowledged on the outside of the Scout unless you wish to remain anonymous.

If you know others who might like their own Software Development Scouts then check out the Software Development Lunar Scout Party (a set of five Scouts, omnidirectional ground station and a swarm communications library) and work together on your own constellation or swarm of spacecraft.

Perhaps you’d like your Scout to be affiliated with others and share position and other mission data? If so, you can create or join a Scout Fleet just by pledging and filling in the fleet request form or emailing support@pocketspacecraft.com


Passive components such as resistors, capacitors and interconnects are printed on your spacecraft with a materials inkjet printer and permit user customisable Hardware Development Scouts.

Hardware Development Scouts can be customised using the enhanced online IDE. You will be allocated 100 credits to specify what you would like to include from a palette of printable components, instruments, solar cell types, communications systems and other upgrades to the functionality of your Scout. The exact options and number of credits required will depend on the number of Hardware Development Scouts that are sponsored – more sponsors means more choice. With enough sponsors, if you want to add enhancements such as a printed fractal antenna, upgrade your optical communications from LED to laser diode, add GPS to your Earth Scout or add pop-up optics or memory metal actuators you’ll be able to break out those credits and make it so!

Serious fun

We believe a key element of this idea is serious fun. By that we mean we believe that it’s OK to have fun while performing serious science and technology research. In fact, not only is it OK it’s our duty – if you are going to be generous enough to help us make this mission happen, then we should entertain and inform you throughout the mission.


Photographing spacecraft for the video. Our production team are going to help you follow behind the scenes throughout the project so anyone will be able to replicate our work.

We’re going to do this in several ways. First of all, everyone who participates in this mission is going to know almost everything about it every step of the way. We’re going to blog every week, release a video diary every month, have a webinar every quarter, document everything we do in sufficient detail for anyone to replicate it in the Mission Manual, a professionally produced e-book that will be released, chapter by chapter, in monthly instalments.


The Mission Manual will provide you with a personal record of your Mission to the Moon. It will be released as a Kindle and iPad compatible DRM free PDF eBook and as an archive quality special printed edition.

The Mission Manual will be both the definitive record of the mission which anyone will be able to use to replicate and reuse our work, as well as perhaps become a family heirloom documenting you and your families’ first steps into the solar system to treasure for generations to come.

We’re doing this responsibly, so we’ll show you how we make sure we follow the rules for planetary protection, space debris, spacecraft and radio licensing and more, and make all our paperwork and protocols available to all.


You will be able to follow the build and testing of your spacecraft in labs we will use such as semiconductor fabrication (left), materials testing (right) and spacecraft assembly cleanrooms.

Online, we’ll put cameras in cleanrooms and labs when spacecraft are being built, in test facilities (such as thermal vacuum test chambers and on a parabolic flight), and in mission control.

When we release Scouts into space, a camera on the mothership will photograph them and send a picture from space back to you of your Scouts historic achievement, hopefully with a picture of your Scout in the foreground and the earth or the moon in the background.


A commercial off the shelf (COTS) camera halfway through our preparations to configure it for operation in vacuum (left) and testing two examples in a radiation chamber (right).

We want to make our public labs (kindly hosted in the Watershed’s digital creativity technology studio) available for all our backers to visit as often as they wish. We may have to limit daily numbers, and you will have to come to us at your own expense, but our goal is to make this one of the most open and accessible missions ever and to allow you to see your spacecraft in person before it flies if you wish.

Throughout the project you’ll be able to participate – hands on. You’ll be able to customise your spacecraft as described elsewhere, but we’ll also hold public events in places around the world such as digital cinemas, planetariums and science museums when key events happen. For example, when we are launched on our rocket, release the Earth Scouts to attempt re-entry, arrive at the moon and so on, and you’ll be able to see inside the mission, interact with mission controllers and be involved in your space mission.


A proof of concept public mission control installation in a digital cinema.

You will have your very own mission control application for your spacecraft for Android and iOS that will allow you to keep an eye on your (and if they permit it, your friends) spacecraft every step of the way.

Students from around the world have worked on this app, building on work we created for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 European Space Agency Summer of Code in Space. The app allows you to monitor every aspect of your spacecraft and mission including telemetry, running apps, badges for online space exploration courses we’ll run, ground station status, even where your spacecraft is in space – simply hold your phone up to the sky and the augmented reality feature will point it out for you!

We’ve taken great care to balance our team with techies and creatives. Our engineers see a re-entry and recovery from orbit test on a planet with an atmosphere; our games designers see a global treasure hunt of ‘find the Scout’ with prizes! Engineers – an optical telecommunications system; games designers – laser tag in spaaacceee.

Each group’s point of view is equally valid and we’re going to make sure we keep a healthy balance of fun and seriousness throughout the triumphs and setbacks that will inevitably occur throughout such an ambitious mission.

We have games and events designed to keep you entertained and informed throughout the three years this mission will likely last (we’re keeping most a secret as we want to frequently surprise and delight you!), and through innovations such as on-orbit app upgrades and collaborative science exchanges, we’ll be able to update these ideas, events and experiments as the mission progresses to incorporate our, and more importantly, your and the scientific and engineering communities innovations.

How your money will be used


Lapping (thinning) a pocket spacecraft chip die using diamond ‘sandpaper’ (left) and testing the final part (right).

The money raised for the mission will be used for:

  • purchasing, building and shipping the rewards using in house facilities and print on demand suppliers
  • purchasing components, assembling, integrating, and testing the spacecraft using low cost in house facilities and rent capital intensive equipment and facilities from places such as the Cornell Nanoscale Science and Technology Facility and the Cornell Center for Materials Research.
  • documenting and placing the project in the public domain for anyone to replicate. We’ll publish online, in bookstores, by mail order and at scientific conferences as per ITAR definitions of public domain.
  • curating events and the community throughout the mission using in house and external producers and event organisers
  • apply for a free ESA or NASA CubeSat launch. Members of our team have written proposals awarded launches in the US and Europe and we qualify for both programs as currently structured.

all so we can build and launch your spacecraft and start exploring at scale.

Getting involved

So, that’s what we’d like to do with your help.

Ambitious? Yes.
Doable? Absolutely!
Can we do it without you? No!

Whether you sponsor a Virtual Scout or are Earth’s Ambassador, support a single Lunar Scout or an entire Lunar Scout Party, any and all support is valuable and this mission won’t happen without it.

We’re up for the challenge – we hope you are too.

Let’s kick start the personal interplanetary space age!

To sponsor the project or a spacecraft you can call your own click here.


Thank you to all who have helped us get this far with their time, resources and inspiration:

Abdulla, Ad, Adam, Adrian, Alex H(1), Alex H(2), Alex N, Alonzo, Andrew H, Andrew K, Andrew V, Andy, Artur, Ashkay, Ashley, Ben M, Ben T, Beth, Bob, Caroline, Charles, Cheryl, Chris B, Chris C, Christina, Claire H, Claire R, Claud, Claudio, Colin, Craig, Cui, Dale, Dan, Daron, Dick, Dominic, Ed B, Ed G, Einav, Francis, Fraser, Giannis, Graham, Hannah, Heidi, Helen, Jacob, James, Jamie C, Jamie D, Jerry, Jim, Johan, Johannes, John, Jon D, Jon T, Jordi, Kevin, Kirsten, Laura J, Laura K, Lou, Lawrence, Mathieu, Matt G, Matt S, Melania, Merlin, Michelle, Michael, Mike C, Mike K, Mike S, Nadeem, Nan, Nancy, Nicholas, Pakizat, Radim, Ravi, Ritchie, Rob, Roger, Ronan, Rupert, Sammy, Sara, Şenol, Sergio, Seth, Simon B, Simon D, Stephen, Tanvir, Tom, Tomas, Vanessa, Verity, Victoria F, Victoria T, Waheed, Will, Willem, Woody, Zahra, Zoe, those who need to remain anonymous, and anyone accidentally forgotten!

Risks and challenges

Space exploration is an inherently risky and challenging undertaking and while we will do the best we can to mitigate the effect of potential problems, our ability to do so is dependent on the number of sponsored spacecraft we fly. Some potential problems cannot be managed however many spacecraft are sponsored.

You as a sponsor may be providing content such as images, software and hardware designs all of which it will be your responsibility to ensure are legal and meet community standards and guidelines that we will post when the online submission system goes live. We reserve the right to reject any image, software or hardware design for any reason and substitute it with a default image of our choosing. This is a family friendly project.

The extraterrestrial stuff is trickier. Very roughly, 50% of the CubeSats that have been launched have failed for reasons known and unknown. Interestingly, very roughly 50% of the extremely expensive interplanetary space missions have also failed. Failure is an option. You need to be comfortable with the fact that rockets blow up, spacecraft get delivered to the wrong orbit, launches are very often delayed, vested interests may try to frustrate the mission, unforeseen events and ‘force majeure’ occur, we can get unlucky with a micro-meteor or some other calamity out of our control that could halt the mission. We will not be able to offer refunds if such things occur, but we will do our best to deal with such problems if we can. We are also working with technology that is new and has not flown before and may not work when push comes to shove. We test for a reason and if testing brings up problems then we will have to rework and/or reengineer designs which will delay things.

We may choose (if we make our stretch goals) or need (if we don’t receive or qualify for a NASA, ESA or similar launch if the rules change) to purchase a launch or launches privately. That, for the sort of orbit that we need for the lunar part of the mission, will probably only be possible if we can raise at least nine hundred thousand dollars from grants, sponsorship or other sources, otherwise we will have to keep applying for free launches until we get one. If we get into that situation then we might spread different elements of the mission across different launches to different orbits to increase the likelihood of selection.

Unfortunately the above are all the downside to being a pioneer and you should not sponsor this project if you are not comfortable with accepting this risk. On the plus side, you will be part of a great adventure and if we do fail, our commitment to documenting every step of the process will allow us (or anyone else who wishes to try) to pick ourselves up, analyse what went wrong and try again, although we will almost certainly need to raise more money to do so.

We have enough funds to do a bare bones project using mostly volunteer labour and calling in every favour we have in the industry if everything goes more or less perfectly to plan. We’ll be living on bread and gruel, we’ll execute our basic test plan and won’t be able to insure against things such as rockets blowing up. However, this is pretty much the standard description of a CubeSat project and is something we are comfortable doing if we have to. You should only participate if you are happy with this.

If we can find additional sources of funds, then we can do things such as insure our rocket launch, buy a ride-share rocket launch to a preferred orbit (assuming current market prices don’t change too much), do a lot more testing and have more full time people working on the project, all of which will improve, but not guarantee, our chances of success.

We require that you hold us harmless against any loss or liabilities arising from your participation in this project and acknowledge that everything regarding the Pocket Spacecraft: Mission to the Moon project including the website and rewards are provided ‘as is’.

Hopefully that hasn’t scared you off and you are now fully informed of all the risks and are still ready to help change space exploration forever!

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Aren’t you just creating a lot of space junk/debris? Aren’t these things just toys?

Absolutely not! We are building light weight low cost serious scientific spacecraft that just happen to be backed by private individuals and will fly them responsibly and safely.

We are actually dramatically reducing the amount of material that needs to be launched into space and left behind at the end of a scientific mission. Every spacecraft launched into space has to be left behind somewhere when its misson is over, whether it is landed or crashed into a body or carries on drifting though space.

All the elements of Interplanetary missions (including cruise stages, entry descent landing systems and spacecraft, landers and rovers) typically weigh hundreds of kilograms. Our spacecraft each weigh less than a gram (one thousandth of a kilogram) and the total mass of all our spacecraft including the Interplanetary CubeSat Mothership and all the Thin-Film Scouts is less than 5kg – almost a rounding error on a big mission. The lighter and less material we use to build our spacecraft, the more effective they are acting as solar sails so it is in our interest to keep reducing the size and mass of the spacecraft even more.

You may have heard that there is a problem with space debris in low earth orbit, for example the Kessler syndrome. This is due to the debris in low earth orbit, 200km – 2000km above the surface of the earth. We’re interested in interplanetary space exploration, exploration far outside this band so our spacecraft will never be in low earth orbit other than quickly passing through this region on their way to their final destination and so do not contribute to this issue.

We will drop off some spacecraft to reenter to the surface of the earth, and these we drop as low as possible in a special orbit that ensures they enter the Earth’s atmosphere and get out of the way very quickly.

Even though our spacecraft are small, they are mighty. If you look beneath the superficial cosmetic customization of the surface of the spacecraft, you will find computing power comparable to that of the Voyager spacecraft and Apollo flight computers. Thanks to the spectacular advances in semiconductor technology and the widespread low cost availability of what once would have been considered high precision scientific instruments that are now commonly found in cell phones such as accelerometers and magnetometers, we are building tiny high performance inexpensive scientific spacecraft accessible to all.

Rest assured that we’re doing this responsibly and we’re committed to doing more with less.

Can I give a Scout spacecraft or any of the other rewards to someone as a gift?

Yes! You can back any of the pledge levels and then nominate, for example, a family member, friend, club or school to receive the reward. We’ll send out a questionnaire when you support the mission so you can provide us with all the information we need to do this and the rewards that are marked for delivery in December 2013 will be sent so they arrive before the holiday season.

How do I pledge if, for example, I want to give a Lunar Scout to a friend and have a Software Development Lunar Scout for myself?

Please send an email to support@PocketSpacecraft.com and we’ll take you through the process as how it works varies depending on the rewards you want – thanks!

What is the conversion rate from British Pounds to US Dollars or other currencies?

The rate varies between credit card companies every day, but you can get an idea of the current exchange rate using the following links:

CNY – Chinese Yuan Renminbi

EUR – Euros

JPY – Japanese Yen

USD – US Dollar

How do I know you will really send my Lunar Scout to the moon and will not just send one or none and claim that you did it?

We will document every step of this mission online in sufficient detail for anyone to replicate and verify. You will be able to follow the build and launch online and in person if you wish (although we may have to limit daily numbers of visitors).

We will be relying to some degree on third parties including radio amateurs, universities and possibly space agencies to receive our communications on earth so numerous people would be able to call us out if that was happening.

When we deploy the Scouts we will take pictures of them in space which you will also be able to see.

Our team are serious technical and scientific professionals and we wish this to be the beginning of a new age of space exploration and it would not be in our interest to behave in the way described.

To answer a common follow up question – no, we don’t have a studio in Hollywood…

What resolution will images be printed at on my Scout spacecraft?

Images will be printed in monochrome at 75 dpi or better.

How are you arranging for the telemetry to get back to Earth and how much bandwidth is available?

Telemetry will be transmitted to Earth directly by the Scouts and/or via the Interplanetary CubeSat Mothership depending on the distance.

When the spacecraft are near the Earth (within hundreds of miles) you could communicate with them yourself using inexpensive amateur radio equipment, but as they get closer to the moon (hundreds of thousands of miles away) we have to use very large antennas that are either repurposed radio telescopes or part of the Deep Space Network.

We will take care of all the communications infrastructure so you don’t have to and make the telemetry available via the Pocket Mission Control app and on publicly accessible servers.

Custom bi-directional communications between Scouts in a Scout Party using our API is possible with our Software Development Lunar Scout Party reward.

We might consider allowing custom bi-directional communications between Scouts and the ground using our ground station infrastructure but you would need to tell us exactly what you wanted to do, the bandwidth requirements, etc. If you wanted to use your own custom ground station infrastructure for this type of communication (particular at lunar distances) then we would need to review exactly what you wanted to do, what infrastructure you have and how you would handle the licensing and other regulatory issues. It would likely be very expensive for both you and us to do this so is not something we would be likely to be able to support.

Scout spacecraft transmit continuously at approximately one bit per second (1 bps) and the Interplanetary CubeSat Mothership is capable of communicating at 1200 bps.

Close to earth, the data from the Scouts will be able to be received directly by ground stations and when they are in sight of a ground station the full bandwidth should be available. At lunar distances data will be relayed by the CubeSat or, if we are able to access the radio telescopes we expect to be able to, downlinked directly from the ground.

The Interplanetary CubeSat Mothership will have priority access to the uplink and downlink, but we expect to be able to share up to 50% of its bandwidth for relay with Scouts.

For planning purposes, you should probably assume your Earth Scout will average one bit per second and your Lunar Scout one bit per hour.

Once we know the final numbers of spacecraft and ground stations we will adjust those numbers up or down.

Detailed descriptions of the transmission methods and protocols will be published in the Mission Manual. We will use delay tolerant CCSDS compatible protocols where practical.

What is an Earth or Lunar Scout and what can it do?

Earth Scouts and Lunar Scouts are an implementation of a class of devices called Thin-Film Spacecraft / Landers / Rovers, or TF-SLRs, designed to autonomously explore the solar system.

The baseline TF-SLR implementation for the Pocket Spacecraft: Mission to the Moon project is an 80mm diameter, 50um thin disk with hybrid printed electronics bonded on its surface. Additional variations that may fly on the mission include a 34mm diameter Earth Scout, and up to four triangular 8m2 SmartSail Scout panels on the optional solar sail propulsion module.

TF-SLRs have one or more thinned system-on-a-chip die (typically from the microcontroller families produced by Texas Instruments and Atmel) that include a radio transceiver, storage, processor and simple instruments, bonded to a polyimide substrate, plus multiple sensors including a single pixel optical sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, temperature sensor, strain gauges and more printed and bonded to the substrate.

All Scouts continuously transmit a beacon with telemetry when they are in sunlight. This is a message of up to 140 characters at one bit per second that uniquely identifies the spacecraft and the status of its sensors along with an optional message from the backer. This allows the Scouts to be located in space using direction finding with ground stations. Some Scouts may also be upgraded to have a GPS receiver so they can transmit their own location.

The Earth and Lunar Scouts plus their Interplanetary CubeSat Mothership on this Mission to the Moon are primarily performing a technology demonstration along with some science experiments.

The technologies that we wish to demonstrate are the core TF-SLR and Interplanetary CubeSat Mothership implementations.

For the TF-SLRs we wish to evaluate their performance and lifetime in the space environment, demonstrate that they are able to survive re-entry from orbit around a planet with a suitable atmosphere to the ground (i.e. act as a lander), functioning continuously in orbit, during descent and on and after landing. Ideally we would like a few to drift or be blown around and demonstrate very basic uncontrolled roving functionality too. In space we wish to demonstrate that they can function as a solar sail – having different images printed on their reflective surfaces will make them behave in subtly different ways that we will try to measure. We also wish to demonstrate two way communications from Scout to Earth, Scout to Interplanetary CubeSat Mothership and Scout to Scout, and that we can determine their location in space and on the surface of the Earth and the Moon.

For the Interplanetary CubeSat Mothership we wish to demonstrate Interplanetary travel from Earth to another body (the Moon) by navigating it along a low energy / weak stability boundary transfer path using its own propulsion system, deploy our Lunar Scout scientific payload into Low Lunar Orbit and have it communicate with Earth and the deployed Scouts.

We will also fly some simple proof of concept science experiments as well as encouraging any scientist who is interested to design and fly experiments of their own. The Earth Scouts will pass through and measure the winds in a part of the Earth’s upper atmosphere that has not been able to be investigated in great detail in this way before. The Interplanetary CubeSat will make measurements of the solar wind using a mixture of standard and printed instruments during its journey from Earth to Moon. The Interplanetary CubeSat Mothership and Lunar Scouts will analyse their radio environment when they are released into space and as their unstable Low Lunar Orbit decays before their final end of life disposal on the Moon in accordance with international guidelines.

Why won’t the Earth Scouts burn up during reentry?

Scouts are as thin and light as they are so that they can survive reentry and act as small solar sails. Their thinness and large area relative to their mass should prevent their structure and electronics over heating and melting during reentry – we expect them to operate all the way from orbit to the ground. The theoretical background is described here:


What can I do with a Hardware Development Earth Scout or Lunar Scout?

You will receive an allocation of 100 credits which you can use towards the printing of conductive and resistive inks so you can print devices such as antennas, inductors, resistors and capacitors.

We also expect to be able to offer to bond and connect dies (chips) and components such as laser diodes, GPS die, and so on. There is a cost of a few thousand pounds associated with characterising, thinning and reliably integrating each device so how many devices we can support correlates directly with how many Hardware Scouts are backed to fund this activity.

Some devices you might be able to design and print using your credits include:

e.g. memory metal wires to warp the discs for control (will require additional solar cells)

Antenna designs
e.g. dipole, patch, fractal, etc.

Double sided solar cells
e.g. bonded dies or printed devices

e.g. for thermal control of components

Imaging elements
e.g. simple array of photodiodes or solar cells

Langmuir probes
e.g. to measure electron temperature, electron density and electric potential of plasma

e.g. printed coil to create a magnet field to interact with the Earth’s magnetic field for control

Micrometeorite detector
e.g. grids of wires arranged and monitored so that breaks can be detected

e.g. a very low quality capacitor microphone for use on Earth Scouts

Optical devices
e.g. printing an optical coating to form a fresel lens

Strain guage
e.g. printing resistor tracks to measure the flexing of the Scouts

The above are just some examples of what might be possible. We’re providing a toolbox – we hope you’re going to amaze and impress us with what you use it for!

What can I do with a Software Development Earth Scout or Lunar Scout?

Software Development Lunar Scouts will give developers the ability to write software for Earth Scouts and Lunar Scouts in a platform independent manner via a subset of C and an application programming interface (API) that abstracts access to the on board communications, input output ports, sensors and other hardware.

Scouts based on microcontrollers from at least two different manufacturers (Atmel and Texas Instruments) will be used and the same source code will be cross compiled to run on either architecture. For planning purposes, please review the properties of the Texas Instruments CC430F5137 – http://www.ti.com/product/cc430f5137 to get an idea of the processing, storage and input/output functionality that is likely to be available to you. We will publish a lowest common denominator set of specifications that you will write to as part of the documentation process if the project is funded.

Software will be uploaded to, and published on, our servers as source code (binaries will not be permitted). The software will be able to be tested on the Scout simulator and virtual solar system simulator which will allow your flight code to run a simulated mission with realistic sensor values for the mission profile sent via the API to your code at the appropriate time.

The Scout API will support access to sensor data, optical and radio communications in an abstracted and platform independent manner. At the moment we do not expect to support deformation of memory metal wire at this level due to power limitations but this might be available at the Hardware Development Scout level with the addition of extra solar cells.

Software Development Earth Scouts and Lunar Scouts are likely to have the sensors listed below:
– accelerometer
– gyroscope
– magnetometer
– single pixel optical sensor
– strain gauge
– temperature sensor

Some examples of projects you might like to do with your Scout include:

Cosmic ray detector
Constantly scan an area of SRAM for bit flips and report and fix them when they occur.

Earth/Moon/Sun sensor
Work out and report the orientation of your spacecraft relative to the earth, moon or sun by using the single pixel detector to detect strong light sources and the other sensors to work out your motion.

Orbit counter
Count the number of orbits you think you have done and change the message your Scout transmits at the start of each new orbit.

Single pixel imager
If your Scout is spinning, record the brightness in the direction it is pointing for one complete revolution and build up a simple image.

Temperature monitor
Record and report how the temperature of your Scout changes as it orbits the Earth or Moon or during reentry.

Warp detection
Use the strain guage to measure if and how your Scout is warping in space.

What types of devices does Pocket Mission Control run on? Can I still use it if I don’t have a smartphone?

Pocket Mission Control is designed to run on Android and iPhone smartphones. There are also versions for Windows, Mac OS X and the Unity webplayer.

Pocket Mission Control is implemented using the Unity multi-platform games engine and in theory could be ported to any of the other platforms supported by Unity (see http://unity3d.com/unity/multiplatform/ ) if there were sufficient demand and funding to do so.

What rewards do I receive at the different pledge levels?

Virtual Scout [No longer available separately]

  • an e-certificate of participation
  • early access to mission control applications
  • the serialised e-book ‘StarSailing’

Estimated delivery from September 2013

Model Scout – £9
Click here to sponsor today
Virtual Scout rewards plus:

  • instructions for building detailed paper models of the Interplanetary CubeSat Mothership, Thin-Film Scout, launch vehicle and ground stations
  • your name launched into space on the Interplanetary CubeSat Mothership
  • the serialised Mission Manual e-book

Estimated delivery from December 2013

Shared Crowd Scout – £19
Click here to sponsor today
Model Scout rewards plus:

  • access to the online Scout designer
  • your profile picture/avatar from your KickStarter account (default), favourite social networking site or game printed on a shared Earth Scout (with up to 50 others) that will fly in space and attempt to return to Earth

Estimated delivery from June 2015

Shared Team Scout – £39
Click here to sponsor today
Model Scout rewards plus:

  • access to the online Scout designer
  • a pennant that you design printed on a Lunar Scout (with up to 20 others) that will fly in space and be sent to the Moon

Estimated delivery from June 2016

Replica Crowd Scout – £49
Click here to sponsor today
Shared Crowd Scout rewards plus:

  • a replica Thin-Film Scout in a protective sleeve

Estimated delivery from December 2013

Replica Shared Team Scout – £69
Click here to sponsor today
Shared Team Scout rewards plus:

  • a replica Thin-Film Scout in a protective sleeve

Estimated delivery from December 2013

Earth Scout – £99
Click here to sponsor today
Model Scout rewards plus:

  • your own Scout spacecraft that will be photographed as it is launched into space and attempts to land on Earth from orbit
  • access to the online Scout designer
  • most of surface available for printing
  • custom message transmitted (<140 characters)
  • a replica Thin-Film Scout in a protective sleeve

Estimated delivery from June 2015

Lunar Scout – £199
Click here to sponsor today
Earth Scout rewards plus:

  • a second Thin-Film Spacecraft that will be photographed when it is launched into space to attempt to land on the Moon

Estimated delivery from June 2016

Lunar Scout Special Edition – £299
Click here to sponsor today
Lunar Scout rewards plus:

  • limited edition Mission Manual printed on acid free paper to treasure and pass on to future generations

Estimated delivery from June 2016

Software Development Lunar Scout – £399
Click here to sponsor today
Lunar Scout rewards plus:

  • load your Scouts with your own custom software
  • access the online Scout integrated development environment, simulator and virtual solar system

Estimated delivery from March 2014

Software Development Lunar Scout Special Edition – £495
Click here to sponsor today
Software Development Lunar Scout rewards plus:

  • personalised limited special edition Mission Manual printed on acid free paper to treasure and pass on to future generations

Estimated delivery from March 2014

Software Development Lunar Scout Education Edition – £499
Click here to sponsor today
Software Development Lunar Scout rewards plus:

  • up to 50 additional usernames to access your online Scout designer, Scout simulator and virtual solar system
  • choose whether users customise whole Scout, pennants or pictures
  • downloadable lesson plans and worksheets

Estimated delivery from March 2014

Hardware Development Lunar Scout – £799
Click here to sponsor today
Software Development Lunar Scout rewards plus:

  • – 100 credits* to apply to custom hardware
  • – enhanced online Scout designer for placing conductors, resistors and dies
    (*range of hardware/credits will depend on total funds raised)

Estimated delivery from June 2014

Software Development Lunar Scout Party – £1999
Click here to sponsor today
5x Software Development Lunar Scout rewards plus:

  • – your choice of sequential or dispersed loading of Scouts on mothership decks
  • – a swarm communications library
  • – five helium balloons (helium not included)
  • – one omnidirectional ground station (user to supply PC)
  • – one party kit with hats and streamers (yes, that kind of party kit….)

Estimated delivery from September 2014

Hardware Lunar Scout Party – £3999
Click here to sponsor today
5x Hardware Development Lunar Scout rewards plus:

  • – your choice of sequential or dispersed loading of Scouts on mothership decks
  • – a swarm communications library
  • – five helium balloons (helium not included)
  • – one omnidirectional ground station (user to supply PC)
  • – one high gain ground station (user to supply PC)
  • – one party kit with hats and streamers

Estimated delivery from September 2014

Earth Scout Deployer – £4500  [Sold out]
Hardware Development Lunar Scout rewards plus:

  • press the button that will release the Earth Scouts into orbit to start their descent to Earth!

Estimated delivery from June 2015

Lunar Scout Deployer – £4750  [Sold out]
Hardware Development Lunar Scout rewards plus:

  • press the button that will release the Lunar Scouts into orbit to start their descent to the Moon!

Estimated delivery from June 2016

Rocket Scientist – £4999  [Limited 19 left of 20]
Click here to sponsor today
Hardware Development Lunar Scout rewards plus:

  • up to 80 hours Interplanetary CubeSat Mothership co-building* support
    (*we’ll help you build an Interplanetary CubeSat Mothership but you have to purchase all the parts, launch and other items at your own expense)

Estimated delivery from December 2014

Earth’s Ambassador – £5000  [Sold out]
Hardware Development Lunar Scout reward plus:

  • be the first Lunar Scout to leave the diplomatic deck on behalf of the people of Earth to start its descent to the Moon

Estimated delivery from June 2016