San Francisco Section of AIAA

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AIAA SF/SVSC Small Payloads TechTalks
Monday, September 10, 2012; 6:30pm-8:00pm
Hacker Dojo, Mountain View

SkyCube depiction

SkyCube — Science, Social, and Space

Tim DeBenedictis
Southern Stars / SkyCube
San Francisco, California


SkyCube is a 1U CubeSat that will take Earth images and "tweet" from space. The project is a mix of science project, social media project, and citizen involvement in space. It is scheduled for launch as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in 2013.

At more than 300 miles up, in a orbit highly inclined to the Earth's equator, SkyCube will pass over most of the world's inhabited regions. It will take low-resolution pictures of the Earth and broadcast (tweet) simple messages of behalf of its sponsors. After 90 days, it will use an 8-gram CO2 cartridge to inflate a 10-foot (3-meter) diameter balloon coated with highly reflective titanium dioxide powder, making it as bright as the Hubble Space Telescope. Within three weeks of inflation, the atmospheric drag on the balloon will cleanly de-orbit the satellite.

The project is funded by mobile apps, social media, and crowd-funding on KickStarter. A $1 Kickstarter sponsor pledge buys a single 120-character tweet from space; larger pledges buy more tweets and other benefits. With a few days to closing, it has raised close to $100,000 for the project.

About the Speaker

Tim DeBenedictis is the founder and owner of Southern Stars Group LLC and leads the SkyCube project. He has been writing astronomy software since his high school days. After graduating from MIT in 1993 with a degree in Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary science, Tim found himself in Silicon Valley when the internet boom began. He held engineering positions at several financial services and technology companies throughout the dot-com boom, and returned to his "astronomical roots" after the bust. Tim was also one of the two principal designers behind the award-winning SkySafari iPhone app and SkyFi wireless controller.

Resources of Interest

For those who want to research available material before the talk, here are some available resources:

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Meeting Details

Sign-in, networking and refreshments at 6:30 pm; presentation at 7:00 pm; program ends at 8:00 pm.

This meeting is open to the general public. Attendance is free, but we take donations for the TechTalk Food Fund to nourish the neurons while we feast on the event.


Hacker Dojo
140A S. Whisman Rd.
Mountain View, CA,94041
(650) 898-7925

Map: Hacker Dojo

Point of Contact

For more information about this meeting, contact AIAA SF Technical Programs Director Rick Kwan .


This TechTalk program is co-sponsored by the Silicon Valley Space Center as part of its campaign to accelerate access to space.