Join the BIS in space

ChipSat - Sprite

ChipSat (also known as a Sprite)

The BIS is planning to fly its first spacecraft in space and you can help make it happen.

We have teamed up with to put a small fleet of Sprite ChipSats into low earth orbit. The Sprite is an open source spacecraft the size of a couple of postage stamps that we plan to deploy from a CubeSat called KickSat to flight test this exciting new space exploration system.

KickSat and ChipSat

KickSat is the initiative of Zac Manchester, a graduate student at Cornell University in the United States. The BIS are very grateful for the opportunity to participate in Zac’s excellent project and we are pleased to support him in pioneering this technology.


KickSat is a standardized small satellite, designed to carry hundreds or even thousands of Sprites into space and deploy them in low Earth orbit.

The essence of a ChipSat or Sprite is that it is a very small, ~cm sized, ~mm thick, square spacecraft with in-built signal transmission circuitry. Each ChipSat will be constructed of a silicon substrate, using a dipole antenna and have its own capacitor and integrated circuit technology. The Sprite will have solar cells to harvest energy and may have capacitors to store it.

We are currently exploring various design concepts that could be part of this mission. In 2010 J.A. Achison and M.A. Peck wrote a paper in Astronautica describing a passive, sun-pointing, millimetre-scale solar sail. They discussed a 25 mm thick, 1 cm square spacecraft with a mass of 7.5 mg, giving rise to a characteristic acceleration of 0.1 mm/s2. This high acceleration is enabled by the very low mass of the spacecraft which has a sail loading of 0.075 kg/m2.

Members of the BIS Technical Committee have taken a preliminary look at this idea and extended it to the concept of a fully deployable solar sail Sprite. The intensity of the solar radiation flux at Earth orbit is around 0.14 W/cm2. We have done some basic analysis of the physics potential over a wide range of sail parameters (20-40 gram mass, 1-9 cm2 total area, 200 – 400 kg/m2 sail loading, 0.6 – 1.0 reflectivity) and we think it may be possible to deploy a small solar sail material from a Sprite giving rise to a solar energy input of between 0.5 – 1.2W. We have named this concept the Watt Intensity Solar Propelled (WISP) Sprite. In theory, once deployed from a CubeSat and provided the sail opens correctly, Sprite velocities of order 100 – 300 m/s may be possible. There are many engineering issues to address and this is early days, but we would like the opportunity to investigate this potential, as well as launching some basic Sprite probes, perhaps displaying the BIS logo and/or transmitting a small message “From Imagination to Reality”, for example.

How you can help

Currently,  the BIS has invested $1,000 into this project through our own funds and through a voluntary donation. To raise additional finance we invite you to make a donation towards this project as part of the BIS contribution at When you give your name please put BIS at the end of your surname (e.g. John SmithBIS) so the team know it is part of the BIS contribution. In addition, please email [email protected] and make a note that you donated on behalf of the BIS (e.g. Dear Sir, I donated $300 as part of the BIS contribution, John Smith).

If the mission goes ahead, and so far it’s looking very promising, a certificate acknowledging your part in the BIS contribution will be organized at a later date.

The future

Finally, if this mission is successful, we have plans for a further mission and an even more ambitious mission still under discussion. This is an exciting time for the BIS as we head towards the 80th anniversary of our founding.


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