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Russian Space Enthusiasts Want to Crowdfund a Satellite

Enthusiasts are building Russia's first amateur mini-satellite with the money raised through crowdfunding

  • The first $7,000 raised was enough for them to build the model
  • In Autumn they plan another campaign to raise the necassary $262,000 for the real thing

This article originally appeared at Russia Beyond the Headlines

“During one of the lectures on astronautics, a student came up and asked me if it was possible to send a brick into space. I told him “yes, but isn’t it better to send something more significant?” says Alexander Shayenko, head of the Modern Cosmonautics educational program at the Moscow State Engineering University (MAMI). This is how the construction of Russia's first amateur satellite Mayak (Lighthouse) began in the autumn of 2014.

The project involves four students and one postgraduate of the Bauman Moscow State Technical University (MSTU), four engineers and one PR specialist. To date, they have raised about $7000 via crowdfunding and created a model of the satellite.

The enthusiasts plan to build a real satellite on its basis and launch it into orbit in 2016. The project is called Mayak and it should become the guiding star for fans of space exploration.

'We are still here on Earth'

Shayenko, who heads the project, worked previously in various space companies.

“Mankind could have conquered the other planets 40 years ago, but we are still here on Earth," he says. According to him, the reason only is that the space agencies and businesses that develop spacecraft are not doing enough and are not too interested in the result. The task of Mayak is to overcome indifference, Shayenko says.

The size of the model is 10*10*34 cm, the weight is about 4 kg.

“It's like two bricks,” Shayenko explains.

“After entering the orbit, the satellite transforms into a pyramid large enough to be clearly visible in the sky due to reflected sunlight.”

The satellite is a container that holds ammonium carbonate, polymer film, two gas generators and a computer. Ammonium carbonate will decompose when heated to give carbon dioxide, water and ammonia.

After takeoff, a gas generator should start to fill with gas the frame of the pyramid by its ribs, whereby it will take a flat and stable form. Another gas generator will cause the satellite to spin, which will make it more visible to people at night.

The next stage

“We will conduct the model's stratospheric test later this month. This is what we raised money for. We will send our model on a helium balloon into the stratosphere at a height of 35 km. During the descent, it will inevitably be damaged, so that we will have to build another two devices for the orbital launch, the main and reserve ones," Shayenko continues.

However, this is only the beginning. To bring the project to fruition and launch the real Mayak satellite into orbit, another $262,000 is needed. Now the enthusiasts are about to sign an agreement for the launch with the University of Engineering and the company Sputniks, which will put the satellite on the rocket Dnepr in the autumn of 2016.

To raise the necessary $262,000, the enthusiasts are planning a short-term campaign in September and October 2015.

In addition, Shayenko will embark on a tour across Russian regions in late July to talk about their project and the exploration of space. With a series of popular science lectures, “Cosmos from Sea to Sea,” he is to overcome 15,000 km, from Kaliningrad to Kamchatka.

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