BLACKSHIP ONE

Frequently Asked Questions

Below, you will find our FAQ. If you have a question that is not covered below, please feel free to reach out to us. We try to respond to all inquiries within 24 hours (although usually we’re much quicker). 

Bring Your Dreams of Getting To Orbit To Life

Hi! We’re Blackship One and we help space enthusiasts, scientists and entrepreneurs get to orbit by launching their spacecraft on the back of the Blackship One Satellite. This satellite is designed to carry the primary sub-systems required to fly a successful mission at 420km above earth while allowing the micro-craft (i.e. you) to plug in and share the mothership’s resources (structure, communication, altitude control, command and data handling and payload protection). Because we can host multiple micro-craft on board we can help you dramatically reduce the cost of getting to orbit

What is Blackship One
Hi! We’re Blackship One and we help space enthusiasts, scientists and entrepreneurs get to orbit by launching their spacecraft on the back of the Blackship One Satellite. This satellite is designed to carry the primary sub-systems required to fly a successful mission at 420km to 600km above earth while allowing the micro-craft (i.e. you) to plug in and share the mothership’s resources (structure, communication, altitude control, command and data handling and payload protection). Because we can host multiple micro-craft on board we can help you dramatically reduce the cost of getting to orbit.
How much does it cost?
We want access to space to be as affordable as possible. Therefore, we’ve designed different ride-share programs based on your particular interests, budget and mission profile objectives.

We’ve designed our prices to increase over time. Every seven days the price of a spot within our mission will increase. This is for 2 reasons. 

1. First, everyone needs to contribute a baseline amount. Everyone needs to contribute to the expensive costs associated with launch, dispensers, flight-readiness testing etc. Therefore, it wouldn’t be fair for a person who signed up 3 months before launch to pay less than someone who signed up one year earlier. Therefore, the sooner you sign up, the more we can spread out your payments. If you sign up in the last few months before launch, you’ll need to pay the entire fee upfront. 

2. Second, in order to make this mission a success we need to ensure it’s sufficiently funded. By incentivizing people to sign up early, we’re not only getting more people involved in a really exciting project, but we’re also helping to pay for the actual shared costs of this mission (launch costs alone cost around $100,000 / U, a 1U dispenser alone costs around $10,000 to $15,000). Similarly, launch providers will require we sign legal documents. We’ll of course need to hire a lawyer for this. They will also likely demand that we have completed CubeSat testing before launch. All of these things get expensive quickly. 

Therefore, in order to keep our prices low, we need to get as many people to sign up as possible to share the cost amongst a larger group of people.  

The truth is, deciding on pricing for this mission was (and continues to be a challenge). Our goal is to design affordable packages, but we also want to equip the CubeSat with higher-end components and better chances of survivability. For example, we could launch for cheaper if we scrapped certain components (camera, advanced communication systems etc.) or used the cheapest possible off the shelf components (OTSCs). However, we don’t want to make the cheapest spacecraft possible. That’s not our mission objective. We want to make affordable spacecraft, but we want to do this without compromising our vision. 

We could also launch for cheaper if we could find a free ride to space. However, waiting for a free ride could delay our launch dramatically (and it could never happen). Therefore, for this mission, we’ll be reliant on expensive commercial launch vehicles. However, the upside is that our launch can be better organized and we can lock in our launch date with more certainty. 

What do I get?

What you get will be determined by which spacecraft plan you sign up for. Here are some guidelines to help you better understand what you get based on your order.

Basic Plan: Educational Package (spacecraft and launch not included)
Our educational package is great for people who want to follow along and learn from home. You’ll be able to follow the journey from conceptualization to launch and beyond. This package will give you access to all digital learning material. The content contained within our learning HUB will grow as our mission progresses. You will get access to all new content as it becomes available. However, this package does not include access to our members only community, our DIY hardware kit, onboard spacecraft, launch or post launch monitoring. This package is perfect for people who want to learn how to get to space, but who don’t want to be involved in the community, learning projects or participate in our launch.

PixelCraft: Pixel Spacecraft (shared)
The pixel spacecraft option is great for people who want to be involved in the launch. Access to our pixel spacecraft plan is essentially shared access to our ship’s main system. You will get an opportunity to share in the development of this system (both hardware and software) and the spacecraft will fly with your contributions embedded within it. However, this plan was designed for people who are primarily interested in software development. Although you can hardware components yourself (a list will be provided to you), this plan does not include any hardware components. 

CubeCraft: Sprite Spacecraft
With our shared sprite spacecraft option, you’ll be able to contribute to both hardware and software development of our spacecraft. You’ll be sent a package containing the components you’ll be able to practice on at home. However, keep in mind, that these components are not the actual components that will fly in space. 

Edu: Edu Spacecraft (for schools and universities)
This is an identical plan to our CubeCraft option. The main difference is that we can custom build a plan for you based on your school’s needs. This is a great plan for University’s, Colleges or High Schools looking to launch an academic space program without having to foot the entire bill. We can help you get to space at the fraction of the cost. 

All Tiers Get Access to our Educational HUB

All tiers come with access to our educational HUB where we will continuously upload new video tutorials, designs, recorded live meetings and progress updates.

Hardware Components: (Not Included in the “Basic” or “PixelCraft” plans )

Our component list will likely change over time as we work together as a group and decide on mission objects. However, our baseline component list includes: 

1. 1U Cubesat structure
– 10cm x 10cm x 10cm structure (3d printed)
– Small screws

2. Electrical power system
– Battery power bank system (batteries not included)

3. UHF transceiver
– Arduino transceiver

4. Flight control computer
– Flight controller

5. Payload board (arduino + sensors + cameras)
– Arduino (starter kit includes everything to get started)
– Digital 3-axis magnetometer
– Digital 3-axis gyroscope
– 3-axis accelerometer
– Infrared temperature sensor
– Digital temperature sensor
– Luminosity sensor
– Geiger counter tubes
– Optical spectrometer
– Arduino camera: 1.3MP
– Piezoelectric vibration and tilt sensor

6. Solar Panel
– Solar panels

7. Antenna
– Antenna

SHARED COSTS

8. CubeSat Development Costs (shared)
– Cost of cubesat that will fly

9. Cubesat Launch Costs (shared)
– Flight readiness testing – radiation
– Flight readiness testing- vibration
– Flight readiness testing – temperature / thermal vacuum
– Dispenser
– Transportation
– Integration
– Launch Vehicle Cost
– Legal
– License (radio)
– License (camera)

10. Ground Station Cost (shared)
– Ground station as a service
– Data storage and analysis
– Data visualization and hosting

What does the online collaboration area look like?

It’s simple, clean, easy to navigate and encourages community participation. Here are some screenshots from our main activity page, group page, course page and a sample user profile page. 

space learning center      space groups

      space profile

Do I need to know how to program?

No, not at the beginning. However, as we progress through our milestones you’ll be required to follow along and in order to do this you’ll need to learn how to code. However, not to worry, because we will use our online learning system to teach you how to program your spacecraft using C++.

This tutorial series will walk you through how to use C++ if you’ve never programmed before. Our tutorial series is beginner friendly and we’ve designed our course modules with non-programmers in mind.

Non-programmers often assume that programming is a really difficult subject to learn. However, that’s not the case at all.  In our online course, we put a heavy focus on making the process of learning C++ as fun and easy as possible. Similarly, there are no costs associated with learning to code because all of the software we use in our course is free and / or open source software.

Similarly, after you sign up, we’ll send you your educational hardware kit and that kit will contain all of the pieces you’ll be required to assemble at home (this is dependent on the plan you chose of course).

If you’ve signed up for one of our “shared” launched plans, then the kit we send you will be used as your at-home demo kit. The actual component that goes to space, will contain your code (as well as the code from others in your group), but because you’re on a “shared plan”, only one piece of hardware will fly from your group.

Regardless of which plan you signed up for, you’ll need to follow along with our coding tutorials in order to test your spacecraft and link it to your mission control dashboard.

When planning this launch, we decided to make everything Arduino compatible (your test microcontroller is the Atmel ATMEGA-328) and all of the code is written in C++. Not only is C++ a powerful language, it’s also easy to find library and code snippets online.

How involved will I be?

Hopefully really involved. We need all of the help we can get. That said, the Blackship One launch project can be as hands-on or as hands-off for you as you’d like.

There are many different ways to be involved.

1. As soon as you sign up, someone on our team is going to get in touch with you to figure out how you can best contribute and learn from the project. It’s our main priority after you sign up that you feel like you’re part of the team. Every single person who signs up is an integral part of this mission’s success. Blackship One will not be a project with tens of thousands of people involved. We’ll likely be a group of a couple hundred people at most. Out of this small group, we’ll break off into even smaller groups to focus on our individual areas of interest. These groups will most likely consist of about 20-30 people. Many of the people in these groups you’ll get to know personally. These people will become your Blackship One family.

Fom our perspective, the more you can participate, the better.

2. You’ll also participate through the construction of your own spacecraft at home (assembly, testing etc.). This will give you countless hours of learning to do on your own. You simply follow our online tutorials and communicate with people who are on the same step as you in our online learning center.

3. You can also get involved in our weekly meetings where we discuss top level mission objectives, issues and obstacles. If you miss these live sessions, you can view recorded video sessions after the live sessions are over. After each session, you can continue to comment on the topics discussed using our community communication tools.

4. You can participate in niche-specific groups. For example, there are sub-groups for design, engineering, electronics, avionics, propulsion, programming and marketing. After you sign up, you’ll be prompted to join the groups that interest you most. We’ll encourage you to join two types of groups.

First, we’ll encourage you to join the groups where you think you can have the most impact based on your personal expertise. In these groups you can act as a mentor to others looking to learn from your area of expertise.

Secondly, we’ll also encourage you to join groups that you want to learn from. You’ll join these groups to learn from people who are experts on these topics.

As a side note, some people have contacted us worried that they won’t have a lot to contribute (skills, time etc). You might not know what a variable in C++ is yet. You might not know what an accelerometer is. You might not have ever contributed to any space project ever. With Blackship One, this isn’t an issue at all.

We’re a friendly group of people working in open environments and we know being involved in the Blackship One project is as much about learning as it is about doing.

Therefore, if you show up to the meetings and ask questions rather than give advice, that’s fine. In our online community, if you’re the one asking questions rather than responding to questions, that’s also fine. We just want you to be there with us learning along the way. In two years from now you’ll be an expert in C++ variables and you’ll know what an accelerometer is. So don’t worry about not knowing these things now. They might seem intimidating now, but in two weeks time, you’ll already start to get a handle on them. In time, you’ll learn these concepts and soon enough you’ll be the one answering, rather than asking the questions 🙂

No one person will make this project a success. Launching a satellite into orbit will require many different people with many different skillsets. Your goal should be to start with what you have and focus on building from there. 

As you can see, there are countless ways to contribute to the project and we welcome people of all skill levels.

When will the launch date be and what are our chances of success?

We want to give the project a sufficient runway in order to ensure that we meet our project goals and have a successful launch. Therefore, we’ve decided to aim for a 2023 (Q4) launch date. This gives us ample time to plan and prepare for launch.

Generally speaking, CubeSat launches have very high failure rates (as we explore in this blog post here). NASA has also released information on small sat mission failure rates and the study found that “between the years of 2000 to 2016, 41.3% of all small satellites launched failed or partially failed. Of these small satellite missions, 24.2% were total mission failures, another 11% were partial mission failures, and 6.1% were launch vehicle failures.”

Luckily, NASA has also released a document entitled “Increasing Mission Success of CubeSats” and the FSGC published another document called “Statistical Analysis of CubeSat Mission Failure“. These documents give us insight into what can go wrong and what can be done to remedy these failures.

The Blackship One launch project will be following the guidelines and recommendations outlined in these documents.

How will I communicate with our spaceship?
This has not been decided yet. The final decision will be highly dependent on the group’s communication needs. There are a few options at our disposal. We could use LoRaWAN and The Things Network (TTN) which is an open source, decentralized infrastructure. Similarly, we could use a low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation like those operated by Globalstar Inc. Network, Iridium satellite constellation or Orbcomm satellite systems.  These options would also eliminate the need for complex ground stations. There is also AWS ground station as-a-service which offers ground wide global coverage. The final option will be heavily dependent on how many people sign up for a launch on Blackship One and which communication modules we decide as a group we want to include. 
How long will we stay in orbit?
It’s impossible to say for sure. Likely, a few months to a few years. Our goal is to remain in orbit for as long as possible. We plan on extending our mission lifetime by including propulsion as one of our spaceship’s components (this is not a guarantee, but we’re looking into it). If we can make propulsion a reality, we can dramatically extend our CubeSat’s operational life. We’ll also try to get into a higher orbit to slow the process of orbital decay. It’s impossible to say for certain how long we’ll stay in orbit, but on average nanosats / cubesats under 10kg have an average lifespan of about 1.1 years. You can see data related to CubeSat lifetime here (based on data from from nanosats.eu)
Who's the Team Behind Blackship.One

Hello. My name is Sterling and I’m the founder of Blackship.One. My personal background over the last 20 years has primarily been in software development, planning and design. I’ve built countless software products ranging from learning management systems to complex financial modeling software. I started Blackship.One’s space and engineering blog early in 2020 with a small team made up primarily of software and hardware engineers. In total, we’re a small team of five. We started with the mission to publish practical and in-depth space, science, software and engineering related information to help people launch their own independent space projects into orbit and beyond. On our blog we talk about everything from nanosat power requirements to cubesat mission profile advances.

Moving forward, our goal is to work together as a small community and launch our first CubeSat into LEO sometime in late 2023 or 2024.

How many people need to sign up before we launch?

We require a minimum of 100 people sign up for group mission before we can greenlight a launch. This is because, our low pricing (which makes space accessible), also means we need to register at a minimum 100 people before we cover the costs required for a launch.

What happens if 100 people don’t sign up?

We have a tentative launch date of Q1 2023. However, if it takes us longer to register 100 participants, we’ll need to delay the launch to a future date (our backup plan will be to schedule the launch for Q4 2023).

However, we doubt this will be an issue as we also run a space marketing agency and have the resources in-house to promote the community project.

The last growth project we worked on, we scaled to 80,000 subscribers and millions of views. We feel confident that we can gain the necessary interest in this project in order to hit our target launch dates.

What about technical and legal requirements?

The technical, legal and regulatory requirements to launch an object into space are complex and time consuming. Luckily, when you fly with Blackship One, all launch details and paperwork are handled by us. However, you can learn about the process in our educational video series. We’ll document each step of the process.