Wednesday, August 07, 2013
Unfortunately yet not too surprisingly, the CAT Thruster Kickstarter failed to reach the $200,000 goal it had set, reaching something over $60,000 by the end (which means they get $0). During the last two weeks I noticed a distinct lack of interest by the team in going out to sites like Reddit to promote the project, and there seems to be a reason why:
Our team at the University of Michigan has been making great progress on the CAT engine, even since we first launched the kickstarter campaign, and we attracted a lot of attention from a few government and commercial partners. Some of these groups intend to fund this research and we are looking into these options. We are also considering re-listing the kickstarter campaign with a few tweaks, a lower funding goal, and some revised rewards.
So it looks like after a week or so into the campaign the team noticed that 1) they weren't on track for the $200,000 goal, 2) some groups were interested in funding it too, and so 3) it would be best to let the campaign take its course, continue to focus on the thrusters themselves, and plan for the next stage.
During the second round we might see something then like an outside group putting up money right away or matching pledges, something along those lines. So I'm still optimistic that these CubeSats will get their method of propulsion and we'll see a mission to 24 Themis sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, Dawn is now less than 50 million km from Ceres, just a third of an AU. For comparison, it's half a billion km from Earth, and the closest Ceres ever gets to Earth is about 220 million km.