Crowdfunded satellite telescope raises $1.5M

Looking for an example of a well-crafted, well thought-out crowdfunding campaign?

Look no further than the ARKYD 100, billed as the world’s first public space telescope. With the help of a hefty, crowdfunded $1.5 million, we might soon see the world’s first public space telescope – the product of the most successful crowdfunded campaign for a space project to date.

On Monday, Planetary Resources Inc., the company behind the Kickstarter campaign to launch the telescope, closed its 33-day crowdfunding campaign yesterday for the ARKYD. With big plans to allow people to pay to share time on the telescope, to make discoveries in space, and to mine near-Earth asteroids, the project netted funding from more than 17,600 backers, jettisoning it up to the ranks of the top 25 Kickstarter projects in the site’s history. The ARKYD is slated to launch in 2015.

Still, while you might be diligently using social media to market your crowdfunding campaign, as well as leaning on friends and family for support, it would probably help to have famous names like Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group and Larry Page of Google Inc. in your corner. Branson made a pledge of $100,000 to the Kickstarter campaign. And as ARKYD was spearheaded by Peter Diamandis, co-founder of Planetary Resources and the X Prize Foundation, the project also had backing from billionaires, NASA engineers, and space tourism entrepreneurs.

Then, of course, there are the perks – glitzy, attractive ones that not every crowdfunding campaign can hope to match. For example, 16,000 backers will have the chance to take a picture of themselves using the ARYKD’s camera arm, with the planet Earth as a backdrop. This plan landed the ARKYD the record for most money pledged for a photography project on Kickstarter’s site.

Another 2,000 backers donated usage time on the ARKYD to students in elementary schools and universities, allowing them to do their own research and take photos of space. Among more advanced researchers, 150 of them will be using the telescope to take photos in space and maneuvering the telescope on their own.

Finally, 40 of the highest-level pledgers will be attending the ARKYD’s rocket launch. Ten of them will have their names or messages written on the telescope, and will have an asteroid named after them.

While ARKYD still doesn’t match up with Kickstarter’s most famous campaign, the Pebble smartwatch, which landed a neat $10 million, it’s still a good example of some very effective crowdfunding. Campaigners, take note.

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Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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