The backyard plasma ships (that you can help build).

Laboratory Equipment spreads the word (and we’re spreading it farther) about these space scientists who’ve decided to use Kickstarter to send the first plasma-drive ship into deep space:

Two Univ. of Michigan engineering professors are turning to the Kickstarter online community to help fund an interplanetary satellite mission.

They are teaming up to create two new technologies in a matter of months, with the goal of using a plasma thruster to push a CubeSat into deep space – something that has never been done before.

“We’re using Kickstarter to develop a new miniature thruster technology to mount on CubeSats, a small spacecraft that is about the size of a loaf of bread. We’ll use this new thruster to escape Earth’s orbit and send them into interplanetary space,” says Benjamin Longmier, assistant professor of aerospace engineering and a propulsion specialist in the Plasmadynamics and Electric Propulsion Lab (PEPL) in the College of Engineering.

Longmier’s partner on the project is James Cutler, assistant professor of aerospace engineering and director of the Michigan Exploration Laboratory (MXL), where the CubeSats have been designed, built and launched since 2008. To date, Cutler’s team has launched three CubeSats into orbit.

“The problem with the spacecraft we currently build is they don’t move,” Cutler says. “And there are some very interesting places that we’d like to go. So Ben’s come along and hopefully we can combine these two efforts and go to some very interesting places.”

Cutler is making CubeSats ready to survive space outside Earth’s gravitational field. Longmier is working on a light, portable plasma thruster that’ll send the thing millions of miles away.

They’ve gotten some help from JPL. Kickstarter comes in because they’d like to have the first spaceship ready to launch in 18 months.

Their page is right here. Check it out.