Headlines > News > ArduSat -Access to a Satellite in Space for as Little as $350

ArduSat -Access to a Satellite in Space for as Little as $350

Written by Robert Goldsmith and published by Matt on Fri Jun 29, 2012 1:26 pm
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The Space Fellowship is pleased to announce a new and exciting project, a combination of work from many organisations including a Space Fellowship forum favourite Team Prometheus. Team Prometheus were initially introduced to us when they signed up for the N-Prize (two cash Prizes, each of £9,999.99 given to the first persons or groups to put into orbit around the Earth a satellite with a mass of between 9.99 and 19.99 grams, and to prove that it has completed at least 9 orbits)

How would you like to have direct, personal access to a satellite in space? How about having the freedom to design your own experiments, design games, invent your own applications, even take pictures of the Earth or the sky? That’s the kind of DIY space exploration that NanoSatisfi LLC, a startup out of San Jose, will make possible for as little as $350 with their new ArduSat microsatellite.

An artist’s impression of the ArduSat in orbit

An artist’s impression of the ArduSat in orbit

Just imagine: you could be at the helm of a machine that flies away over the horizon at over 18 times the speed of sound, detects metors vaporizing in the skies over Europe, photographs the sunset over the horn of Africa, maps the Earth’s magnetic field cruising over the Indian Ocean, snaps a picture of the Southern Lights dancing underneath off the coast of Australia, samples the upper atmosphere for biomarkers and other signs of life, flies effortlessly over a hurricane to look straight down its eye, maps the emitted spectrum of the sun, is back over your head in an hour and half.

These are only a few ideas for how the satellite could be used – in reality, you’re only limited by your own creativity. You can run games, invent competitions with your friends, designing your own space apps, even performing research for a thesis.

The satellite itself is a fairly standard microsatellite: based off the Calpoly CubeSat standard, it uses generic off-the-shelf, space-proven components for majority of the subsystems, including the structure, onboard computer, electrical power supply, communications, and so forth.

The payload, however, is where it really stands out: it consists of a bank of Arduino processors mounted on a custom PCB and hooked up to a suite of over 25 sensors, including:

  • three cameras,
  • a custom-made spectrometer,
  • an EM wave sensor,
  • a geiger counter,
  • atmospheric sensors, and more (a full list is available on the project’s homepage).
Peter Platzer, CEO of NanoSatisfi, holding a prototype of the payload package

Peter Platzer, CEO of NanoSatisfi, holding a prototype of the payload package

Anyone can create their own experiments, games, applications, to run on the ruggedized Arduino bank, using the open-source Arduino standard and in normal C code. The developers have published a list of ideas for how the satellite could be used, but with access to all of the sensors plus data from the satellite bus itself, that’s only a few ways the satellite could be used.

The project is already featured on Kickstarter.com, to give people the chance to pre-order their experiment slots and help the developers raise additional funds to upgrade the satellite. It has already passed the funding benchmark to launch the basic 1-kg configuration, but the if enough people preorder slots on the satellite, ArduSat will get an upgrade to a higher-performance, 2-kg configuration, which has higher pointing accuracy, houses better cameras, more advanced sensors, generate more power, and give users even more ways to explore. In either configuration, it is expected to launch in the first half of 2013 through a standard CubeSat ride-along launch.

Thanks to the attention on Kickstarter, ArduSat has also attracted the interest of a number of other companies, who have now banded together to make the project a success:

  • Team Prometheus, founded my Monroe Lee King Jr, has pledged its experience in rocketry and high-altitude testing to the project, and will be launching prototype ArduSats to 100,000 feet on a balloon, 40-miles on a balloon-launched rocket, and will even use a modified ArduSat as the payload for their attempted orbital launches for the NASA Centennial Challenge. The team have a Space Fellowship forum for anyone who wishes to discuss the project or any of the teams other plans. The Space Fellowship would also like to welcome Robert Brand to the Team Prometheus Forum.
  • GOMSpace, a microsatellite manufacturer from Denmark, has teamed up with the ArduSat developers to provide engineering and integration support for the satellite bus and make sure that the satellite comes together smoothly.
  • MySpectral, the developers of the first open-source spectrometer, will be adding their Spectruino to the “Developer” packages ArduSat is offering discounted to people pledging a certain amount to the Kickstarter campaign, and will also be making a customized rugged version for the ArduSat flight model.
An exploded view of the 1U version of ArduSat

An exploded view of the 1U version of ArduSat

ArduSat has fantastic educational potential as well: the low cost and relative ease-of-use of the system makes it possible for high schools and university students to develop their own experiments, as individuals or in group projects, and get actual results within a short timeframe. ArduSat should come as a relief to educators worldwide, who are struggling to keep the current generation interested in STEM fields; it has been shown through several studies (including one conducted by one of the NanoSatisfi founders, Reka Kovacs) that having access to high-technology applications and immediate results is the most effective way to keep modern students engaged in STEM education.

The ArduSat project is more than just a one-time stunt – if the first satellite is successful, NanoSatisfi is planning to launch many more in the coming years, and will even be offering courses during which participants can design, build, launch and operate their own satellites. Eventually, the satellites could even be used for larger-scale data sharing and global experiments, as more and more satellites produced by the courses are commissioned in space.

ArduSat is the brainchild of four space entrepreneurs who met at the International Space University (ISU) in France last year and founded NanoSatisfi in an effort to make space science and exploration affordable for the general population.

  • Peter Platzer, NanoSatisfi’s CEO, is a former Austrian physicist who switched careers from working at CERN into business at Harvard Business School, working for 10 years on Wall Street as a quantitative investment manager.
  • Jeroen Cappaert, filling the role of “Lead Engineer – Satellite Payload”, brings with him from Belgium a degree in Mechanical Engineering, with a specialty in aerospace and a minor in electrical engineering.
  • Joel Spark, the “Lead Engineer – Satellite Bus”, is a Canadian Aerospace Engineer with a specialty in structures and vehicle design, who branched out into business and management through ISU’s MSM program.
  • Reka, from Hungary, rounds out the team’s skillset with a background in business management, market analysis, and space tourism management, filling the role of “Public Outreach Officer”.

To find out more information on the project, or to talk to the ArduSat team directly, go to the project hompage.

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