Dear Diary,

It was a secret for a while, but I'm going to launch my own satellite! It's going to make music from space. Curious?

It is dangerous to write about neat things. That makes you want to do them yourself. After writing about satellites, I became inspired to build one myself. And it'll be a first-- a musical satellite. A satellite whose sole purpose is to make music until it dies-- music from science.

Thus is born "Project Calliope", a personal satellite I hope to launch in 2010, to deliver music from space (in an FCC-compliant way). I think we're at a new era, a new space race. We finally have the capability where a sufficiently misapplied individual can put anything they want in space.

This isn't research, but it is science. It's building a homemade ionospheric detector, launching it into space, and applying sonification to convert the signals to MIDI so that any HAM receiver can play space 'live' or via our website. We're converting the ionosphere to sheet music, basically.

And I'm doing this for fun, for about as much as it'd cost to buy a motorcycle. It's not part of NASA or a university. It's just like a model rocket launch, that goes really, really high and stays up for 3 months before re-entering.

Earlier this month I wrote about TubeSat's $8000 pico-satellites, whose primary coolness is that, for $8K, they include the launch(!) -- this is about 10 times less than any other way of getting into orbit. Over on Facebook, a few of us had a fun discussion on what we'd want to put into orbit.

I'm a rocket scientist, an astronomer, a DIY (do-it-yourself construct) fan, an amateur musician, a writer. It was time to pull my hobbies together. Music is a natural choice. As put by the esteemed Bill Nye in his music video, there's Science in Music (oh yeah!).

Just talking possibilities, I've received tremendous support from many individuals. I've got most of a team, or at least a loose alliance of helpful people. I've bought some initial sensors and gear. And I have half the launch costs covered, courtesy of Hank and ScientificBlogging.

I'm still looking for a music co-sponsor to help with the launch costs. And we do have finish the design, build it, test it.  But that's just pulling together the right pieces.

What's next is a heck of a lot of work. To prove that anyone can launch a satellite, this column is going to be more than backstory. I'm going to walk through each step, how we did it, who helped, how you can replicate it. If you want to build your own satellite, by the end of this trip you'll be ready.

Our project website is:,

and, better yet, you can track this column, "Satellite Diaries":

via RSS and via Twitter: @skyday

This ends my somewhat fluffy introduction. The next columns will get into the crunchy technology and also discuss past data sonification projects, with interludes on some of the interesting people I've met so far through this.

I'm still looking for a music co-sponsor, since we want to make our space music available royalty-free for people to use and remix at will.  So if you run a music site, contact satelltediairies at, please.

If you like this, the biggest thing you can do is help get the word out, via tweets, posts to /. and TechDir and other forums, and whatnot. The whole point of this project is, after all, to make beautiful noise.

To space,
Alex, the daytime astronomer