IT arrived. With little fanfare, an ordinary cardboard box full of packing peanuts has thrown my life into panic and confusion. For the mighty packing slip says it all. "Parts&Packing List". Inside is... a piece of paper. And, hopefully, buried under the packing peanuts, also a satellite.

box with packing peanuts

My satellite. My InterOrbital pico-satellite. "Project Calliope", the satellite. The THING I'm BUILDING in my BASEMENT (dum-dum-dah-dum!). Did you ever wonder just what a satellite is made of? The answer is... this!


satellite pieces

That's it. That's a picosatellite. Nearly every piece, excluding instruments and sensors. I have to choose and build those separately. This is the housing, the solar cells and power system, the on-board computer, the little offsets and screws and fairing pieces, everything needed to get me into space.

Let's zoom in a bit.

What the Wizard Gave Us

Here we have the brains, heart, and courage of the system. Specifically, a microcomputer, a battery, and a not-ready-for-primetime flight tube. Yes, technically the tube is the body, not 'courage', but that would ruin my Wizard of Oz analogy.

the main 3 components
There's also a transmitter there, and I'll be covering data downlink in a separate article.

The Electric Company

Power! More power to him! Err, right, solar power. The satellite uses solar panels to keep the battery charged and perky. Right now, I don't have solar panels, just 48 solar cells (plus 2 spares).

solar cells

The solar cells came in a styrofoam 'rack', as they are highly fragile. As if the styrofoam packing wasn't warning enough, I also received warning emails from IO Systems reminding me to be careful. Part of the reason these are fragile is they are not in their 'final form'.

closeup of 2 cells

To be useful, they must be attached to something stronger, and of course wired up. I received the PCB board schematics by email, and fired up a program called KiCAD to read 'em. I have to 8 of the boards fabricated and shipped to me. I'll slap the cells onto the board, wire 'em up, and we'll have bonafide solar panels. That's my next task to tackle, actually-- ordering the PCB board fabrication.

The Outer Limits

Ever build something and end up with a lot of extra parts left over? Whoops. Okay, these aren't really extra parts. These are the pieces that don't go onto the actual satellite, but help with building and programming it. Cables and a USB interface board to hook it up to a PC, CDs with documentation, and an little cable that I haven't figure out yet, probably a sensors cable.

interface parts

I'll be writing in detail as I start tackling each part, but that wraps up the overview of What Was In The Box.

Have Satellite, Will Travel

And without further ado, I pack it into a small protective case and we're ready to go. It is really that small, that lightweight. It's moments like these that make me proud to be the premiere (well, only) maker of boutique satellites.

And in about a year, it'll be assembled and going into space.

satellite in a box


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