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At MakerFaire NYC

Hi all,I'll be at the NYC MakerFaire this weekend (Sept 21-22), in case anyone wishes to join up...

Concepts For A CubeSat LARP

I am a firm believer that simulations improve reality.  If you want to launch a CubeSat, you...

Putting a TARDIS in Space?

I am used to odd looks when I say I'm flying a satellite to convert the ionosphere to music. ...

Who Can Launch a CubeSat?

In the half year since I wrote last September, the CubeSat field has greatly moved forward. ...

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Project CalliopeRSS Feed of this column.

Alex "Sandy" Antunes is the mastermind behind 'Project Calliope', a pico-satellite funded by Science 2.0 and being launched in 2011 by a mad scientist who is a space & music enthusiast. This... Read More »

Just a quick update for my fab fans out there.  And by 'fab' I mean 'PCB fabricators'.  For the Calliope satellite, I need 8 printed circuit boards (PCBs) fabricated for the solar cells.  As I covered earlier, these cells are also the main satellite structural beams.

And were in a golden age of DIY electronics!  There are companies that will make as few as a single board, for around $20, for any small schematic you may have.  Mind you, I'd love recommendations on PCB fabricators to try-- this is a new area for me.

The specs: these solar cell panels are about 1 inch x 4 inches.  The satellite needs 8 of them, which means I need 10 (2 spares in case I screw up).  Oh, actually, I want 20-- enough for a flight spare.
Given I'm a mad scientist building a satellite in my basement, who are my heroes?  Are they Carl Sagan, astronomer populist extraordinaire?  Neil Tyson, a dynamic yet media-saavy heir to Sagan?  Newton, inventor of the apple?

If I had to pick 3, I'd say Fiorella Terenzi, Tony Zuppero, and Edward Stratemeyer.

Zuppero got some noise last year when his free ebook To Inhabit the Solar System got mention in El Register.  Zuppero is a mad inventor's mad inventor-- an Aspie with dreams of exploring the solar system in rockets who gets dragged into the US crazy weapons programs.
A satellite recently made the news for careening out of order and threatening other satellites with its unplanned path and bad driving. I just want to point out, that is not my satellite. Not my fault. I wasn't there.  I have an alibi!

Short recap: The ground station lost control of the geostationary (always over the same part of the Earth) communications satellite Galaxy 15, which has now started to drift from its position while still broadcasting. Folks are worried because it's still transmitting, so it might cause signal interference with other statellite broadcasts. They need to regain control and force a full shutdown.
So yes, I'm launching a satellite.  And an $8K Personal Satellite needs a brain. But which brain? IOS' kits includes the BasicX processor; for Christmas I received the Arduino kit so beloved by DIY folks. Both are potentially flyable.  Let's compare.

BasicX-24 (http://www.basicx.com/): 32K memory, requires 20mA plus up to 40mA I/O loads, operates at -40C to +85C. Programmed in BASIC (ugh) via serial cable.
I just received edition 1.1 of the "TubeSat Personal Satellite Kit Assembly Guide".  Rather than reprinting the entire 50-page instruction set, I decided to rewrite it as "Building Tubey, the Picosatellite", in faux children book style.

Welcome, kids!  Although Tubey the Picosatellite is very complex, we're going to build him with just a few steps.  Right now, we have his clothes-- a bare metal cylinder that Tubey has to fit into.  He'll get rid of his 'clothes' after launch, though.  Yes, Tubey flies naked!

Could you successfully launch a high precision functioning space satellite that was made out of wood? Instead of speculating, I asked.  In my 365DOA Podcast I called up Randa Milliron, the CEO of InterOrbital.com, aka the TubeSat people.  Not only was she not scared away by the idea, but we got into a lively discussion on Steampunk in Space.