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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 »


Calliope, like any Low Earth Orbit satellite (LEO), is going up to, well, LEO.  Space weather-- radiation and energetic particles emitted from an active Sun-- can damage satellites.  This region of space is partially protected from the worst effects of space weather by the Earth's ionosphere, but it is an active and threatening place.

If space wasn't active, there wouldn't be any point in sending up Calliope to measure it.  However, we'd prefer to keep the physical damage to the electronics to a minimum.  The primary source of damage due to solar activity is due to highly energetic electrons, protons and ions emitted by the Sun.

Into every satellite a little grunt work must fall.  Today you get to read the exceedingly boring but entirely real details of a typical week of satellite construction and project management.

Outreach Work

The flight pins and first mission patches have arrived for the 76 exceptional contributors to Calliope!  This week I will be packaging up approximately 76 bundles to mail out.  Oh, and I have to write this week's project update-- which you're reading now.

Assembly Work

Fellow Tubesat pioneer Wesley Faler of Fluid&Reason has calculated power curves we can expect for our orbiting picosatellites.  His summarized estimate is that 6-cell solar panel in a sun-synchronous polar orbit with perfect positioning can expect to produce 0.5 Watts.  This sets our ultimate power budget for the satellite, and helps us choose appropriate instrumentation and control schemes.
'Project Calliope' will have a nearly circular polar low-earth orbit... but what does that actually mean?  Here's a brief mini course in orbital mechanics.

Any orbit requires 6 elements to specify the position and motion fully.  Since we live in 3-D space, it's equivalent to 3 spatial dimensions and 3 velocities.  You could use (x,y,z) for the position and (vx,vy,vz) for the velocities.  You could use spherical coordinates, or Euler angles.  All of those give you, at any instant, the full position and motion in 3D of the satellite at a specific instance in time.
For our Calliope picosatellite mission, I want to make it a real space experience.  That means it needs a mission patch.  And first, let me thank you all-- our fans and community-- for ensuring our Kickstarter fundraiser made its goals!  With less than 11 hours left, we hit our target figure!  Woo!  You're all awesome!

Contributors get a mission patch (or two, or six), and designing those mission patches is its own story.  The motive was "every mission should have a mission patch", rooted deep in NASA tradition.  Totally copying from LittleSDO, we have a brief history of mission patches.
Just a quick note today, on getting DIY stuff done.  Schedules are better than plans.  Just blocking out the time during which you will tackle a task is more important than figuring out how you're going to do it.

This applies to writing also.  All the proposal work and outlining won't get your book down.  Being forced to sit down and type will get your book done.

For a large project, you need to have a plan because you have multiple people involved.  Even in an Agile setup, you need a project plan.  "Agile" isn't an excuse for no planning or for laziness.  However, once that's set up, it's too easy to fall into the trap of making plans, 'to do' lists, and task orders-- and find the work has slipped past you.