DIY Satellite Platforms Building a Space-Ready General Base Picosatellite for Any Mission
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DIY Satellite Platforms Building a Space-Ready General Base Picosatellite for Any Mission

DIY Satellite Platforms Building a Space-Ready General Base Picosatellite for Any Mission by Sandy Antunes | PDF Free Download.

Preface to DIY Satellite Platforms

Can any hobbyist build a satellite? Our DIY guide steps you through designing and building a base picosatellite platform tough enough to withstand launch and survive in orbit.

If you have basic maker skills, you can build a space-ready solar-powered computer-controlled assembly suitable for attaching instruments and rocketing into space.

Our fundamental premise is that anyone can build a satellite. In Chapter 1, we cover things you can do in space, science and engineering concepts, art/science hybrids, AMSATs, and the potential for advanced concepts such as constellations of satellites.

Invent the future! Chapter 2 discusses the basics of electronics, parts, PCB fabrication, and dealing with suppliers, and has some notes on learning reflow soldering.

Chapter 3 then looks at the primary picosatellite chassis that you will use. Choose CubeSats or CubeSats, and you’ll find a variety of rigid frame designs, all with the purpose of giving you an instrument bay for your mad experiment.

Chapter 4 discusses satellite power budgets and the limits on solar and battery power, while Chapter 5 provides a quick overview of flyable Arduino and BasicX24 onboard processors.

To get it up there, you’ll need a rocket (Chapter 6), and you’ll need to plan then execute your entire build—hopefully aided by the milestone checklists in Chapter 7. By the end of this book, you should have a strong grounding in the requirements for building a picosatellite that will launch into space.

We also recommend the other books in this series: our design, testing, and integration book Surviving Orbit the DIY Way, designing a mission goal using the power of science with DIY Instruments for Amateur Space, and getting your data back to the ground with DIY Data Communications for Amateur Spacecraft. 

This book is here to help you get your job done. In general, you may use the code in this book in your programs and documentation. You do not need to contact us for permission unless you’re reproducing a significant portion of the code.

For example, writing a program that uses several chunks of code from this book does not require permission. Selling or distributing a CD-ROM of examples from O’Reilly books does require permission.

Answering a question by citing this book and quoting example code does not require permission. Incorporating a significant amount of example code from this book into your product’s documentation does require permission.

We appreciate, but do not require attribution. An attribution usually includes the title, author, publisher, and ISBN. For example: “DIY Satellite Platforms by Sandy Antunes (O’Reilly). Copyright 2012 Sandy Antunes, 978-1-4493-1060-8.”

All I ask is a successful launch, a clean radio signal, and a life just long enough to achieve that goal. So you’re debating launching your own picosatellite?

If high-altitude balloons just aren’t high altitude enough, if you feel frustrated by the pace of space development, or if you just really, really like rockets and hardware, I think launching your own satellite is an excellent decision.

This book will help you turn that decision into a plan, and turn that plan into finished hardware. But first, what do you want your satellite to do?

Picosatellites, by definition, are extremely small, lightweight satellites. The progenitor of the pico class is the CubeSat, an open-source architecture that lets you pack anything you want into the 10cm × 10cm × 10cm cube. The CubeSat is a satellite as cute as a pumpkin.

Forbes reported on one vendor, Pumpkin Inc., that supplies premade CubeSats. CubeSat itself is a specification, not a piece of off-the-shelf hardware, so Pumpkin decided to prebuild kits and sell them.

If you have your own rocket to launch your CubeSat on, for $7,500 they’ll sell you a CubeSat kit. This neatly parallels InterOrbital Systems’ CubeSat.

InterOrbital Systems (IOS) has the edge in price/performance, as they throw the launch in for the same cost. But it looks like neither IOS nor Pumpkin provides premade, just kits.

So there’s still hobbyist work involved, but kits remove the need for engineering and just leave the fun part of assembly and integration. CubeSats and CubeSats are slightly different, of course, and I am insanely pleased that both are advancing the idea of platform kits.

This is a great step in the commodification of space research. Even if the mini CubeSat looks eerily similar to a Hellraiser Lemarchand box. (See Figure 1-1.) If you build a CubeSat, securing a rocket to launch it on is not difficult, merely expensive.

A typical CubeSat launch cost is estimated at $40,000. There are several commercial providers promising future CubeSat rockets, assuming they complete development.

Various NASA and International Space Station projects accept some proposals using the CubeSat architecture. There are more companies entering the private launch business each year, so prospects for getting a launch are becoming more robust.

The CubeSat architecture from InterOrbital Systems is an alternative schema. Currently only supported by InterOrbital, it is very cost-effective. You get the schematics, main hardware components, and launch on their still-in-development rocket for the single price of $8,000.

A CubeSat uses a slightly longer hexagonal architecture, 12cm in length and 4cm in diameter. You can also work with a custom architecture if you have access to a rocket launch (through a college or university, perhaps), but currently the primary two players are the open CubeSat spec and the private TubeSat alternative.

For purposes of this book, we’ll reference both the CubeSat kit and the Pumpkin CubeSat frame

Any picosatellite will tend to have these core components:

  • An antenna
  • A radio transmitter for uplinking commands or downloading your data
  • A computer-on-a-chip such as an Arduino or a Basic-X24
  • A power system, most often solar cells plus a battery plus a power bus
  • Sensors

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