Tag Archives: space

Ardusat gives young Makers control of satellites in space


Ardusat lets students to launch experiments in space and collect data from an orbiting satellite.


Ask any classroom of kids what they want to be when they grow up, and undoubtedly a few imaginative youngsters will answer emphatically with “astronaut!” With that lofty goal in mind, Salt Lake City-based startup Ardusat has partnered with satellite-based data provider Spire to launch a program that would bring space exploration to the classroom, allowing students to use programmable sensors onto satellites. And sure, while satellites may conjure up images of bus-sized contraptions, many of those now going into orbit are nearly the size of a softball.

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As previously reported on Bits & Pieces, Ardusat is a first-of-its-kind open satellite platform that enables students to easily design and run applications, games and experiments in space, while also steering onboard cameras to take pictures. Since being first successfully launched back in August 2013 and transferred onto the ISS, Ardusat has already found its way into more than 40 schools that incorporate its space kits. What’s more, the company recently attained $1 million in seed funding from Space Florida, Fresco Capital, Spire and other undisclosed investors, and hopes to use the money to expand its program.

ArduSat

Ardusat is designed to give ordinary people the chance to easily program and control over 25 different integrated sensors including spectrometers, barometers, magnetometers, radiation measurement devices, gyroscopes, accelerometers and thermometers. Aside from those, each kit contains an Arduino Uno (ATmega328), a breadboard, LEDs, jumper wires, resistors and a USB cable.

The space kits mimic the function and size of actual satellites that are currently overhead. Once students complete their project inside the classroom, Ardusat tests their codes and sends the so-called “CubeSat” to one of the actual satellites. These CubeSats then orbit the Earth at nearly five miles per second, collecting a variety of data that students can actually use.

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While a classroom full of space kits may cost over $2,500, the curriculum and the online resources are available for free. Beyond that, an individual unit, which designed for three to five students working together, will only set you back $150. Interested in learning more? Head over to their official page here.

Catching a virtual ride to space

A British lecturer at the University of Surrey has proposed a “virtual ride to space” using a weather ballon equipped with an Atmel-basedArduino-powered payload.

“A weather balloon will carry 24 HD video cameras up to a 20km altitude in order to reconstruct an immersive ride to space,” Aaron Knoll wrote in a recent Kickstarter post.



”For this project the experience is everything, so we’re going with the cutting edge of available technology. The Oculus Rift, developed by Oculus VR, is an unparalleled virtual reality headset, which delivers a high definition wide field of view 3-dimensional virtual environment for the user.”



However, says Knoll, the proposed virtual ride to space should provide a comprehensive experience, rather than just offering amazing visuals.

“A soundtrack feature will overlay music on top of actual audio recorded by the cameras.  Plus, you can incorporate your own MP3 playlist instead of the default audio tracks,” he explained.

“The software will allow you to slow down, speed up, or even reverse time. All with an immersive panoramic view of the earth as you ascend slowly to space.”

Don’t have an Oculus Rift? No problem, because Knoll is coding two additional iterations of the software to work with smartphones and PCs.

“In order to create this virtual experience, we need to first gather raw video data from the real world. This is where the balloon and payload come into play. The weather balloon is designed to carry the payload and parachute to an altitude of 20km (twice the height of a commercial airplane) and then burst,” Knoll continued.

“The device then descends to the ground using the recovery parachute where it can be collected.  All this time, the payload electronics are recording video footage that will be stitched together afterward in order to recreate the ascent as an immersive panoramic environment.”

In addition to shooting raw video footage, the Arduino-powered payload tracks the position and orientation of the balloon, ensuring the raw video is correctly mapped onto the virtual environment. In addition, the payload transmits its position at the end of the mission, allowing the ground crew to locate the ‘chute using a SPOT Satellite Messenger.

Last, but certainly not least, the payload is tasked with keeping everything warm inside the enclosure by using a hand warmer to regulate the frigid temperatures. This allows the electronics to function within optional parameters – despite an average temperature of -55C.

Interested in learning more? You can check out Knoll’s official project page here.

Made in Space 3D printing startup speaks at Atmel

Friday saw quite a buzz here at Atmel when founders of the start-up Made in Space participated at a speaking event.

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Atmel hosted start-up Made in Space to talk about their 3-D printer.

The first-floor training room was packed. In attendance was the Mayor of Mountain View, a retired astronaut and people from NBC News. Made in Space founder Jason Dunn talked about how useful it would be to have a manufacturing method in space. In keeping with the recent craze for 3D printing, Made in Space is well along the way to sending a 3D-printer to space.

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Jason Dunn expands and explains his rationale for putting a 3D printer in space.

At first the team tried to adapt an existing 3D printer for space use. They rented time on those parabolic flights where you are weightless for a minute or two. Every 3D printer they tried had severe limitations. Indeed a recent review in Product Design and Development indicates that many 3-D printers don’t work on Earth, much less in orbit. You can see how if a 3D printer needs to be precisely leveled in order to not damage itself, there is little chance it would ever work in space. And don’t forget a 3D printer intended for space use will need to withstand the G-force of launch.

Made-in-Space-diagram

There was a definite startup vibe in the room. I’ve been to those edgy companies that scribble directly on the wall. I guess brown paper serves when you are on the road.

Now last time I checked it was $10,000 a pound to put something into orbit. So the business case for 3D printing in space is that you make parts that you need as you need them. Jason maintains that 3D printing could make 30% of the spare parts on the Space Station. I find that a little hard to believe. Let’s face it, 3D printing makes inferior structural components that have nowhere near the properties of injection molded or machined parts. The space program uses Delrin and polyamide and thermoset high-performance engineering plastics. To my knowledge the “additive string” type of printer cannot use these high-zoot engineering thermoplastics. Even if they did, the resulting parts are never as strong as an injection molded part.

Made-in-Space-crowd

There was a healthy crowd at the Atmel-sponsored function.

Still, you can see how compelling it is to be able to manufacture in space. You can check out Jason’s TEDx talk to see his vision. The second he started his presentation here at Atmel, I could not help but think of the Apollo 13 disaster. If only those astronauts had a 3D printer, they could have easily made a part to adapt the Command module CO2 scrubber canisters to the Lunar module design. Sure enough, the Made in Space people also thought of this scenario. So they gave an intern the job to design and build a part that would have done the job. It took him less than an hour to design the part and the printer had the part built in a few hours more. That would sure have lowered the blood pressure of those three stranded astronauts. And Jason noted that it is the ground crew that can be designing the parts, further offloading the astronauts so they can concentrate on the space-based tasks that they need to get done.

Atmel powered ArduLab is ready for launch!

The ArduLab – powered by Atmel’s versatile ATmega2560 – is a highly capable experimentation platform ready for space right out of the box. Designed by Infinity Aerospace, ArduLab can be programmed just like an Arduino.

The next ArduLab launch is scheduled for September 17, 2013. Although this particular mission is headed to the International Space Station (ISS) on an Antares Rocket/Cygnus spacecraft developed by the Orbital Sciences Corporation, the ArduLab is fully capable of operating on a number of suborbital launch vehicles and parabolic aircraft.

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“There are multiple [reasons] why we’re doing exactly what we’re doing [with ArduLab]. One is that space is usually not inclusive of all the people around the world,” ArduLab co-founder Manu Sharma recently told DIY Space Exploration. “I wanted to create products that enabled people across the globe… [to] make cool experiments and do anything they want.”

According to Sharma, the ArduLab crew will be launching pretty much every day for the next few years.

“[So] it probably won’t be as hard for [someone] to come up with an idea, ‘I want to see how fireflies fly in space,'” Sharma explained. “And he could program this thing and do any of those experiments. That was the real reason why we went to open hardware because it allows us to go beyond borders and find people to work on it very easily.”

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Sharma also noted that ArduLab ultimately wanted to create a community of space hardware hackers.

“We’re launching our forums and our community page where people can just hang out, share their experiences, and share knowledge about experiments that they’re doing and things like that. We really want to create a new committee of people and we need those people to [renew] possibilities of what we can do with ArduLab and future products,” he added.

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Interested in sending your experiment to the ISS and beyond? The Space Explorer Program includes ArduLab 1.0, an additional ArduLab board for experimentation development, launch slot to space and an Infinity Aerospace basic payload support for $4,995.

You can also customize your Explorer Program for an additional fee, while the Space Conqueror Program ($34,995 yearly subscription fee) offers unlimited flights to space, 3 x ArduLab 1.0, ($250 for each additional ArduLab 1.0) and a “Getting Started in Space” lesson with Infinity Aerospace engineers. Interested in learning more? Be sure to check out Infinity Aerospace’s official page here.

As previously discussed on Bits & PiecesAtmel’s ATmega2560 is a high-performance, low-power 8-bit AVR RISC-based microcontroller equipped with 256KB ISP flash memory, 8KB SRAM, 4KB EEPROM, 86 general purpose I/O lines, 32 general purpose working registers, a real time counter and 6 flexible timer/counters with compare modes. Additional key specs include a PWM, four USARTs, a byte oriented 2-wire serial interface, 16-channel 10-bit A/D converter and a JTAG interface for on-chip debugging.

The ATmega2560 is capable of achieving a throughput of 16 MIPS at 16 MHz, while operating between 4.5-5.5 volts. By executing powerful instructions in a single clock cycle, the device achieves a throughput approaching 1 MIPS per MHz, neatly balancing power consumption with processing speed.

Interested in learning more? See the infographic below which details just what ArduLab is capable of doing for your experiment.

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Blast off to space with the ATmega2560 powered ArduLab

The ArduLab – powered by Atmel’s versatile ATmega2560 – is a highly capable experimentation platform ready for space right out of the box. Sensor mounting is straightforward, with unique functionality addressing the technical challenges of operating in space.

spaceexperimentgoeshere

Designed by Infinity Aerospace, ArduLab can be programmed just like an Arduino. With a simple software command, the ArduLab switches into drive mode – making its memory accessible like a USB stick. In terms of physical assembly, the ArduLab is configurable using hex bolts and a few washers with an included allen wrench. Plus, over 100 flush mounted threaded inserts act as versatile anchors for a wide range of equipment.

The next ArduLab launch is scheduled for September 15, 2013. Although this particular mission is headed to the International Space Station (ISS) on an Antares Rocket/Cygnus spacecraft developed by the Orbital Sciences Corporation, the ArduLab is fully capable of operating on a number of suborbital launch vehicles and parabolic aircraft.

Interested in sending your experiment to the ISS and beyond? The Space Explorer Program includes ArduLab 1.0, an additional ArduLab board for experimentation development, launch slot to space and an Infinity Aerospace basic payload support for $4,995.

You can also customize your Explorer Program for an additional fee, while the Space Conqueror Program ($34,995 yearly subscription fee) offers unlimited flights to space, 3 x ArduLab 1.0, ($250 for each additional ArduLab 1.0) and a “Getting Started in Space” lesson with Infinity Aerospace engineers. Interested in learning more? Be sure to check out Infinity Aerospace’s official page here.

As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Atmel’s ATmega2560 is a high-performance, low-power 8-bit AVR RISC-based microcontroller equipped with 256KB ISP flash memory, 8KB SRAM, 4KB EEPROM, 86 general purpose I/O lines, 32 general purpose working registers, a real time counter and 6 flexible timer/counters with compare modes. Additional key specs include a PWM, four USARTs, a byte oriented 2-wire serial interface, 16-channel 10-bit A/D converter and a JTAG interface for on-chip debugging.

The ATmega2560 is capable of achieving a throughput of 16 MIPS at 16 MHz, while operating between 4.5-5.5 volts. By executing powerful instructions in a single clock cycle, the device achieves a throughput approaching 1 MIPS per MHz, neatly balancing power consumption with processing speed.

Arduino-Based Personal Satellites Could Launch This Fall

The Arduino platform has become a common component in robotics and an array of do-it-yourself (DIY) tech gadgets. Now, Arduino boards, based on Atmel AVR megaAVR 8-bit and ARM processor-based microcontrollers, are poised to power personal satellites that could get launched into space as early as this fall.

One of the driving forces behind these cracker-sized satellites, dubbed “Sprites,” is Zac Manchester, who recently talked to the San Francisco Chronicle about his Kickstarter-funded project. Working from NASA’s Ames Research Center, Manchester and his team are aiming to get 250 of the personal satellites into space via a container placed inside the SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which resupplies the International Space Station.

More on the Sprite project here. What would you do with your own personal satellite?