Feeds

Open source 'Cubesat' set to soar

Arduino-powered satellites arrive at International Space Station on Saturday

The next step in data security

Open source software and hardware are about to take a giant, if futile, leap into space, thanks to two “CubeSats” that ascended into the heavens in the HTV-4 “transfer vehicle” that also carried a humaniform robot to the International Space Station (ISS).

The two CubeSats, named because they are cubes ten centimetres on each side, were crowdfunded, weigh less than 1.3kg apiece and are built with Arduino single board computers. The boards run FreeRTOS, a free real time operating system.

Two satellites, ArduSat-1 and ArduSat-X, went aboard HTV-4 Both will be launched by the ISS' robot arm. The satellites bear solar panels to power their electronic innards, but lack propulsion. They'll therefore circle Earth for as long as the laws of physics permit but NanoSatisfi, the company behind the satellites, is selling a week of processing time so they should stay aloft that long before being destroyed by the heat of re-entry.

NanoSatisfi partly funded the satellites' construction through a crowdfunding project that offered contributors the chance upload an experiment on the birds. Such code makes use of the satellites' senors, which comprise “a space-rated GPS receiver, a 1.3MP camera, spectrometer, Geiger counter, magnetometer, inertial measurement unit, multiple thermometers, light sensor, electromagnetic wave detector, and various ozone/gas sensors.”

Winners, or the many schools and individuals who purchased time on the satellites, upload code (Arduino's tool is GPL-licensed) from a web interface.

The heart of each CubeSat is the ArduSat Payload Processor Module (ASPPM, depcited below), a single board computer that packs the equivalent of 16 Arduino Uno boards into one. Each processor is dedicated to its own experiment, while a seventeenth processor takes care of the myriad other chores needed to keep the satellites functioning, including making experiments' results available as downloadable .CSV files.

Jonathan Oxer, one of the satellites' designers, says serious science is one aim of the project, its main goal is “ is to inspire hobbyists and school students to learn about space technology, beginning with simple experiments using cheap Arduino boards in their classroom and then seamlessly transitioning to running those same experiments in space on a real satellite.”

That experience, he hopes, will see them take pursue studies in technical fields and over time address skills shortages.

Oxer hopes to release designs for the ASPPM.

“The design of the payload will also be released under the TAPR Open Hardware License, as soon as I have a clear path to do it without falling afoul of the laws restricting international arms trade,” he told The Reg. “That's actually quite a problem because satellite technology is classified as a weapon, no matter what its purpose is.” HTV-4 docks at the ISS early on Saturday, Australian time. The CubeSats will later be cast into space by ISS crew, at a time yet to be determined. ®

The CubeSats ASPPM single board computer

The ArduSat Payload Processor Module. Each rectangle is a discrete computer.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.