By Sterling “Chip” Camden
Contributing Writer, [GAS]
What could be more geeky than putting your own personal satellite into Low-Earth-Orbit? OK, sending yourself into space would definitely pwn that – but who can afford to do it? Now, for only $8000 US (“but you have to call now, ‘cause we can’t do this all day”) you can launch your own personal space satellite, thanks to Interorbital Systems. Yeah, it’s a bit outside my budget, too – but it’s a whole lot closer than I would have thought.
The TubeSat Satellite Kit (PDF) comes with everything you need to put 0.2 kg (a little less than half a pound) of payload into polar orbit:
? Casing, Endplates, and Mounting Hardware
? A Transceiver
? A Battery Pack
? Solar Cells
? A Power Management Control System (PMCS)
? Safety Switches
? Complete Instructions
The $8000 price tag also includes launch on board an IOS NEPTUNE 30 rocket from the South Pacific island of ‘Eua in Tonga. Each rocket can carry up to 32 such satellites, which are released into an orbital pattern that avoids clustering. Launches are scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of 2010 at the rate of one per month. TubeSats are scheduled according to the order of receipt of full payment.
What could you do with such a satellite, you ask? The folks at Interorbital have some suggestions:
? Earth-from-space video imaging
? Earth magnetic field measurement
? Satellite orientation detection (horizon sensor, gyros, accelerometers, etc.)
? Amateur radio relay
? Orbital environment measurements (temperature, pressure, radiation, etc.)
? On-orbit hardware and software component testing (microprocessors, etc.)
? Tracking migratory animals from orbit
? Testing satellite stabilization methods
? Biological experimentation
? Automatic simple, repeating “message from orbit” transmission
? Private e-mail
I have to launch my own satellite to get private email? I think I’ll wait for Google Wave.
Biological experimentation? At less than half a pound payload, it would have to be something more minute than a lab-rat entry into the 100 Mile High Club. Of course, they do offer double, triple, or quadruple size TubeSats – so you could send almost two pounds of biomass up for a little space action if you’ve got the money and inclination. That’s just enough for your average pair of rats (not including food, water and oxygen source :-( — oh well).
While in orbit, you can communicate with the satellite via HAM radio frequencies, either rolling your own or using existing ground station networks. They’re also working on a web-based system for keeping up with your baby. Twitter? Facebook?
But nothing good can last. Within three months, the satellite’s orbit decays and your $8000+ investment will burn up in the atmosphere – to “prevent the build-up of orbital debris fields”. I don’t know about you, but that 90-day expiration date makes that $8000 look a lot more expensive to me.
[Via Space Fellowship]