Many (many) moons ago, I did some pieces for Mondo 2000 magazine and The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog on microsats — basically homebrewed flying PCs and radios in a box that hitched rides on spaceships. I heard amazing stories of literally building these craft on kitchen tables and baking components (i.e. curing them) in home ovens, sats being tossed out of hatches of Russian spacecraft to “launch” them, guys in basements using early desktop publishing systems to bodge up professional-looking aerospace firm proposals to get contracts, etc. All very exciting, pioneering stuff.
The microsat movement is alive and well today, and you can even buy a nifty CubeSat Kit, built around the MSP430 chipset. Seems like buying a kit would take a bunch of the fun out of it, but I guess a lot depends on what sort of “fun” you’re after. It also costs $6,000, but it is, after all, a spacecraft.
Begin your CubeSat Mission with the CubeSat Kit [via ladyada's ranting]