This is fascinating. If hackerspaces can buy an $8,000 laser cutter, why not send a satellite into orbit? Interorbital Systems (IOS) says it can deploy 32 tiny satellites simultaneously from a rocket launched from the Pacific island of Tonga. The price? A measly 8 grand.
Planet Earth has entered the age of the Personal Satellite with the introduction of Interorbital’s TubeSat Personal Satellite (PS) Kit. The new IOS TubeSat PS Kit is the low-cost alternative to the CubeSat. It has three-quarters of the mass (0.75-kg or 1.65-lb) and volume of a CubeSat, but still offers plenty of room for most experiments or applications. And, best of all, the price of the TubeSat kit actually includes the price of a launch into Low-Earth-Orbit on an IOS NEPTUNE 30 launch vehicle. Since the TubeSats are placed into self-decaying orbits 310 kilometers (192 miles) above the Earth’s surface, they do not contribute to the long-term build-up of orbital debris. After operating for a few months (the exact length of time on orbit is dependent on solar activity), they will safely re-enter the atmosphere and burn-up. TubeSats are designed to be orbit-friendly. Launches are expected to begin in the first quarter of 2011.
A TubeSat is designed to function as a Basic Satellite Bus or as a simple stand-alone satellite. Each TubeSat kit includes the satellite’s structural components, printed circuit board (PCB) Gerber Files, electronic components, solar cells, batteries, transceiver, antennas, microcomputer, and the required programming tools. With these components alone, the builder can construct a satellite that puts out enough power to be picked up on the ground by a hand-held amateur radio receiver. Simple applications include broadcasting a repeating message from orbit or programming the satellite to function as a private orbital amateur radio relay station. These are just two examples. The TubeSat also allows the builder to add his or her own experiment or function to the basic TubeSat Kit.