TubeSat – Personal satellite kit?

TubeSat – Personal satellite kit?

Tubesat  Solar Cells Antenna Earth Background Assembly Heading 1
This appears to be a “satellite kit” for $8k via /.

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) and volume of a CubeSat, but still offers plenty of room for most experiments or functions. 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 any long-term build-up of orbital debris. After a few weeks of operation, they will safely re-enter the atmosphere and burn-up. TubeSats are designed to be orbit-friendly. Launches are expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2010.

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, safety hardware, solar panels, batteries, power management hardware and software,  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 HAM radio receiver. Simple applications include broadcasting a repeating message from orbit or programming the satellite to function as a private orbital HAM 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.

12 thoughts on “TubeSat – Personal satellite kit?

  1. Max says:

    Great, another opportunity to fill the stratosphere with badly programmed spacejunk….just like the ISS, I guess.

    Now, if a bunch of people got together, and programmed about a hundred of these things to work together, and fitted them with a tiny little retro-rocket so they could re-enter on demand

    …so maybe a DIY “Project Thor” isn’t the best use of amateur space technology, but it’s sure better than just leaving a load of MySpace pages in orbit.

    1. Brad says:

      “After a few weeks of operation, they will safely re-enter the atmosphere and burn-up.”

  2. Ramar Triog says:

    What an ideal opportunity to get my Nano rods-from-the-gods project off the ground.

    There should be just enough mass left to put a GSM sensor guided hyper-velocity re-entry impactor inside, and with an orbit that covers most of the population centres; this is an ideal platform from which to target all those pesky axis-of-evil leaders or anyone else who opposes my will ‘Demonic laugh’.

    Just so long as they carry a cellphone and stand out in the open.

  3. oskay says:

    (That is all.)

  4. Max says:

    @Brad – a few weeks is still long enough to get in the way of some rather more expensive hardware…and the only way these things could have a definite lifespan is through orbital injection, there’s no room for a re-entry retro.

    If the injection is off only slightly [and it always is!] and the orbit lasts, let’s say two months, that’s about 1200 orbits – a lot of opportunity for mayhem.

    I’m not trying to be a buzz-kill, I’d *love* to have my own toy satellite, but they need to have some active orbit control otherwise LEO is gonna end up looking like the New Jersey turnpike at crush-hour.

    1. Dave says:

      These micro-satellites probably aren’t nearly as dangerous as Project Westford:

      Note that most launch agencies are highly cautious of launching any space vehicle with propulsion capabilities (due to the possibility of the propulsion device activating prematurely and destroying the rest of the cargo). It is possible to launch such payloads, but the launch costs (and insurance) and testing requirements are quite a bit higher.

      Plus, there is the issue of orienting the satellite prior to doing a retro burn. While there are several stabilization methods (spin stabilization, gravity gradient stabilization, magnetorquer stabilization, etc.), there’s still the problem of ensuring that the propulsion device is pointed in the correct direction prior to the burn (And, a retro burn done while the engine is pointing in the wrong direction is not a retro burn!).

      There isn’t a lot of commercial interest in very low LEO, primarily due to the rapid orbital decay. Not only does the very top of the atmosphere cause the satellites to decay over a period of months, it also causes the orbital parameters to shift in a mostly unpredictable manner. Thus, it’s hard to know exactly when/where a satellite will appear above the horizon (And, note that for LEO satellites, the ground footprint is quite small, sometimes being only a few hundred miles in diameter, as opposed to a GEO satellite, which covers almost half the globe, and the shifting orbital parameters means that the AOS-LOS times are unpredictable).

      (LEO=Low Earth Oribt, GEO=Geosynchronous Earth Orbit, then, there’s also a Molniya orbit, and quite a few other obits, most of which don’t have specific names) (AOS=Acquisition of Signal, LOS=Loss of signal).

      There are, of course, some governmental satellites in low LEO, but these are primarily spy/photo-recon satellites, which are either expendable or which have boost capability (but, usually only for a very short period). Even the Iridium satellites, which are in LEO, are at an altitude of 485 miles, which is substantially higher than the Tube-Sats, which are designed to be in an under 200 mile altitude orbit. The International Space Station (ISS) is at an altitude of 220 miles, which is quite low, but still above the Tube-Sat orbit. And, even a satellite at the 220 mile orbital height of the ISS will only orbit for a matter of months before reentering, as exhibited by the SuitSat:

      That’s not to say that it’s not impossible for a micro-satellite to collide with a satellite being launched into a higher orbit. But, most of the launch agencies are pretty careful about doing analysis prior to launch to avoid any potential collisions.


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