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Make Your Own Sputnik 118

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the because-you-can dept.
An anonymous reader writes "What better way of celebrating the 50th anniversary of Sputnik than by making one of your own. The BBC says that you can build your own Sputnik satellite from stuff lying around the house. The BBC quotes an electronics hobbyist: "Technology now is way ahead of what was available in 1957, and making your own fully functional Sputnik would now be very simple indeed. I wouldn't be surprised if you could build one in a container smaller than a matchbox, weighing about as much as a wristwatch. The components, including a transmitter, battery and the sensors you'd need would probably cost less than 50 pounds [about 100 US dollars]. It really shouldn't be a problem to build and program the whole thing in under a day." Unfortunately, the BBC article doesn't go into technical details." And of course, actually getting it up into orbit might take a little more work.
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Make Your Own Sputnik

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  • Oops... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Hanners1979 (959741) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:23AM (#21072613) Homepage
    I misread the word 'Sputnik' and sat here thinking "But I already do that every night"...
  • Choices (Score:5, Funny)

    by kevmatic (1133523) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:24AM (#21072629)
    So, do I make my own Helicopter or my own Sputnik? Hmm...

    I say Helicopter. Cooler and Deadlier.
  • No problem (Score:5, Funny)

    by djupedal (584558) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:24AM (#21072635)
    "And of course, actually getting it up into orbit might take a little more work. "

    I know a guy that makes home-made helos' that has the first 7 feet covered - after that...two words: space elevator.
    • by mtaht (603670) on Monday October 22, 2007 @01:39PM (#21074269) Homepage
      The filk song "You can build a spaceship from the things you find at home" comes to mind.

      http://www.khaosworks.org/filk/spaceship.html [khaosworks.org]

      Now next on my agenda was to find a rocket drive
      Strong enough to launch the ship and still keep me alive
      I found the right propellant when I scouted out the bars
      Six kegs of Old Peculier that will shoot me to the shtars! *hic*

      (chorus) Lockheed, Bell and Boeing, MDC and Grumman too
                  Pratt and Whitney, BAE, they'll keep it all from you
                  They make big bucks off NASA so they never want it known
                  That you can build a spaceship from the things you find at home!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by tverbeek (457094)
      And in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first Sputniks, the BBC will post instructions for how you can build your own Sputnik 2 at home... including the dog.
  • by fataugie (89032) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:25AM (#21072649) Homepage
    Wouldn't it be cooler to build it with authentic to the era parts and pieces? It would be like a scavenger hunt meets science class. Sadly, it's beyond me and my capabilites.

    I do have a line on a bunch of old vaccum tubes that have been in storage for years....
  • oblig. (Score:2, Funny)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560)
    This reminds me of the heady days of Sputnik and Yuri Gegarin...
  • by Kjella (173770) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:29AM (#21072695) Homepage
    ...back in the last Sputnik story that the entire idea of a real science probe was pretty much scrapped due to time pressure, and that they launched pretty much only a radio transmitter? Building that primitive beacon wasn't the impressive thing at all, putting it into orbit was.
    • by aadvancedGIR (959466) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:38AM (#21072833)
      A science probe? Didn't the only goal of that think was to say "See that blipping thing over your head? Next time, we could send a nuke anywhere on the planet"
      • by edunbar93 (141167)
        Well sure, but the trick here is that you can do both and look like saints. Send a satellite that beams back data about oh, the Van Allen belts, and you can issue a press release saying "Observe the Mighty Soviet Science and Engineering Team in Action! Space Probe studies Van Allen Belts for 6 month mission!" And then when the US government shits their pants and says "OMGWTFBBQ!! They can nuke us from anywhere!", you can say "What are you talking about? This is a mission of Science and Peace! For Peaceful s
    • You may want to update your sig to reflect the other DRM-free stores sprouting up (Amazon, Wal-Mart, Zune Marketplace soon) and Universal selling DRM-free music on Amazon as well. Not to mention places like eMusic and Magnatune
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lumpy (12016)
      Exactly and changing the "beep" depending on temperature was not "programming" but how temperature worked on resistors to the timing circuit. Sputnik was 100% analog.

    • by Cyberax (705495)
      Sputnik actually HAD science instruments: it encoded pressure and temperature inside the capsule in radio pulses. This allowed to verify that there's no big danger of micrometeorits in space.
      • by FST777 (913657)
        ONLY temperature, in an analog way. A drop in pressure would cause a drop in temperature, thus telling if something weird (like micrometeoroids) is going on.

        The beauty of Sputnik was its simplicity. And the fact that it was in orbit.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by John Meacham (1112)
        Actually, there was another important scientific discovery that sputnik allowed. It was designed to transmit on two different frequencies, 20MHz and 40MHz. Since different radio frequencies are affected differently by the ionosphere, it was possible to observe things about the ionosphere that wern't possible before such as its electron density.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by the bluebrain (443451)
      1) Accelerate to approx. 35 times the speed of sound
      2) Release (preferably in an upward direction)

      Sheesh. Jules Verne already knew that. ;)
      • by Shadowmist (57488)

        1) Accelerate to approx. 35 times the speed of sound
        2) Release (preferably in an upward direction)

        Sheesh. Jules Verne already knew that. ;)
        Of course if you release it straight up it's going to come straight down. :) That's why rockets tip over after they leave the pad... you want that velocity in radial mode.
    • by Vulch (221502)
      The intended payload was running behind time, but was launched as Sputnik 3 a few months later.
    • by jackspenn (682188)
      Agreed, building a radio that says "Hey I am here for a short period of time" is not hard, but launching it into space is.
  • by jayminer (692836) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:30AM (#21072703) Homepage
    ...is there really any possibility to launch it to the orbit from my backyard?

    Can I do it with, say, $10,000 and without getting caught?
    • Can I do it with, say, $10,000 and without getting caught?

      Yes, though you might want to make a few of those sputniks in case of "accidents" [gizmodo.com]

    • by Billosaur (927319) *

      Sure there is... if you have a Scaled Composites workshop in your backyard and a place to store the volatile chemicals... mind you, range safety become an issue... you'll have to check your neighborhood association charter to make sure you aren't violating any rules, for things like towers, radio antennas, satellite dishes, etc.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Talk to the folks at the Civilian Space eXploration Team. They put an amateur rocket in space (not orbit, though) a few years back.

      See:
      http://the-rocketman.com/CSXT/default.asp [the-rocketman.com]
      http://www.ddeville.com/derek/CSXT.htm [ddeville.com]
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Klaus_1250 (987230)
      You might, given the fact that you only need to carry a "matchbox" into a low orbit. But it will still be a hell of a job and lots of trail and error. The bigger problem you will have is that you will have to do it without hitting anything (civilian jets, satellite's, etc), as it might set you back a few hundred million dollars if you manage to do so.
      • by MBGMorden (803437)

        will have to do it without hitting anything (civilian jets, satellite's, etc), as it might set you back a few hundred million dollars if you manage to do so.
        That's where the not getting caught part comes into play. Once it leaves my makeshift launch pad (which will NOT be in any location that would implicate me) I am gonna disavow any knowledge of this device :).
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Robonaut (1134343)
      How many people would seriously want to do this, say launch something ~100cm^3 & 100 grams for ~10K? If 10 people/groups would sign up, not only would they get their stuff in space, but they could help out a university team doing some of the heavy lifting Comments? Suggestions? Reservations?
    • by edunbar93 (141167)
      I thought about this for a moment, before saying "sure!"

      If you were to build an underground supercollider ring (which in principle is basically a huge railgun) from scrap parts, using free labour from friends and family, and you could build a payload that would withstand the 10,000 or so Gs during accelleration, then yes, you could do this, and for about $10,000.

      If you don't want to get caught, I would recommend doing the launch during the day, so that the bright flash emitted as the payload hits the atmosp
  • Yay! More litter! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by avronius (689343) *
    Perhaps they should be encouraging someone to create a powerful electro-magnet satellite sweeper to surf the orbital zone and "pick up" the junk that is whistling around out there, rather than encouraging Joe Average to add his own litter to the fray.

    DISCLAIMER:
    No, I have not thought this through.

    But, it would be interesting to see -something- done about the problem before the garbage makes extra-terrestrial travel even more dangerous than it already is...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dr. Eggman (932300)
      I have thought this through (kind of) and decided at the speeds the garbage is going, a magnet is either going to have very little effect or if it does collide, the garbage will blast the magnet to pieces and create even more junk.
      • by avronius (689343) *
        See, I was thinking that the "sweeper" would be heading in the same direction as the trash... It would need to "catch up" to the crap.

        Perhaps it could change the orbit of each piece of crap - into a decaying orbit?
        • Perhaps it could change the orbit of each piece of crap - into a decaying orbit?

          All orbits are decaying. Some bits might collide and a few bits of metal or flecks of paint might've reached higher orbits or even escape velocity. But most of it will be slowed by the faint friction from the rarified atmosphere to eventually burn up on reentry.

          Basically, all that junk will eventually fall on its own. We just keep sending more junk up.

        • by Nullav (1053766)

          Perhaps it could change the orbit of each piece of crap - into a decaying orbit?
          But don't most if not all satellites have rockets to prevent that? Wouldn't it make more sense to just use said rockets to nudge the satellite down to burn away?
          • But don't most if not all satellites have rockets to prevent that? Wouldn't it make more sense to just use said rockets to nudge the satellite down to burn away?
            A working satellite wouldn't be considered space junk -- space junk includes not only dysfunctional satellites (which probably can't use any rockets, if any, to change orbit) but also random bits and pieces of stuff, such as nuts and bolts, random pieces of rockets that stay in orbit, etc.
    • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:59AM (#21073077)

      DISCLAIMER:
      No, I have not thought this through.
      Have you considered a career in politics?
      • by avronius (689343) *
        I was adding the disclaimer so that the kids in the audience wouldn't rush home to disassembel mommies vaccum cleaner in the quest for a clutter-free space in, erm, space.

        But, now that you mention it, it could be a precursor to a career in politics... Can I count on your vote? :)

        - Avron
    • Not much debris would be attracted to the magnets. Because of the astronomical cost of orbiting each gram of material, iron and steel are unpopular choices for space craft construction.
      • by avronius (689343) *
        After I posted I got to thinking about this very point. Ceramics and magnets aren't a good match - :P

        However, I did get to thinking about this...
        What if we put a large vessel into space for the sole purpose of collecting all of the crap - complete with Canada arm and lots of o2 for course corrections. Eventually we get a large orbitting clump of material that we could potentially move somewhere else and re-use. I'm not saying that we could do this today, but one of the gripes that we constantly hear about i
  • by Picass0 (147474) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:31AM (#21072727) Homepage Journal
    (rolls eyes)

    Anybody with a public school education can outclass Werner Von Braun or Sergei Korolev with chewing gum and duct tape!

    Please.

  • thank you, I have milk coming out of my nose now from laughing so hard...

  • by Decius6i5 (650884) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:35AM (#21072799) Homepage
    ...may be expensive but if you can fit the electronics inside of a ping pong ball you can at least get it close [jpaerospace.com] for free.
    • by hcdejong (561314)
      Sounds like the "Muppet News Flash" where the news anchor is pelted with ten thousand ping pong balls and one bowling ball...
  • Pee Wee (Score:3, Funny)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:35AM (#21072801)

    You could even build one yourself, as Paul Rubens explains below.

    Looks like Pee Wee finally found a new gig, after that sex scandle and all...

  • Good luck getting the fan to do any "cooling" in space. And with today's instrumentation efficiency, there's probably not a whole lotta need to worry about cooling.. I'd be more worried about keeping things heated above -40 deg C to maintain operating temperature.
    • by N1ck0 (803359)
      The light from the sun is surprisingly effective at heating one half of the spacecraft. But yes most likely consumer electronics would fry and freeze repeatedly, making them very useless regardless of the fan's existence.
    • Yeah, the article implies that the original Sputnik had a fan as well. If the case was hermetically sealed then maybe this would work.

      There is also a balloon for pressure/leak sensing so looks like the intent is for the unit to be sealed.

      I would just use a hacked cell phone (cost much less than $100USD) that calls me once an hour or so to give me the temperature etc.

  • This is ridiculous (Score:3, Insightful)

    by philmack (796529) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:39AM (#21072853)
    The article is not remotely about building a sputnik, but it is about how technology in sputnik served similar purposes to things used in the home. Using a baby monitor as a transmitter? a domestic thermostat? a balloon? a mercury thermometer? "4x large batteries"? come on. This sounds like the losing science fair project of a seven year old.
    ~Phil
    • by N1ck0 (803359)
      This never should have made it to slashdot.

      Most Thermostats are either a bi-coil that moves a mercury switch, or a digital RTD, both which would not survive the conditions in space. The balloon would be nice if the latex didn't change elasticity with temperature...and how are you going to read the pressure differences. And of course off the shelf batteries would boil in the heat of the sun, and freeze on the cold side of the craft.

      Sorry but this article is a stupid attempt to show how the cutting e
      • I've been looking for a project to use one of these [ti-estore.com] for. I probably wouldn't be able to get it down to aspirin tablet size because of the battery, but I bet that all of the required circuitry would fit on the target board, which is about the size of a penny.

        The development kit only costs $20. The microcontrollers themselves are only about $1-$2 each, in quantity. Probably wouldn't be "home-brew" enough for the folks at the BBC, though.
    • by mcmonkey (96054)

      The article is not remotely about building a sputnik, but it is about how technology in sputnik served similar purposes to things used in the home. Using a baby monitor as a transmitter? a domestic thermostat? a balloon? a mercury thermometer? "4x large batteries"? come on. This sounds like the losing science fair project of a seven year old.

      Well, it beats a cup of dirt.

  • by JeanBaptiste (537955) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:50AM (#21072981)
    Make your own Internet! You will need 100 feet of twine, 4 dixie cups, and some duct tape.
  • Orbit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Archangel Michael (180766) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:51AM (#21072989) Journal
    "And of course, actually getting it up into orbit might take a little more work. "

    Actually, it is probably a crime in most jurisdictions.
  • ...don't send the strap of the equivalent wristwatch
  • by TaleSpinner (96034) on Monday October 22, 2007 @12:20PM (#21073289)
    > And of course, actually getting it up into orbit might take a little more work.

    I'd be careful about saying that. While nerds may be in a minority everywhere they are found, in aggregate they are still a numerous and clever breed prone to accepting challenges like that. DJGPP came about because Stallman said it wasn't possible to run gcc under DOS. The thought of hundreds of thousands of sputniks in low earth orbit is scarey. :)
  • very nice! (Score:5, Funny)

    by trb (8509) on Monday October 22, 2007 @12:27PM (#21073373)
    Home-made Sputnik, I Laika!
  • I want to do this... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Upaut (670171) on Monday October 22, 2007 @12:28PM (#21073385) Homepage Journal
    And have it play "Orange Crush" by REM... It would drive the RIAA totally insane if there is a pirate signal from space they can't find to take down... Heck, some solar panels expanding from the altoids tin, and an ipod shuffle, it could really be an achievment...
  • Indeed... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) on Monday October 22, 2007 @12:29PM (#21073399)

    Some MIT hackers did just that. It's beeping instead of transmitting, but ya know =)

    http://hacks.mit.edu/Hacks/by_year/2007/sputnik/ [mit.edu]

  • Wasn't there a Dutch dude who got his amateur transponder [observations.biz] launched as a secondary payload on an Indian PSLV rocket. Quite possibly there are more rockets with spare lifting capacity that might launch your homebrewed Sputnik. Might be worth the good publicity for them.
  • by apodyopsis (1048476) on Monday October 22, 2007 @01:08PM (#21073867)
    make your own DIY sputnik? Maybe.....

    but I'd rather make my own DIY "rocket that launched it". Now thats got all the ingredients that makes any self respecting geeks eyes light up!!
    • Well, I built my own rocket from surplus nigerian car parts, and it flies up to 7 feet high. The local space administration refused to make me their preferred supplier of satellite launches, and are wasting money on an expensive foreign establishment. My next version should reach up to 15 feet!
  • by Isao (153092) on Monday October 22, 2007 @01:12PM (#21073933)
    If you work with Amsat [amsat.org] you can have your work shot into orbit. There are about 18 currently in operation [amsat.org], with launches starting in the 60's [amsat.org]. Amsat is an international organization.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The very first non-government satellite was AMSAT's own OSCAR-1.

      The very first secondary payload was OSCAR-1. When other people thought they might be able to hitch a ride in to orbit the way AMSAT did, the Authorities suggested they look at how AMSAT did it.

      The free rides in to orbit aren't as plentiful as they once were, but are based on one of two things: either stuff little satellites in to areas of the launch vehicle where "real" satellites won't fit, or take advantage of launch vehicles having exce

  • Yes, getting any object to orbit is the hardest part. You can make anything from nanosatillites (this object would qualify) to geosync communications satellites and send it to orbit if you have the money. Russia, China and several other countries will send your satellite to orbit or any other place in space. Amateurs have launched suborbital rockets in 2004 but getting to orbit is a a lot harder. Here is the /. article about the amateur suborbital rocket: http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/05/18/ [slashdot.org]
  • The components, including a transmitter, battery and the sensors you'd need would probably cost less than 50 pounds [about 100 US dollars].
    Unless, of course, you actually live in the US - in which case it would only cost 50 US dollars.

    *Dodge*
  • As it turns out, any computer that any of us has is ~50 years more advanced than sputnik also. As for launching into space yourself, that's a bit expensive, something like $700-$1000/kg with 1000 kg payload...plus the 30 million in r&d for the launch vehicle and related reconnaissance. (source: http://www.thespacereview.com/article/395/1 [thespacereview.com])
  • by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Monday October 22, 2007 @04:10PM (#21076449) Homepage

    The BBC quotes an electronics hobbyist: "Technology now is way ahead of what was available in 1957, and making your own fully functional Sputnik would now be very simple indeed. I wouldn't be surprised if you could build one in a container smaller than a matchbox, weighing about as much as a wristwatch. The components, including a transmitter, battery and the sensors you'd need would probably cost less than 50 pounds [about 100 US dollars]. It really shouldn't be a problem to build and program the whole thing in under a day."

    Oh, that old meme.

    Trivia: What is the probability that off-the-shelf microelectronics (like wireless routers) will work in space? Answer: Roughly zero.

    Why? Look at the information starting at page 23 on this document: Spacecraft Charging and Hazards to Electronics in Space [nyud.net]:

    3. Radiation Effects on Spacecraft Electronics

    The radiation sources discussed are hazardous to electronics since energetic particles can deposit energy inside microelectronic circuitry and disrupt their proper operation. Energy deposition in electronics is measured in rads(M) where M is a specific material being considered (1 rad = 100 ergs/gm). Energy deposition can be in the form of ionization or atomic displacements, which can permanently damage electronics, or it can be in the form of single events, which can cause transient or permanent damages depending on the severity of the event.

    NASA doesn't ship Xeon processors into space, not because of budget cuts, but because they don't work reliably (if at all) in space.

    • That's why you build your Sputnik's outer casing out of two stainless steel pet bowls soldered together. A millimeter or so of steel will knock the incoming radiation way down, and will incidentally shield the insides from electromagnetic fields and solar wind.

      It's not like you'd just be duct-taping the componbents together and shooting it into space - that'd be silly.
      • That's why you build your Sputnik's outer casing out of two stainless steel pet bowls soldered together. A millimeter or so of steel will knock the incoming radiation way down, and will incidentally shield the insides from electromagnetic fields and solar wind.

        Eh? Read the rest of the paper:

        Shielding is usually used to reduce the ionization dose. Aluminum shields can effectively attenuate electrons and low-energy protons. However, high-energy protons (> 30 MeV) cannot be shielded.

        • by Dare nMc (468959)

          high-energy protons (> 30 MeV) cannot be shielded.

          I helped write software, for certifying a palm pilot for space use. FYI, it passed, but the DOD killed the project (or so I was told, who knows) near the end (was for the MIR). The biggest deal is that a hit was un-predictable, if I recall it was like a 20% chance of a hit within 3 months, for the size of the palm pilot. The big deal was a hit often turned a component into a conductor (or even a super conductor), so we had to add tight over current pro

          • I helped write software, for certifying a palm pilot for space use.

            Cool!

            FYI, it passed, but the DOD killed the project (or so I was told, who knows) near the end (was for the MIR). The biggest deal is that a hit was un-predictable, if I recall it was like a 20% chance of a hit within 3 months, for the size of the palm pilot.

            I thought it happened more often than that, but I guess, like you say, it's not so much that there are lots of failures than that those failures tend to be catastrophic.

    • Actually Xeon processors will work in space. They become incredibly effective radiation detectors, as they'll stop processing instantly.

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