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Space Science

Orbit Your Own Satellite For $8,000 208

Posted by kdawson
from the be-the-first-on-your-block dept.
RobGoldsmith sends word of Interorbital's TubeSat Personal Satellite Kit, which allows anyone to send a half-pound payload to low-earth orbit for $8,000. Your satellite will fly to orbit from Tonga atop an Interorbital Systems NEPTUNE 30 rocket along with 31 other TubeSats. It will function for several weeks, then its orbit will decay and it will burn up in the atmosphere. Interorbital plans to send up a load of 32 TubeSats every month. If you pay in full in advance, you get slotted onto a particular scheduled launch. Here are Interorbital's product page and brochure (PDF).
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Orbit Your Own Satellite For $8,000

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  • I forsee (Score:5, Interesting)

    by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Sunday August 02, 2009 @02:40PM (#28918709)
    A big new trend for "burials in space".
  • Pirates in Space! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 02, 2009 @02:43PM (#28918729)

    Low earth orbit is above the law, literally, isn't it? Send up a few gigabytes of flash memory and a transmitter. Torrents from space!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Wouldn't work that well unless it's in geostationary orbit. The problem being that the satellite is only in view for a few minutes every time it passes over which doesn't give you much time to transfer data. I doubt geostationary orbit could be done this cheaply.

      Amateur radio users have been doing it for many years using voice and data via packet radio. Very low bandwidth though.

      • Re:Pirates in Space! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by rm999 (775449) on Sunday August 02, 2009 @04:37PM (#28919619)

        If it's bit torrent with enough people in the swarm, each person only needs to download a small part of the file, and then share that part with everyone else.

        • by i.r.id10t (595143)

          Even with a massive pipe and unlimited peers, if it takes you 10 min to do a full download at instant on to full capacity and each peer hosting just the right part, etc. , the satellite is only in your FOV long enough to do less than half of the download from. May as well just swarm it from terra firma.

    • by Dan541 (1032000) on Sunday August 02, 2009 @05:53PM (#28920265) Homepage

      What?

      You honestly expect that to stop the RIAA?

    • Re:Pirates in Space! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by fractoid (1076465) on Sunday August 02, 2009 @10:59PM (#28922221) Homepage

      Low earth orbit is above the law, literally, isn't it? Send up a few gigabytes of flash memory and a transmitter. Torrents from space!

      Maybe not so practical for your run-of-the-mill movie downloads, but for *very* sensitive political stuff, the sort of thing that tinfoil-wearing X-Files enthusiasts can only dream of proving, I can definitely see it being the go.

      That, or just use it to screw with SETI. ;)

    • by roystgnr (4015) <roystgnr@t[ ]m.utexas.edu ['ica' in gap]> on Sunday August 02, 2009 @11:36PM (#28922537) Homepage

      Low earth orbit is above the law, literally, isn't it?

      Yes, I think I can safely assure you that your pirate satellite will not be arrested. This may be small consolation to the people who build and launch it, who themselves will inconveniently not be in LEO.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Sunday August 02, 2009 @02:45PM (#28918757) Homepage

    The sign that a technology has really matured enough to be taken seriously is when it starts to have commercial applications. Moreover, the presence of businesses like this will help provide further incentive for the improvement of space related technologies.

    However, it isn't clear to me who would use a half-pound satellite that can only last a few weeks. TFA lists the following possible applications:

    Earth-from-space video imaging. Earth magnetic field measurement. Satellite orientation detection (horizon sensor, gyros, accelerometers, etc.). 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 experiments. On-orbit advertising. Private e-mail

    Honestly, I don't see much use of most of those as a general use. Certainly scientists will benefit from this sort of technology but I doubt anyone would try to use this for private e-mail systems. You would just use the internet and encrypt your stuff. The idea of using this sort of thing for low cost climate and weather data gathering is interesting. I suspect that as with many technologies, new uses will be developed that we cannot easily anticipate now that the technology is still young.

  • If it only survives for some weeks? I'd expect at least a decade of life and to roll my own satellite.
    Yes. For that price!

  • Hazardous material. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by WarJolt (990309)

    I understand that the volume is currently small, but they are commercializing the burn-up of potentially hazardous material in earth atmosphere. Circuit boards contain many things that shouldn't be burned. I hope that they screen for hazardous material that shouldn't be put into the atmosphere.

  • Do I... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Johnny Mnemonic (176043) <mdinsmore@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Sunday August 02, 2009 @03:21PM (#28919029) Homepage Journal

    ...get to chose where it comes down? I really don't know, but I wonder if one could design a .5 pound satellite with the express intention of surviving re-entry, like a 1/2 pound slug of lead in the shape of a dart or a sphere.

    I don't need much mass to survive the heat of re-entry. A few grams at orbital velocity, in the right place, would be enough to give my enemies pause...

    • Re:Do I... (Score:4, Funny)

      by Narnie (1349029) on Sunday August 02, 2009 @05:00PM (#28919865)

      ...get to chose where it comes down? I really don't know, but I wonder if one could design a .5 pound satellite with the express intention of surviving re-entry, like a 1/2 pound slug of lead in the shape of a dart or a sphere.

      That's one heck of a way to commit suicide.

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      Except the re-entry part turns orbital velocity into something closer to terminal velocity since the atmosphere tends to slow things down while its heating them up.

      A few grams of anything falling isn't deadly to a person under all but most extreme cases.

      You aren't building a weapon of any consequence with this service, you just don't have enough mass to work with.

  • Isn't the cost to put junk in orbit through existing channels just 2000/pound? That puts this at 16 times the existing rate and you don't even get a stable orbit.

  • I Call BS (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 02, 2009 @03:28PM (#28919081)

    32 satellites at $8K each is only $256,000. Subtract the cost of the materials used to build the satellites. (I'm assuming they're not using class S parts, but solar panels, etc still ain't cheap.) They're seriously planning to deploy a working delivery system to space for that kind of money?

  • by whereiswaldo (459052) on Sunday August 02, 2009 @03:32PM (#28919125) Journal

    - Can I put a 1/2 pound of magnesium up there?

    - How about a 1/2 pound of liquid oxy-acetylene?

    - Where'd I put my AOL CD collection?

    It would be fun if they just set up a space dock you could stand on and throw shit into the atmosphere to see what happens.

    • - Where'd I put my AOL CD collection?

      Imagine a CD with a microprocessor, solar power and LCD shutters. It can change attitude by contollling its albedo selectively. It can change orbit by reflecting sunlight. You could put a stack of them on a platform like this.

  • by Baron_Yam (643147) on Sunday August 02, 2009 @03:45PM (#28919211)

    Given that you'd need electronics on board and three thrusters, I doubt you could get a reentry-survivable slug of any appreciable mass up there under this program.

    Still, its neat to think about wiping my enemies out with artificial meteorites.

  • McSputnik (Score:2, Funny)

    by Tablizer (95088)

    catchy name. MySputnik? Sputniklets? Sputninnies? Sputmites? Spuklings? Spuklites?

  • by Hadlock (143607) on Sunday August 02, 2009 @04:34PM (#28919599) Homepage Journal

    How many high pressure CO2 cartridges can you fit in one of those, and would they provide enough thrust to get your device out of earth's orbit? Maybe stick it in a figure 8 orbital pattern between the moon and earth, or shoot it off towards Mars. I would imagine you need substantially less thrust to break from earth's orbit for a lowly half-pound payload than say, a space shuttle, not to mention, the pressure differential is substantially greater.

    • I can buy real solid fuel rocket engines at my local modelling shop.
    • How many high pressure CO2 cartridges can you fit in one of those, and would they provide enough thrust to get your device out of earth's orbit?

      Not enough, and no. (Note to mention you'll need a guidance and stabilization system weighing much more than the payload available.)

      I would imagine you need substantially less thrust to break from earth's orbit for a lowly half-pound payload than say, a space shuttle,

      You could break the Shuttle out of Earth's orbit with as little as a half pound of thrust (if you w

  • I would like to commission all spots on a launch. I have some very special orchids I have been growing that I need to launch into space and have orbit the planet...

    Now where did I put my evil lap kitty....

  • 800,000 (Score:2, Funny)

    by Illender (888481)
    weeellll. By my calculation, it would cost almost 800,000 to send my ex-wife.
  • TPB (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jordan711 (1536869)
    If The Pirate Bay hosted their site on one of those satellites, the law can't get them because there's no space court!
  • Marriage Proposal (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Captain Chad (102831) on Sunday August 02, 2009 @09:16PM (#28921587) Homepage
    What a neat way to propose. I can see it now... "Honey, let's see what's on the HAM radio tonight. Oh! Listen to this, it's for you."

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