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Space Science

Fly Your Own Experiment In Space 76

Posted by timothy
from the in-space-no-one-knows-it's-a-time-share dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Want to fly your own experiment in space? dvice are reporting on a project called Ardusat — a satellite based (unsurprisingly perhaps, given the name) on Arduinos. For $500 you can upload your own code to the satellite, and run your own experiment for 1 week. Experimenters will have access to a veritable battery of 25 sensors including magnetometer, geiger counter, accelerometer, gas sensors and various others. As well as allowing for affordable space science, this sounds like it would be awesome for educational institutes."
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Fly Your Own Experiment In Space

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  • Re:And why exactly? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Friday June 15, 2012 @08:39PM (#40341159) Homepage Journal

    The article makes it sound like you can control the aiming of the sensors. That could be worthwhile if so.

  • by qxcv (2422318) on Friday June 15, 2012 @10:16PM (#40341665)

    This is A-grade linkbait, they're just spewing buzzwords and hoping certain news outlets (*cough* Hack-a-Day *cough* *cough*) will pick up on it and direct their readers to the Kickstarter page. Just looking through their writeup, it seems like they have absolutely no idea how they'll *actually process* the data; for example, they claim that they'll put a camera onboard, yet assuming that this camera uses one byte per-pixel channel and has a resolution of 160 * 180, they'll need (3 * 160 * 180)/1024KiB = 84KiB of memory to store a single frame and probably even more to process said frame. Yet the Arduino has only 1KiB of memory, and their downlink is unlikely to be able to transfer a whole frame in a reasonable amount of time (so no live video). That's only one of the big holes in their plan, here are some of the others:

    • They plan to put a GPS onboard, but commercial GPS receivers shut off when they reach 60, 000ft and 999kt. The satellite will exceed both of these limits mere seconds after it leaves the launchpad
    • They haven't explained *how* they plan to launch the satellite into space, or why it's costing them a mere $35, 000
    • As pointed out above, it's unknown what advantage there is to running code *onboard* the craft when you could simply analyse the data on the ground
    • None of their sensors are designed to operate in space. How will their pressure sensor work in a vacuum? Is their temperature sensor rated to work at extreme temperatures? It doesn't sound like it.

    tl;dr parent is right and this is a giant load of bullshit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 16, 2012 @01:48AM (#40342517)

    If you actually visit the kickstarter page instead of the article, you'd get a clearer picture of what they're claiming regarding funding. They want $35,000 to build the satellite (they claim it's already designed, and have a schematic you can download), then they'll apply for free piggyback launches through NASA and ESA programs. (And if they can't get one free within 18 months, supposedly they have a backer willing to pay for a commercial launch.) If they get enough funding from kickstarter, they'll jump straight to paying for a launch (assuring an orbit that will last longer).

    Note that they are affiliated with Discover magazine for a contest involving this, so it seems likely that they're the above-mentioned 18-month backer.

    Regarding launch slots and payload sizes, this is a CubeSat [wikipedia.org], which are usually launched piggyback with one or more conventional payloads to use surplus launch vehicle capacity. They come in the nominal 10cm cube, and also in 20cm and 30cm long (still 10x10 section) 2U and 3U versions -- if they plan to fit 10 arduinos plus 25 sensors in a 1U package, it's not unreasonable to suppose they could fit 50 and the same sensors in a 3U package. In fact, the kickstarter page (seriously, why are you reading some "tech journalist"'s excitable blatherings, and judging the project based on that?!) explicitly mentions this as well.

    Finally, in several other posts, you expressed a belief that AVRs are likely to fail quickly, because they're not space-rated. Again, if you'd read the kickstarter page, you'd see that they've addressed that concern -- they plan to run multiple AVRs in lockstep, with voting to override transient errors (flipped bits). And they consider cumulative damage within the expected lifespan unlikely to be an issue -- and the existing data I'm aware of (such as the thinkpads used on the ISS, and several experiments specifically testing behavior of non-hardened commercial- and/or military-grade electronics) supports their claim.

    I'm not saying it's not a scam, and I'd certainly do some more research before donating -- mind, I wouldn't donate in the first place because running 5-10 programs in space is just dumb when you can collect all the same data and run a thousand programs on the ground. But what you've proven is that tech journalists, by and large, are excitable morons with a tenuous grasp of the facts they're reporting and an irrepressible urge to dumb things down for their 6-year old sister, not that the actual people behind this are either hypesters with good intentions and no capability of following through, or outright scammers with no intention of following through.

    So I invite you, read the kickstarter page and explain based on what they say why you're still convinced it's a scam, or STFU.

Good salesmen and good repairmen will never go hungry. -- R.E. Schenk

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