Second ArduSat Payload Test Ends with Success

The sensor payload as found upon recovery

October was a busy month for commercial spaceflight! Not only did SpaceX complete its first commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station, but Nanosatisfi completed its first successful high-altitude test of the ArduSat payload. Since the first high-altitude test didn’t get off the ground, this mission was a big moment for the Nanosatisfi team.

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Early Results Using GNU Radio

Using GNU Radio with a custom receiving antenna may take longer to implement, but the end result can be closely tailored to the project’s needs while minimizing costs. Cheap hardware combined with free software ensures that the final cost of a ground station will be well below the high-end estimate of $1100. But can this low-cost approach achieve the fidelity and performance required to filter hundreds of Sprite signals sent from space, each powered solely by solar panels no wider than a fingernail?

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Sprite Ground Station Options

DIY ground stations for receiving satellite signals can be as cheap as $20-$30 or as expensive as $1500, and in this case more expensive is not necessarily better. Sprites are small, powered only by a solar panel, and many of them will be sending signals from orbit at once. Making sure that all of them can communicate with the ground successfully requires carefully selected software and equipment, along with some smart radio tricks.

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