My souvenir board has arrived! Delivered in an envelope a couple of days ago, the board was accompanied by a letter from project lead Zac Manchester:
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.
Sprites are tiny; there’s a reason they are called chip satellites. They are powered by a pair of TASC (triangular advanced solar cells) that are less than 5 centimeters square in surface area, and their antennas are even smaller. Is it even possible for one of these devices to send a signal 500 km back to Earth?
The SpaceX CRS-1 Mission launched from Cape Canaveral on Sunday, October 7 at 7:35 PM CDT. A Falcon 9 rocket carried the Dragon spacecraft into orbit, where it docked with the ISS and stayed for a few weeks before returning to Earth. However, not all went well during the rocket’s ascent through the atmosphere.
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?
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.
In the week leading up to the first test flight of the ArduSat sensor payload and flight computer, Jeroen and Joel from NanoSatisfi and Monroe from Team Prometheus converged in Lampasas, Texas, for preparations. But after a week of work, the flight was unable to execute as planned.