My interest in space exploration started in October, 1957 with the launch of Sputnik. In 1961 I did a science fair project based on an instrument package I designed, built and sent aloft with a weather balloon.
Today, the task is a lot easier, and this Instructable shows how you can make your own small demonstration satellite (based on the CubeSat design) that can even be sent aloft with a balloon. My goal is to get you started with a project you can expand to your heart’s content.
CubeSats (www.cubesat.org) are small satellites 10 cm on a side that typically are put into low earth orbit. If you are a student or teacher, you will want to check out the Ardusat site (www.ardsat.com) where students are currently running experiments in space on their real satellites zipping around at over 400 km above Earth. This amazing project has democratized space exploration by making it affordable to schools worldwide. Ardusat also has sponsored a contest (www.instructables.com/contest/Makerspace/) you might enjoy. If the contest is still open when you build your satellite, you might want to enter a modification done by your team (this contest is for teams of people.)
In this Instructable, though, you will build your own demonstration CubeSat, from which you will learn a lot about the design of orbiting satellites and set the stage for expanding the ideas in any direction you wish.
This intermediate level project lets you explore all aspects of the satellite design process from the building of the CubeSat model itself, to programming the Arduino-based electronics and reading data from onboard sensors for light and temperature. This is a cool project, even if it never leaves your desktop!
If you’re a kid, an expansion of this project might make a great science fair entry. As I mentioned, I did something similar in 1961, and that launched my career! If you’re not a kid, you’ll learn how to build a system to make measurements that can be sent to programs you can write on your own computer.
Be sure and leave me feedback and contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. If you are a teacher, we have workshops to help you incorporate this project into your STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) curriculum.