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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 david@tcse-k12.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.

Step 1: Stuff you'll need

Parts:

  • 1 Satellite housing made with a 3D printer ― all the STL files you need are here. Contact the author at david@tcse-k12.org if you don’t have a 3D printer and he can make the parts for you.
  • 12 ea. 4-40 x ⅝” machine screws ― any hardware store should have these. Inexpensive bulk purchases of screws and nuts can be made from Bolt Depot.
  • 4 ea. 4-40 x 1 ¼” machine screws.
  • 24 ea. 4-40 nuts
  • HyperDuino starter kit (hyperduino.com/store.html includes Arduino, HyperDuino shield, misc. parts and cables.)
  • 10 cm Arduino female to female jumper cables ― Amazon has lots of these at low prices.
  • 1 Arduino battery cable and 9V battery (Included with HyperDuino kit along with sensors for light and temperature)
  • If you want, I can provide an entire kit of parts for you. Write me at david@tcse-k12.org for details. In a future Instructable we’ll show how to provide wireless access to your CubeSat,

Software:

  • If you are using Windows, you will need to install the Arduino drivers using the Arduino software and following accompanying directions at www.arduino.cc Mac and Chromebook users don’t need this step!
  • Install the Chrome browser (this will let you communicate with your satellite from any computer ― Mac, Windows, or Chromebooks!
  • Install the HyperDuino for Chrome apps following instructions that came with the HyperDuino kit. Install Snap4Arduino

Tools (you probably have these already):

  • Screwdriver for your 4-40 screws
  • Wrench for 4-40 nuts
  • Velcro adhesive tabs (from any hardware or hobby store)
  • Straight pin or fine dental pick for cleaning small holes in 3D printed base parts. Dental-style picks can be found at Amazon. Just don’t use these on your friend’s teeth!
  • Glue gun
  • Duct tape (of course)
Good one!
<p>wow that is cool how do you build it because i'm working a invention tooooo</p>
<p>Except for the plastic parts made on my 3D printer, everything is available off the shelf. The parts list shows where I got everything. Good luck on your invention!</p>
You are a cool person.
<p>Thanks! This project was a lot of fun.</p>
<p>Very cool project! </p>

About This Instructable

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Bio: I am a life-long tinkerer whose interest in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields started with the launch of Sputnik in 1957.
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