Introduction: Making a Cubesat With an Arduino and a Thermal Sensor

Below you will find the creation process of the thermal imaging camera for whatever purpose one may desire. In our project, the camera was inserted into a cubesat where it was hurled around the model of Mars and collected imaging data for mapping the model’s surface. Before we begin, please keep in mind that the display screen dislikes rapid movement and often turns white and/or glitches when shaken. We recommend keeping said camera and screen in place while it is in use. Furthermore, the camera that picks up thermal activity has a relatively low reach of 10-15ft. Our team advises readers to keep this factor in mind as it may not be far enough to complete their desired task. Lastly, we deem it appropriate for one to read all of the steps before purchasing and/or starting the project to better understand all of the components and factors that may seem too complex to some. Know your limitations and project plans in advance. Thank you.

Step 1: Purchase All of the Required Materials for the Wiring and Coding Stages of the Arduino.

These materials include:

- Arduino

- Large Breadboard

- TFT LCD Display with MicroSD Card breakout (Adafruit)

- 3538 AMG 8833 IR Thermal Camera Breakout (Adafruit)

- USB Cable

- Male to Male wires (approximately 8-9)

One will find all of the Adafruit supplies for purchase here:


Thermal Sensor

Step 2: Download

Download this library from Github in order to upload the coding onto your computer. Next, acquire the coding by clicking on the Arduino 1.8.9 software, then go to File -> Examples -> Adafruit_AMG88xx -> amg88xx_test

Step 3: Solder

Solder the display and sensor by heating a soldering iron and melting the solder into each of the breakout pin locations. You can place the arduino onto the breadboard while doing so; however, we recommend soldering off of the board to insure maximum accuracy. Be aware that one must be very delicate during this process to avoid damage to yourself and the components.

If one knows not of how to solder, click here for a tutorial:

Additionally, if one is burned or is unsure about their ableness when working with a soldering iron, our team advises one to click this link for safety precautions and minor treatment:

Step 4: What to Do With Camera and Sensor

Place the camera and sensor in the corresponding locations on the breadboard if one has yet to do so.

Step 5: Where to Put the Wires

By this point in time, both the sensor and display have been properly positioned and accounted for. We recommend to refrain from plugging in the USB into the USB port until the end of the tutorial to insure the display is not damaged due to accidental errors. Having stated that, begin plugging each wire into the corresponding locations provided on the photo above.

These wires allow the sensor to collect the temperature of the room or object it is currently facing. If one is reading around 26° degrees Celsius (room temperature), all is well. If not, check the wiring and soldering of the equipment. The display should not be working at this moment in time.

Step 6: Wire the Display

Once the sensor is in working order, now it is time to wire the display. Plug in the new set of wires in correlation to the photo above. Please keep in mind that some of the pre-placed wires in step five may change placement.

Step 7: Plug in USB

With the arduino mirroring all of the steps including wire, sensor, and display placement, one is now able to plug in the USB into the USB port; thus allowing the software to access the coding. Go to the computer with the arduino program opened, press “tools” at the top left of the screen then “serial monitor” to open up a new window. This window collects all of the data while also signals to the arduino to turn on the display.

Step 8: End Information

Again, we advise keeping the breadboard containing the fragile display and sensor in place. Our team has met with a plethora of problems when actively moving around said software; such as glitches in the display, screen shutdown, and the display turning all white. It can be moved, but only if done in a very gentle fashion.

Furthermore, insure all wires are not interfering with the sensor by covering the camera thus blocking the display. If wires are in the way, which they should not be, feel free to carefully tuck and/or push them in another direction.

If one experiences errors with the coding, we advise to go to supplied in the link here: Do not follow any of their steps except copying the coding they provide. If the coding is running perfectly but other functions such as the sensor or display lack proper operation, check the soldering and wire placement. It is possible a mistake was made during that stage. If problems still persist, our team advises to “start over”, AKA repeat all of the steps once more.