Have you ever wondered what you would need to build a satellite? Read on to see how possible it is thanks to today's low-cost but very powerful technology.
It all started because my grandma always jokes around saying I was so smart that I could build a satellite. So now I've decided to put myself to the challenge to Build a Satellite.
There are tons of ways to design one, and I consider mine very basic and cheap because I just made it with things around the house. Sadly, it may never reach space but it makes a wonderful decoration as well as a hub for Indoor OR Outdoor monitoring due to the easy effort it takes to add ANY sensor up to the satellite and see the results live on a website.
***********NOTE: I am still developing, designing, and constructing certain systems on the satellite like the solar panels and radio telemetry.**********
These are the things that I used to make mine:
- Power Supply Case (from an old computer)
- FPV WiFi Camera (from a broken drone) w/ its 3.7v 500mAh battery
- ESP32 w/ OLED and WiFi
- Arduino Nano
- 5v Portable Battery Charger (mine is 10,000mAh w/ 2 USB ports)
- An LED (I left the power indicator LED where it was while I gutted the PSU)
- 2x 10k Resistors
- 2x Power Cords for ESP and Arduino
- 2x Light Dependent Resistors
- 2x Servos (for FPV camera and solar panel)
- A fair amount of Wire
- Old TV Antenna
- Handheld Amateur Radio (to send the telemetry signal)
- Arduino Nano (to handle and compute telemetry)
- A Better Antenna for the Radio
And here's the tools that I used:
- A Computer for programming ESP and Nanos
- Arduino IDE
- Hot Glue Gun
- Solderless Breadboard and Jumper Wires
- App for viewing the FPV camera
- Screwdrivers, Pliers and other small tools
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Step 1: The Case
Our computer's power supply died a while back and so for this project, I opened it up and took everything out except the little green LED that lit up to show the PSU was working. It was also super dusty and gross so I shined it up with a rag. Since the case is metal and could cause shorts inside with the components, I insulated the inside with adhesive plastic covering and thin foam sheets.
So my design called for at least to openings in the case and they shouldn't be near each other so I just went with the holes already on the case where the AC plug went in and all the many computer wires came out.
Step 2: (OPTIONAL) Amatuer Radio Telemetry Data
A real satellite going to space would need some sort of telemetry control signal for viewing the many vitals and for controlling the Sat. This system is usually made up of the telemetry handler (generates the data needing to be sent to earth), a transmitter/receiver (sends the data to earth through a radio signal and receives incoming control signals), an antenna (made for the frequency of the signals), and a ground station for monitoring the telemetry.
I chose to stick my handheld radio inside and use an old tv antenna mounted to the outside with hot glue to send signals from an Arduino Nano that gets serial data from the ESP and connects to the microphone port on the radio. The antenna has two wires that connect to GND and the Signal terminals on the handhelds radio socket. I am still writing the code for the Arduino Nano at the moment but it will be powered from the 5V terminal on the Nano that controls the solar panel.
Step 3: FPV Camera System
When you send something like this to space, you're going to want a look at not just a bird's eye view but your Satellite's view. I used a camera from a broken drone and taped the camera to the drone battery and hot glued it all together on the servo for rotating it around. The camera makes its own wifi and using an app on my phone, it connects to the camera to show me live 1080p video. It is mounted on a servo that is controlled by the satellite's web server. The servo has three wires: +5v, Ground, and the control line that I put to pin 21 of the ESP.
Step 4: The Satellite's Flight System
This is probably the most important part of the satellite besides a reliable power source. I used an ESP32 to create a web server that collects data and puts it on the webpage for you to see. It also controls the panning of the camera servo. The PSU LED connects to pin 25. Servo for the FPV CAM goes on pin 21 and the usual 5v and GND. For it to compile, YOU NEED THIS GITHUB LIBRARY FOR ESP. I've also included it in this instructable. To set up the Controller Sketch, you need to enter in your wifi info and what pin your LED is on and where you are located and if you choose to have a camera on-board. Now, you can literally add ANY KIND OF SENSOR you want to the sketch and wire it up to the satellite to measure almost anything. After booting up the ESP with the sketch on it, it will show you (with an OLED ONLY) what wifi network it is trying to connect to and then it will list its IP address. Type that IP number into your browser and it should take you to the Satellites webpage. Here is the Flight Controller sketch to upload to the ESP:
Step 5: Power Grid and Solar Equipment
Finally, the Power System of the satellite. It is comprised of a 10,000mAh 5v battery pack that has two USB ports and a micro-USB port for charging it. Connected to the two output ports are two cords: a micro-USB cable for the ESP32 and a mini-USB cable for the Arduino Nano. When I complete the Solar Panels, there will be 5 cells arranged into a square, 1 volt each in series to equal 5v overall. They will be splices to a micro-USB that plugs into the charging socket on the battery to charge it. In order for the solar panels to be useful, they will have to be facing the sun. I used this Perfect Example how-to to fuel the tracking design. So I'm mounting them onto a servo attached to the case that will rotate and orient the panel towards the sun. That servo is controlled by the Nano and connected to its pin D3 or 3 as well as 5v and GND. The schematics show the rest EXCEPT I used pins A6 and A7 for the LDR's because A0 and A1 gave me weird numbers. Once it works, this feature is pretty cool to mess with.
Step 6: TA-DA
Once you've put it all together, put the IP address into a browser and it should load a screen very similar to this one. Pat yourself on the back because now you have your own satellite!! Check back often as I will update it to match the revisions to my satellite.
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