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Your Own Satellite: 7 Things to Know Before You Go

Picosatellites, by definition, are extremely small, lightweight satellites. Any picosatellite will tend to have these core components: An antenna A radio transmitter for uplinking commands or downloading your data A computer-on-a-chip such as an Arduino or a Basic-X24 A power system, most often solar cells plus a battery plus a power bus Sensors And $40,000 to pay for the launch. The progenitor of the pico class is the CubeSat, an open source architecture that lets you pack anything you want into the 10cm × 10cm × 10cm cube. The CubeSat is a satellite as cute as a pumpkin. Forbes reported on one vendor, Pumpkin Inc., that supplies premade CubeSats. CubeSat itself is a specification, not a piece of off-the-shelf hardware, so Pumpkin decided to prebuild kits and sell them. If you have your own rocket to launch your CubeSat on, for $7,500 they’ll sell you a CubeSat kit. This neatly parallels InterOrbital Systems’ TubeSat. InterOrbital Systems (IOS) has the edge in price/performance, as they throw the launch in for the same cost. But it looks like neither IOS nor Pumpkin provide premades, just kits. So there’s still hobbyist work involved, but kits remove the need for engineering and just leave the fun part of assembly and integration. TubeSat and CubeSat, two variants of a picosatellite, with quarters shown for scale TubeSats and CubeSats are slightly different, of course, and I am insanely pleased that both are advancing the idea of platform kits. This is a great step in the commodification of space research. Even if the mini CubeSat looks eerily similar to a Hellraiser Lemarchand box. via MAKE.

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