Iridium Flare Tracker

iridium flare tracker

Iridium is a constellation of 66 communication satellites. Each one features 3 large polished antennas. The reflection of sunlight off of these panels causes brilliant flashes of light. Since the satellite’s orbit is known the time and location of these flares can be calculated ahead of time. C.L.I.V.E. is a project designed for Burning Man to assist in observing these flares. It has a DPSS laser mounted to a turntable that automatically points at the location of the next flare. A large clock counts down the time till the event. Everything is controlled by an Xport 2.0 FPGA development board for the Game Boy Advance. All power is provided by a solar array and wind turbines.

22 thoughts on “Iridium Flare Tracker

  1. >>this whole rig just to see a reflection off a satellite?

    That’s like saying “All this mess to have a POV image on your bicycle spokes?” Or “All that work to cool off you overclocked cpu?”

    I think it’s a neat idea. Although the “fun factor” may be larger than the practicality, much can be learned from building this project that can be used on future builds.

  2. This is extremely cool. Since so much is known about the position of the satellites and their antenna orientations, someone should build a device to bounce a powerful laser off the antennas and down to… somewhere. Just as an extremely cool proof-of-concept. I’d imagine a 1 watt laser could do it, considering there are 400 mW lasers visible for 120 miles or so….

  3. Heh… cool! We did this for B’man two years ago. It’s neat to see it get some press after all this time.

    We’re currently working on CLIVE2.0 for this year’s festival. This time we’re making it all out of metal as an excuse to learn metalworking and gearcutting, trying to use as few pre-fab parts as possible.

    I better go update the web pages now!

  4. Now all it needs is a fast enough scanning system to do cloud writing!:) And be set up on normal battery or mains feed and avoid the rest of the pseudointellectual hypocritical claptrap that is Burning Man.

  5. 2 things i wanna see.. 1 building a diy laser from at home materials….. not “buy a laser and then do this to make it trace” and also …..

    why wudnt it be possible to the cloudwritting with a good enough laser at night….

  6. it isn’t all that hard to build a laser from scratch… You could build a few mw N2 laser in a week for ~$50 from stuff arround the house. This would give UV, which could then be used to pump a dye cell (also pretty easy), but you would probably have to buy the dye. Then you can get just about any color you want… it would take a pretty huge one to get enough power for a visiable beam, but it is dooable

    Building a DPSS laser completly from scratch (ie building a laser diode and growing/coating the nd:yag (or yvo4) and KTP crystals…) would be akin to what josh said. But you could buy a casix hydrid vandate/KTP and a 3w 808nm pump diode (fiber coupled) for ~$200–assembling that would be just a matter of holing the fiber to the crystal and putting some beam shaping optics on it… A 15 year old could do it. (I did)

    Back to this project…
    This is sweat :O
    I remember back when we would go and sit out on the roof to watch the iridium flares or the space station… This is just so genius

  7. BillytheImpaler asked:
    > Do they get pissy when rock concerts do it?

    I don’t know about the states, but, from what I understand, in Canada, you are required to get a permit and file a NOTAM and keep the beams within the prescribed area. (I had a friend a few years back who did fireworks/laser shows.) So, yes, they probably would get pissy unless you somehow got the proper permission.

  8. @15

    well thats alot of work i’m looking more at… lets see… upping the power on one of those little crappy lasers you can get for 5$ or perhaps building a laser using components from a cdplayer or something i dont know lol

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