Arduinos…. In…. Spaaaaaace…..

Since 2007, [Adam Kemp] has been leading a team of students from Thomas Jefferson High School, guiding them through the process of designing and building a small satellite that NASA selected for launch early next year.

The CubeSat, officially named TJ³Sat, uses commercial, off-the-shelf components for nearly all its systems. The team ran into a problem interfacing the FM430 Flight Module (PDF warning), so [Adam] designed an Arduino-based replacement. Based on an ATMEGA328, the entire board is a drop-in replacement for the FM430 Flight Module. On July 1st, the TJ³Sat will begin testing at Orbital Sciences Corp. to make sure the entire satellite is up to snuff.

The TJ³Sat’s payload will take data from the ground controllers and using a TextSpeak module convert serial data into spoken voice. This audio will then be transmitted over amateur radio frequencies and will be picked up by hams all over the world. We’d like to wish the students at Thomas Jefferson High a hearty congratulations for being the first High School to build a satellite and hope the testing and launch go as planned.

37 thoughts on “Arduinos…. In…. Spaaaaaace…..

  1. i know this might not be disclosed information… but where is that high school???… becasue in my city there is a thomas jefferson high school… as im sure there are plenty across the nation

  2. So it uses an Atmega, but is it otherwise anything like the arduino? Does it use a modified version of the board or the sourcecode or what?

    The article doesn’t tell us much, but from what I could glance, it just looks like a project using (understandably) the atmega chip by itself.

  3. Given it must be a drop-in replacement for FM430, and thus match form factor, the only vaguely “arduino related” aspect that’s certain is that it’s powered by an ATMEGA328. Now, it’s possible the arduino bootloader and libraries might be in use, but it’s not clear if that’s the case.

  4. @Anon: There have only been a few deployments to date, and there are experiments in the works to introduce de-orbit options. Hmm, a CubeSat hunter-killer – it would be Star Wars all over again, one litre at a time :)

  5. Wow. Such negativity.

    To answer your questions:

    1) The project is Arduino related as the on-board ATMEGA328 is running the Arduino bootloader….as noted on the website.
    2) Junk satellites? Thats funny.
    3) A billion unnecessary processes? The primary goal of our project is to educate aspiring engineers in aerospace and mechanical engineering. The steps that we follow are tailored to emulate, as closely as possible, the processes that are currently used within the aerospace industry to fly multi-million dollar missions.

    I guess I shouldn’t take such whimsical comments so seriously.

  6. @everyone

    Give them a fucking break, it’s a high school. You’re just jealous you didn’t do something this cool in highschool.

    I find the data transmission method very interesting. I sure as hell would have never thrown that down on a brainstorming whiteboard.

  7. The only criticism I have is about the solar cells shape! :o
    Why use such odd shapes and not cover the whole side panels with square/rectangular cells with no gaps between them. They would generate more power on the same area and have less work placing them.

  8. Great job TJ High :) It’s awesome to see high school students going beyond the typical curriculum and exploring science and technology like this. Doing things like this sounds like a great way to encourage and motivate students that by learning new things you really can go out and make some cool stuff happen which will hopefully enable them to go out and be productive members of society.

    Good job.

  9. I don’t know if this is a hack. This is real engineering stuff. Really impressive and really cool but maybe a a class above a hack :) Can you imagine that on your Resume? Built a micro-satellite and had it launched at 17! The chicks will so dig it.

  10. “The original idea behind ArduSat was to act as a direct replacement of Pumpkin, Inc.’s FM430 flight module which is based around TI’s MSP430-1612 microcontroller. After spending a couple of months working in CCE trying to program the MSP to utilize software serial and 1-wire protocols, our heads were thoroughly scratched, and I decided to design a Arduino based replacement. And in one week after receiving the prototype PCBs from Advanced Circuits, we were up and running.

    The ArduSat brings all of the wonderful features and ease of use of the Arduino into the Cubesat PC-104 form factor. In addition all of the chosen components have heritage making ArduSat a easy answer to hardware justifications and integration.”

    Any one thinking of leaving Arduino for TI Launch Pad should read this quote.

  11. Arduino bootloader!
    Arduino bootloader!
    Arduino bootloader!
    Read a fucking big you lazy c*nts!

    Also cool project – nearest I got in school was using the Bunsen burner to flame some peanuts to calculate how much energy they contained.

    They do not taste good roasted black. Fact.

  12. @RJSC and Leon

    Those cells are TASC cells produced (most likely) by Spectrolab, a division of Boeing.

    They are the best bang for the buck when it comes to solar cells at $250 for a box of 100 cells @ ~ 21% efficiency, last I checked. Several companies sell other cells that are just small enough to fit on the side of a standard cubesat (10cm*10cm*10cm), but they are 2.5V cells so if you need a bus voltage higher then that they aren’t suitable. Also, because of their larger size, if you have a cutout in the side of a face for an access port or an antenna, chances are you won’t be able to fit two cells anymore, and a single cell does you zero good when it’s output voltage is lower then the rest of the bus.

    Yes, you do loose some surface area with the TASC cells triangular shape, but they allow you to work to better fit the geometry you have available on your sides, as well as allowing you to adjust your electrical characteristics to best fit the rest of the system.

    All these were issues that my cubesat group went through when choosing cells, cost and total power output being the main drivers. We would fully equip two cubes worth of side structure plate with cells for $500 with spares, it would of cost of about $10000 to do it with the larger cells (ITJ for instance).

  13. @Elliot Nixon:

    It’s a weird world we live in when designing completely new hardware is easier than just learning how to program the hardware you already have eh?

    I think this says more about what they’re experienced with than it does about the platforms.

    The choice of using voice is strange. Difficult to monitor autonomously, but seems like it’ll be really accessible to students, so that’s great, anything to get them excited.

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