It’s 10 PM, Do You Know Where Your Space Station Is At?

I still remember the first time I saw a satellite, I was 12 years old and was camping far away from the city lights. As I gazed up at the night sky, I could actually track satellites with my naked eye as they zoomed across the night’s sky. It was amazing. Nowadays, it’s getting harder to spot relatively small satellites with light pollution from large cities.

The International Space Station (ISS) on the other hand is a large piece of hardware — it’s about the size of a football field, and according to NASA it’s the second brightest object in the night sky.  So why don’t we see it more often? Well, part of the reason is that you don’t know where to look. [Grady Hillhouse] set out to change that by building a what is basically a 2 degrees of freedom robot arm that will point you to where the ISS is at any given moment.

[Grady] uses a stepper motor for the azimuth, and a standard servo for the elevation, all powered by an Nucleo F401 development board, and an Adafruit motor shield and slip ring. The structure is made using some Erector set like parts from Actobotics.

He wrote the code from this open source project here. He’s currently cleaning up his code, and says he’ll be posting it up shortly. In the mean time, you can watch a video detailing the build in the video after the break. Or if you can’t wait, you can visit NASA’s web site to receive email or SMS messages on when the ISS is view-able in your hood.

22 thoughts on “It’s 10 PM, Do You Know Where Your Space Station Is At?

      1. Thats why I said walls and ceilings. However it wouldn’t be accurate enough to be right on the satellite. That takes lots of fine tuning and tweeking to find true north. I spend up to an hour sometimes getting a telescope mount aligned because that truly matters if you wish to view an object for more than a few seconds after slewing.

  1. George, thanks for posting my project. The github repository for the code is linked in the youtube video description. I’m guessing if I post a link here it will mark as spam.

    1. Reminds me of a joke (and I’m not trying to direct the punchline at you)
      Texan: Hi, I’m from Texas. Where are you from?
      New Englander: I come from somewhere where we do not end our sentences in prepositions.
      Texan: Okay. Hi, I’m from Texas. Where are you from, Jackass?

  2. beef up the motors a bit, and attatch a high power camera, or one with a telescope, as well as an mpu6050. then add a little bit so that when the camera is pointing above the tree line it is recording.

    1. There are many commercial motor drivers for telescopes, and camera attachments and even motor drivers to attach to a tripod which can point a DSLR with its own tele lens automatically. And it’s all a nice chunk of cash that only real enthusiasts would throw at it. All that is something else than a small relatively cheap device that points at where the ISS is that can sit on your desk when you aren’t out or when it’s cloudy.

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