Spain’s First Open Source Satellite

[Fossa Systems], a non-profit youth association based out of Madrid, is developing an open-source satellite set to launch in October 2019. The FossaSat-1 is sized at 5x5x5 cm, weighs 250g, and will provide free IoT connectivity by communicating LoRa RTTY signals through low-power RF-based LoRa modules. The satellite is powered by 28% efficient gallium arsenide TrisolX triple junction solar cells.

The satellite’s development and launch cost under EUR 30000, which is pretty remarkable for a cubesat — or a picosatellite, as the project is being dubbed. It has been working in the UHF Amateur Satellite band (435-438 MHz) and recently received an IARU frequency spectrum allocation for LoRa of 125kHz.

The satellite’s specs are almost as remarkable as the acronyms used to describe them. The design includes an onboard computer (OBC) based on an ATmega328P-AU microcontroller, an SX1278 transceiver for telecommunications, and an electric power system (EPS) based on three SPV1040 MPPT chips and the TC1262 LDO. The satellite also uses a TMP100 temperature sensor, an INA226 current and voltage sensor, a MAX6369 watchdog for single-event upset (SEU) protection, a TPS2553 for single-event latch-up (SEL) protection and various MOSFETs for the deployment of solar panels and antennas.

Up until this point the group has been tracking adoption of LoRa through the use of weather balloons. The cubesat project plans to test the new LoRa spread spectrum modulation using less than $5 worth of receivers. Ultimately with the goal of democratizing telecommunications worldwide.

The satellite is being built in a cleanroom at Rey Juan Carlos University and has undergone thermovacuum and vibration testing at the facility. The group has since developed an educational satellite development kit, which offers three main 40×40 mm boards that allow the addition of modifications. As their mission states, the group is looking to develop an open source project, so the code for the satellite is freely available on their GitHub.

27 thoughts on “Spain’s First Open Source Satellite

    1. There are open source firmware stacks that support several microcontroller families to control the SX127x radio IC that this board -and many others- use. Then there is LoRaWAN that afaik is openly documented

  1. Be sure to spray the circuit boards with a conformal coating to prevent the tin in the solder from forming hairs in space like what caused the globalstar satellite failures.

    1. This has been on our list of concerns for a while. Conformal coating is indeed neccesary to avoid tin whiskering. Lead solder usually mitigates the issue but its better to stay safe. In our case we are only using lead solder and our orbital time is much to short to see serious tin whiskering occur.

    1. I really love this project, it’s very neat and makes me so enthusiastic. As time goes by, it becomes less and less expensive to send things to space. And so much simpler too. Within a few years, I’ll be able to just make my 1-liter project thingie, not worry about communications, power and propulsion, and have it launched with a bus that takes care of all that, only having to worry about the specific thing I’m researching. We are getting there, this is one nice step on the way to that. I’ll be able to make my miniature cnc mill, ship it to space, mill a thing there and take video of it milling, for like the price of a medium-size cnc mill. That’s crazy, I’m so doing that. This whole cubesat thing is so game changing, and it keeps on getting better.

    1. I’ll say.. An open source code arrangement, like that. According to a series of books on these birds, that happens to be the author’s go to platform.

      I’d rather put a penguin in orbit. Oh and welcome to Hack A Day Sharon.

    2. Hey Buirlot, the current version on github is 8 months old and I apologize on behalf of the team for not updating it. Check back around october when we launch for fully updated plans and code of the flight model.

  2. This is a no-go project for good reason: we cannot reliably track objects in orbit with a diameter less than 10cm. This is precisely why the “1U” cubesat is a cube with 10cm edges.

    1. This is a false claim that has long been proved to be untrue. Pocketqube satellites have already been succesfully tracked from space in 2014 and the FCC are starting to issue licenses for smaller satellite such as the swarm bees. Deployable panels also increase radar cross section to that of a 1U.

  3. I’m quite a big fan of home automations in particular, and indirectly appreciate the new possibilities created by new technologies like Arduino and RPi. In my opinion, this project is exactly on this track, regardless of the issues mentioned in the comments (size, code, and others).

    Even if this project never entirely succeeds, will still have given people different perspectives, showing that a piece of code you write, a library you create, may be used for a whole lot more than switching on a light in the garage. This is in my view one of the biggest achievements of a project like this, challenge people to think further and believe everything is achievable.

    Really great idea guys

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