Docking With ISS Isn’t As Easy As You Might Think

Complexity is a funny thing. In prehistoric times, a caveman might float across a lake on a log. That’s simple. But as you add a rudder, a sail, or even a motor, it gets more and more complex. But if you add enough complexity — a GPS and an autopilot, for example, it becomes simple again. The SpaceX Dragon capsule actually docks itself to the ISS. However, the crew on the station can take over manually if they need to. What would that be like? Try the simulation and find out. If you don’t make it on the first, try, [Scott Manley’s] video below might help you out.

This isn’t a flashy Star Wars-style simulator. Think more 2001. Movement is slow and it is easy to get out of control. The user interface is decidedly modern compared to the old Apollo era

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Hackaday Links: April 19, 2020

While the COVID-19 pandemic at least seems to be on a downward track, the dystopian aspects of the response to the disease appear to be on the rise. As if there weren’t enough busybodies and bluenoses shaming their neighbors for real or imagined quarantine violations on social media, now we have the rise of social-distancing enforcement drones. These have been in use in hot zones around the world, of course, but have only recently arrived in the US. From New Jersey to Florida, drones are buzzing about in search of people not cowering in fear in their homes and blaring messages about how they face fines and arrest for seeking a little fresh air and sunshine. We’re all in favor of minimizing contact with potentially infected people, but it seems like these methods might be taking things a bit too far.

If you somehow find yourself with some spare time and want to increase your knowledge, or at least expand your virtual library, Springer Publishing has some exciting news for you. The journal and textbook publisher has made over 400 ebook titles available for free download. We had a quick scan over the list, and while the books run the gamut from social sciences to astrophysics, there are plenty of titles that are right in the wheelhouse of most Hackaday readers. There are books on power electronics, semiconductor physics, and artificial intelligence, as well as tons more. They all seem to be recent titles, so the information isn’t likely to be too dated. Give the list a once-over and happy downloading.

Out of all the people on this planet, the three with the least chance of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 blasted off from Kazakhstan this week on Soyuz MS-16 to meet up with the ISS. The long-quarantined crew of Anatoly Ivanishin, Ivan Vagner, and Chris Cassidy swapped places with the Expedition 62 crew, who returned to Earth safely in the Soyuz MS-15 vehicle. It’s a strange new world they return to, and we wish them and their ISS colleagues all the best. What struck us most about this mission, though, was some apparently surreptitiously obtained footage of the launch from a remarkably dangerous position. We saw some analysis of the footage, and based on the sound delay the camera was perhaps as close as 150 meters to the launchpad. It’s hard to say if the astronauts or the camera operator was braver.

And finally, because neatness counts, we got this great tip on making your breadboard jumpers perfectly straight. There’s something satisfying about breadboard circuits where the jumpers are straight and exactly the length the need to be, and John Martin’s method is so simple you can’t help but use it. He just rolls the stripped jumpers between his bench and something flat; he uses a Post-it note pad but just about anything will do. The result is satisfyingly straight jumpers, ready to be bent and inserted. We bet this method could be modified to work with the stiffer wire normally used in circuit sculptures like those of Mohit Bhoite; he went into some depth about his methods during his Supercon talk last year, and it’s worth watching if you haven’t seen it yet.

Hackaday Podcast 054: Xenomorph Cookies, 101 Uses For Hot Glue, Rolling Robots, And A Clippy Computer

Hackaday editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys reflect on great hacks of the past few days. Strain relief is something every electronics geek encounters and there’s a spiffy way to make your hot-glue look like a factory connector. There’s something in the air and it seems to be recreating early computers. Did you know astronauts are baking cookies they’re forbidden to eat? And did you hear about the 3D printer that’s being fed oil from the deep fryer?

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (~60 MB)

Places to follow Hackaday podcasts:

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Taking Pictures Of The Space Station With A Handheld Camera

It is easy to find out when the space station is passing overhead, and you may have run outside to see the blip of light moving at five miles per second. It turns out that some people make a hobby out of taking its picture, and if you have a pretty beefy telescope you can get some good shots. [Scott], on the other hand, wanted to take a handheld consumer-grade camera and try some pictures. His results show up in the video below.

If you look at the second video from [Thierry], you’ll see [Scott’s] videos are a far cry from state of the art. However, the [Thierry] photos essentially use a special telescope made to track the station very precisely. [Scott] is using a handheld, consumer-grade Nikon P1000.

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Lego Space Station Designed By Fan

It is no secret that most people like to play with Lego, but some people really like it to an extreme degree. Lego’s Idea platform lets people submit designs for review and also lets users vote on these designs. If accepted, the company works with the designer to put a kit in production and they share in the profits. [Christophe Ruge] submitted his design for the International Space Station and three years later, you can buy it on the Lego website.

The kit has 864 parts and the finished model is 12″ x 19″ x 7″ — probably will take longer than a coffee break to finish it. The model even includes the two rotating Solar Alpha Rotary Joints that allow the solar panels to align with the sun. You can see [Scott] building his on a recorded live stream below if you have 3 hours to kill.

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Mini Space Station Keeps Tabs On The Real One

Over the years, we’ve seen a number of projects that can blink an LED or otherwise notify you when the International Space Station is overhead. It’s a neat trick that brings space a little closer to home, but not exactly a groundbreaking achievement in 2020. That said, we think this version built by [Lance] deserves some special recognition for the unbearably adorable miniature ISS he designed it around.

Especially once you realize that its tiny little solar panels are actually functional. Well, more or less. [Lance] says conditions have to be pretty ideal for the panels to actually charge up the internal battery, so there’s the option to top things off with a USB cable if need be. To try and reduce power consumption as much as possible, he uses some pretty aggressive power saving tricks which are interesting in their own right.

As the ISS silently passes over your head several times per day, the notifier can’t spend too much time sleeping on the job. The Particle Photon needs to wake up regularly to pull down the time of the next pass given the current geographical position, then go back to sleep until right before showtime. When the Station is nearby, it blinks an Adafruit Smart NeoPixel positioned under a small 3D printed model of the Earth, and finally goes back to sleep until the process starts over.

If you’re looking for something a little less complicated, this two dimensional representation of the Space Station might be more your speed. Then again, an even more complicated take on the idea using lasers sounds pretty good too.

Globe Lamp Tracks The ISS For You

Assuming you don’t work at a major space agency, you probably don’t really need to know the exact location of the International Space Station at all times. If you’d like to know just because it’s cool, this lamp is for you.

The lamp is driven by a Wemos D1, which pulls in data on the space station’s current location from Open Notify. A stepper motor and servo motor serve to control a pan-tilt assembly, aiming a 405nm laser at the inside of a 3D printed globe to indicate the station’s position above Earth. As a nice touch, there’s also a ring of NeoPixel LEDs that are controlled to glow on the sunny side of the planet, too.

This is a fun project that makes it easy to know when to bust out your ham gear to chat to the team overhead, and would also make a great conversation starter. It’s not the first hardware ISS monitor we’ve seen, either! Video after the break.

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