Space Age Road Rage: Right Of Way Above The Karman Line

On a dark night in 2006 I was bicycle commuting to my office, oblivious to the countless man made objects orbiting in the sky above me at thousands of miles per hour. My attention was instead focused on a northbound car speeding through a freeway underpass at dozens of miles per hour, oblivious to my southbound headlamp. The car swerved into the left turn lane to get to the freeway on-ramp. The problem? I was only a few feet from crossing the entrance to that very on-ramp! As the car rushed through their left turn I was presented with a split second decision: slow, and possibly stop in the middle of the on-ramp, or just go for it and hope for the best.

A graphic depicting a dawdling bicycle rider about to be in the way of a speeding car driver
In Blue: Terrified cyclist. In Red: A speeding car careening around a corner without slowing down.

By law I had the right of way. But this was no time to start discussing right of way with the driver of the vehicle that threatened to turn me into a dark spot on the road. I followed my gut instinct, and my legs burned in compliance as I sped across that on-ramp entrance with all my might. The oncoming car missed my rear wheel by mere feet! What could have ended in disaster and possibly even death had resulted in a near miss.

Terrestrial vehicles generally have laws and regulations that specify and enforce proper behavior. I had every right to expect the oncoming car be observant of their surroundings or to at least slow to a normal speed before making that turn. In contrast, traffic control in Earth orbit conjures up thoughts of bargain-crazed shoppers packed into a big box store on Black Friday.

So is spacecraft traffic in orbit really a free-for-all? If there were stringent rules, how can they be enforced? Before we explore the answers to those questions, let’s examine the problem we’re here to discuss: stuff in space running into other stuff in space.

Continue reading “Space Age Road Rage: Right Of Way Above The Karman Line”

CubeSat For Under $1000?

Want to build your own CubeSat but have been put off by the price? There may be a solution in the works — [RG Sat] has challenged himself to design and build one for less than $1,000. (Video, embedded below.)

He begins by doing a survey of available low-cost options in the first video, and finds there isn’t a complete package for less than $10,000. By the time you added all necessary “options”, the final tally would probably be well over $20,000.

His idea isn’t just a pipe dream, either. In the the fifteen months since he began the project, [RG Sat] has designed and built the avionics and electrical power system circuit boards, and is currently testing his sun tracker design. Software is written in Rust, just because he wants to learn something new. You can check out the hardware and software design files on the project’s GitHub repositories, if you are inclined to build one yourself.

[RG Sat] lays out a compelling case, but we wonder if there’s a major gotcha lurking in the dark somewhere. In fact, [RG Sat] himself asks the question, “where do these high costs come from?” Our first instinct is to point the finger at qualifying parts for space and/or testing. But if you don’t care about satellite longevity or failure rates, then maybe [RG Sat] is onto something here.

Stepping back and looking at the big picture, however, the price of a CubeSat can be a drop in the bucket when compared to the launch costs, unless you’ve got a free ride. Is hardware the best place to focus cost reduction efforts?  Regardless, [RG Sat]’s project is bound to provide interesting and useful results whether he succeeds in his goal or confirms that indeed you need $10,000 to build a CubeSat. We’ll be following his progress with interest.

We’ve written about open source CubeSats before, and also a port-mortem analysis of a failed mission that contains some good lessons. Thanks to [Jeremy Grosser] for the tip.

 

South Korean Mapping Satellite Reaches Orbit

South Korea’s space program achieved another milestone yesterday with the launch of the first Compact Advanced Satellite 500 (CAS500) in a planned series of five vehicles. A second-generation Russian Soyuz 2.1a lifted the Korean-made CAS500-1 from historic Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan and successfully placed it into a 500 km sun-synchronous orbit, inclined by 97.7 degrees or 15 orbits/day. Living up to its reputation as a workhorse, the Soyuz then proceeded to deposit multiple other satellites into 600 km and 550 km orbits. The satellite is pretty substantial, being 2.9 m tall and 1.9 m diameter and topping the scales at 500 kg. (Don’t be confused, like we were, by this Wikipedia article that says it is a 1.3 kg CubeSat.)

South Korea already has over a dozen satellites in orbit, and the CAS500 adds a modular space platform to the mix. It was designed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) to provide a core backbone which can be easily adapted to other missions, not unlike a car manufacturer that sells several different models all based on the same underlying chassis. Another down-to-earth goal of the CAS500 program was to foster the transfer of core technologies from state-owned KARI to private industry. We wonder how such figures are calculated, but reportedly 91.3% of CAS500-1 was made in Korea. Subsequent flights will further involve local services and industry.

The purpose of the first two satellites is to provide images to the private sector, for example, online mapping and navigation platforms. How popular this will be is yet to be determined — as one local newspaper notes, the 2 meter image resolution (50 cm in monochrome) pales in comparison to Google’s advertised 15 cm resolution. The next three satellites will focus on space science imagery.

The Soyuz launch is shown below, and this short video clip from KARI shows a nice animation of the satellite. Try not to cringe at the simulated whooshing sound as two satellites pass each other in the vacuum of space — turn down the volume if you need to.

Continue reading “South Korean Mapping Satellite Reaches Orbit”

Open-Source Satellite Propulsion Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, December 11 at noon Pacific for the Open-Source Satellite Propulsion Hack Chat with Michael Bretti!

When you look back on the development history of any technology, it’s clear that the successful products eventually reach an inflection point, the boundary between when it was a niche product and when it seems everyone has one. Take 3D-printers, for instance; for years you needed to build one if you wanted one, but now you can buy them in the grocery store.

It seems like we might be getting closer to the day when satellites reach a similar inflection point. What was once the province of nations with deep pockets and military muscles to flex has become far more approachable to those of more modest means. While launching satellites is still prohibitive and will probably remain so for years to come,  building them has come way, way down the curve lately, such that amateur radio operators have constellations of satellites at their disposal, small companies are looking seriously at what satellites can offer, and even STEM programs are starting to get students involved in satellite engineering.

Michael Bretti is on the leading edge of the trend toward making satellites more DIY friendly. He formed Applied Ion Systems to address one of the main problems nano-satellites face: propulsion. He is currently working on a range of open-source plasma thrusters for PocketQube satellites, a format that’s an eighth the size of the popular CubeSat format. His solid-fuel electric thrusters are intended to help these diminutive satellites keep station and stay in orbit longer than their propulsion-less cousins. And if all goes well, someday you’ll be able to buy them off-the-shelf.

Join us for the Hack Chat as Michael discusses the design of plasma thrusters, the details of his latest testing, and the challenges of creating something that needs to work in space.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, December 11 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Hackaday Podcast 036: Camera Rig Makes CNC Jealous, Become Your Own Time Transmitter, Pi HiFi With 80s Vibe, DJ Xiaomi

Hackaday Editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys work their way through a fantastic week of hacks. From a rideable tank tread to spoofing radio time servers and from tune-playing vacuum cleaners to an epic camera motion control system, there’s a lot to get caught up on. Plus, Elliot describes frequency counting while Mike’s head spins, and we geek out on satellite optics, transistor-based Pong, and Jonathan Bennett’s weekly security articles.

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!

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 or so.)

Continue reading “Hackaday Podcast 036: Camera Rig Makes CNC Jealous, Become Your Own Time Transmitter, Pi HiFi With 80s Vibe, DJ Xiaomi”

Hackaday Podcast 034: 15 Years Of Hackaday, ESP8266 Hacked, Hydrogen Seeps Into Cars, Giant Scara Drawbot, Really Remote RC Car Racing

Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys wish Hackaday a happy fifteenth birthday! We also jump into a few vulns found (and fixed… ish) in the WiFi stack of ESP32/ESP8266 chips, try to get to the bottom of improved search for 3D printable CAD models, and drool over some really cool RC cars that add realism to head-to-head online racing. We look at the machining masterpiece that is a really huge SCARA arm drawbot, ask why Hydrogen cars haven’t been seeing the kind of sunlight that fully electric vehicles do, and give a big nod of approval to a guide on building your own custom USB cables.

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!

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 or so.)

Continue reading “Hackaday Podcast 034: 15 Years Of Hackaday, ESP8266 Hacked, Hydrogen Seeps Into Cars, Giant Scara Drawbot, Really Remote RC Car Racing”

Teardown 2019: A Festival Of Hacking, Art, And FPGAs

As hackers approached the dramatic stone entrance of Portland’s Pacific Northwest College of Arts, a group of acolytes belonging to The Church of Robotron beckoned them over, inviting them to attempt to earn the title of Mutant Saviour. The church uses hazardous environments, religious indoctrination, a 1980s arcade game and some seriously funny low tech hacks to test your abilities to save humanity. This offbeat welcome was a pretty good way to set the tone for Teardown 2019: an annual Crowd Supply event for engineers and artists who love hardware. Teardown is halfway between a conference and a party, with plenty of weird adventures to be had over the course of the weekend. Praise the Mutant! Embrace Futility! Rejoice in Error!

For those of us who failed to become the Mutant Saviour, there were plenty of consolation prizes. Kate Temkin and Mikaela Szekely’s talk on accessible USB tools was spectacular, and I loved following Sophi Kravitz’s journey as she made a remote-controlled blimp. Upstairs in the demo room, we had great fun playing with a pneumatic donut sprinkle pick and place machine from tinkrmind and Russell Senior’s hacked IBM daisywheel typewriter that prints ASCII art and runs a text-based Star Trek adventure game.

It wouldn’t be much of a hardware party if the end of the talks, demos and workshops meant the end of each day’s activities, but the Teardown team organised dinner and an afterparty in a different locations every night: Portland’s hackerspace ^H PDX, the swishy AutoDesk offices, and the vintage arcade game bar Ground Kontrol. There also was a raucous and hotly-contested scavenger hunt across the city, with codes to crack, locks to pick and bartenders to sweet talk into giving you the next clue (tip: tip).

Join me below for my favorite highlights of this three day (and night) festival.

Continue reading “Teardown 2019: A Festival Of Hacking, Art, And FPGAs”