Ever read about NASA’s space experiments and thought you could do better? Whatever your mad scientist space dreams, a tiny satellite called ArduSat might be able to help you reach them—barring actually venturing into space, of course.
The nano-satellite, which has raised nearly $50,000 on Kickstarter at the time of writing, will reportedly be the first space-based open platform that allows users to run applications, games, and experiments, take pictures with onboard cameras, and send messages to Earth.
The tiny ArduSat satellite—it’s just 10 by 10 by 10 centimeters—is named after the Arduino nano microcontrollers that control it and the Arduino processors that run user applications. The satellite is tricked out with all sorts of gadgets, including a spectrometer, an ambient light sensor, amagnetometer, Geiger counter, and multiple cameras.
What can people do with all these sensors and cameras? The ArduSat project lists some ideas, including geocaching from space (challenging people to identify Earth landmarks and coordinates from the satellite); looking at Earth’s clouds using the onboard cameras, color matrix, and visible light sensors; and tracking meteor impacts in the atmosphere by listening to radio stations reflected by meteor trails.
Created by a physicist, two aerospace engineers, and a NASA business manager, the project will allow users on Earth to upload their code via a web interface to a ground-based satellite replica. Once the ArduSat crew is sure that the code works, they’ll send it up to the real satellite. At the end of the experiment, data will be sent back down for users to peruse.
The ArduSat team has already built a prototype of the sensors, software, and other technical bits necessary to launch the satellite; now they just need funding (which they have surpassed) to build and integrate all the hardware and software for the launch. Anyone who pledges $325 is guaranteed "three days of uptime on the satellite" to run experiments—not a bad deal.
The satellite might not yield any Earth-shattering revelations about space. But when Co.Exist interviewed Richard Branson about space travel, he argued that the 450 people who have been to space have "all come back having seen this beautiful Earth, very committed to protecting it." Perhaps having control over a space-based device will yield similar results for ArduSat users.