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DIY Satellite Platforms by Sandy Antunes

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Sample Case: Project Calliope TubeSat-style Picosatellite

I am often asked questions about my musical picosatellite, Project Calliope. Easy questions have concrete answers. “What are your sensors?” I-CubeX magnetic, thermal, light. “What magnetic field is expected?” About 0.3 gauss. “How are you going to distribute the tracks?” As free remixable MIDI files via Web.

Others are either vague or awkward. “When will the satellite be done?” Obviously “by launch.” “What will it sound like?” Whatever the musician wants. “What’s your downlink bandwidth?” It’s shared bandwidth, so I only have estimates.

“I don’t know yet” is a scientist’s favorite phrase. It means we’re in motion and doing cool stuff, with a wide open future ahead. There is no shame in admitting you don’t know something. The only shame is if you stop there, if you decline the chance to explore.

Into every satellite a little grunt work must fall. Today you get to read the exceedingly boring but entirely real details of a typical week of satellite construction and project management.

Assembly Work

To build the satellite, I have to solder electronics parts onto a PCB board. This is a straightforward task requiring only a modicum of coordination, and I’ve been doing the soldering work in fits and starts over the past months. However, I hit a snag with soldering parts. My tried and true pistol-grip soldering iron has become bent, so I picked up a new pencil-type iron. Alas, on a test project, the new iron failed. I ended up with solder ...

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