Sunday 19 January 2014

New DIY Space Forum

A new Forum has been started by a fellow DIY Space enthusiast.
The url is
Its a place where people of all skill and knowledge level can discuss anything related to DIY Space.

Please register and join in the ever expanding community of space enthusiasts!

Thursday 16 January 2014

How do I start to build a PocketQube?

So, you think the idea of building your own Sputnik seems pretty cool. I don't know if it's a good pick-up line at parties, but as far as personal achievement goes, it's up there. But where to start?

Disclaimer: I'm not an expert, or even qualified to give financial advice...This post is just to give potential people or teams a place to start and spur imagination and further exploration.

Back to the story. If you've got to the point of thinking that you're capable of building a satellite, you probably got at least some knowledge about what's involved. Yes? No ? I'm not going to write this "Choose your own Adventure" style, so I'll start with some basics.

You've got as far as deciding on a form factor for the satellite. PocketQube. Now, what size PocketQube are you going to build? If you know anything about getting things into space, it's not exactly cheap, and the cost is based on mass. The bigger the chassis, the larger the mass. So a 1P PocketQube is the smallest in the range, and you can go up from there, generally in .5P increments, up to 2.5P. PocketQube Shop can provide a range of off-the-shelf hardware. Or you can build it from scratch like Wren . Depends on the skills you or your team possess. You just need to ensure it complies with the PocketQube Standards.

Next. Subsystems.

There's a few critical systems you'll need to have. While they can be separate, and often are in cubesats, they may need to be integrated for a PocketQube. But as far as design goes you'll need to think about the following:
Power ( Generation and storage)
Command and Data Handling ( CDH)
Attitude Determination and Control Subsystem ( ADCS)

Now you're going to have to "hit the books", both literally and metaphorically. Each subsystem can be considered a specialist area, and there are many books on each one. Pocketqube's haven't been around for a while, so there's nothing currently written that's specific to the platform.
At the cheaper end of the scale ( less than $8), there are general books such as "DIY Satellite Platforms" by Sandy Antunes. The other end of the scale has textbooks like the "Handbook of Satellite Applications" that costs $850.
Or you could use the internet. The Cubesat standard has gone through the same progression that the PocketQube standard will undoubtedly go through. There are presentations from Cubesat Developers Workshops  . There are peer-reviewed publications . There are hundreds of PhD Thesis that can be Googled.

At the end of the day, you'll need to apply what you learn and build your satellite. There's not yet a complete turnkey COTS solution for Pocketqubes, so you'll have to roll up your sleeves! You'll need to understand each of the subsystems and devise a way to integrate them all. You'll learn things like "Link Budget" and that Lithium Polymer batteries won't charge in temperatures below 0C, and many other intricacies of building a satellite.

Testing. Do what the $50Sat team did and breadboard your satellite. At early stages, you don't need to have the final circuit board designed. You don't need the space rated solar cells for testing your control and radio code. When you get close to finalising these things, make 1 or more engineering models so you can test mechanical systems like antenna deployment.

There's definitely alot to learn if you're an amateur like me, but it's achievable. The cost of the hardware isn't exorbitant, and you just need the dedication and enthusiasm ( ok, and aptitude) to build your own satellite.

Tuesday 7 January 2014

What or Who is OzQube-1?

OzQube-1 is the name for a pico-satellite that is proposed to be designed and built as a DIY project, by a space enthusiast. It is going to be based on the PocketQube form factor. This means that it is very small as far as satellites go ( as small as 5cm³), and will not use expensive hardware.

Inspiration for this satellite came from Kickstarter, where I contributed to a project called This project showed me that it was possible to build a satellite for less than the cost of a TV. ( Launching it is another thing I'll go into another time). The Kickstarter campaign coincided with the first launch of several satellites using the Pocketqube form factor. The highlight for me was the $50sat , or Eagle2. This is a Pocketqube that was built for around $250 in parts* ( the original plan was for $50, but they opted for higher cost solar cells). This little bird has proven to be a solid, reliable platform, providing radio telemetry to radio amateurs around the world. It was a collaborative education project between Professor Bob Twiggs, ( the inventor of the cubesat and Pocketqube standards), Morehead State University in USA, and 3 radio amateurs. Have a look at the links page for more on $50sat.

It is the intention that OzQube-1 follows a similar path. The beacon and basic telemetry will be using the amateur radio bands, with an aim to make it accessible to anyone with a USB Software Defined Radio (aka USB DVB-T dongle from eBay) , some free software, and an antenna.

Now I am not an engineer, or someone that has had previous experience with building hardware for space. I'm currently an IT Professional, but I am definitely an amateur when it comes to the other skill areas required for building this craft, so I'll be learning a lot along the way. I have tinkered a bit with various mechanical and electronic systems, so I'm not completely in the dark about the challenge that lies ahead.

In addition to the amateur radio part of the craft, I've yet to formalise a plan for the main onboard computer that will function as the Command and Data Handling System, or any potential payload. I'll have more in future posts!

Friday 3 January 2014

Naming the Baby

Like with a newborn, a name is something that parents approach in different ways. Some go through the pregnancy trying to decide on a name they like. Some have a name picked out in advance, well before conception. Some wait till the baby is born before they decide on a name.

Having never been involved with the build of an actual satellite before, I was not sure what to do. I've only just decided to build a proof of concept "engineering model" PocketQube. I'm not sure what it's purpose is yet. I'm not even sure if it's something I'm capable of building. I don't know if I'll have the resources to progress the idea past a certain point.

BUT, I'll give it a shot! So while I'm formulating a plan for this endeavour, I thought it would be better if I gave it a name, so that my obsession can have a focus. ( plus it gives my wife a specific thing to refer to, rather than call me Space Geek)

I've experienced naming children, so surely this couldn't be too far removed?

So what does one do in this day and age? Well.... I emailed people and Googled names.
Being a relatively new standard, there aren't many birds flying yet, so there's not alot of risk in having the same name as an existing PocketQube. I looked at names of CubeSat's. I looked at Australia's involvement in the space industry ( didn't have to look far, but it eliminated Aussat from the list of potential names)

After all that, I wanted something simple, that referred to 2 things - Australia and PocketQubes.

The result:


(Because it could be the first of many!)

New Blog - Hooray!!!!!

I finally decided to make a home for my new obsession. After taking a vigorous "interest" in space related activities, thanks to Kickstarter and other goings on in the world like the endeavours of Curiosity and Space-X.

So, "Hello Blog World"!