Planet Earth has entered the age of the Personal Satellite with the introduction of Interorbital’s TubeSat Personal Satellite (PS) Kit. The IOS TubeSat PS Kit is the low-cost alternative to the CubeSat. It has three-quarters of the mass (0.75-kg or 1.65-lb) and volume of a CubeSat, but still offers plenty of room for most experiments or applications. And, best of all, the price of the TubeSat kit includes the price of a launch into Low-Earth-Orbit on an IOS NEPTUNE 9 (N9) launch vehicle. Since the TubeSats are placed into self-decaying orbits 310 kilometers (192 miles) above the Earth’s surface, they do not contribute to the long-term build-up of orbital debris. After operating for a several weeks (the exact length of time on orbit is dependent on solar activity), they will safely re-enter the atmosphere and burn-up. TubeSats are designed to be orbit-friendly. Launches are expected to begin in 2012.
The price of the TubeSat kit includes a guaranteed launch into low-Earth orbit on Interorbital’s NEPTUNE 30 (N30) or NEPTUNE 45 (N45) rocket. The N30 and N45 rockets are three-stage, modular, ultra low-cost orbital launch vehicles developed and built by Interorbital Systems. They are designed to place 30 or 45 kilograms into polar low-Earth orbit. This payload capacity allows formations of 32 to 48 TubeSats, or a combination of CubeSats and TubeSats, to be launched per orbital mission with each TubeSat or CubeSat housed in its own dedicated ejection cylinder. TubeSats are designed to operate for up to 3 months. They will be launched into a 310 km orbit with an orbital longevity of three weeks to three months depending on the solar weather. At some time during the end of this period, they will safely re-enter the atmosphere and burn up. This prevents the build-up of orbital debris fields.
The modular N9 rocket is a three stage (parallel staged) satellite launch vehicle capable of launching 70-Kg payload into polar low-earth orbit. It is composed of 9 Common Propulsion Modules. The engine count breaks down to 6 stage-1 engines, 2 stage-2 engines, and 1 stage-3 engine (a total of 9 engines). N9 was designed specifically to support the TubeSat, CubeSat, and general small-sat community.
Interorbital Systems Tubesat
Total Price of the TubeSat Kit including a Launch to Orbit: $8,000.
TubeSats are designed to function as a Basic Satellite Bus or as a simple stand-alone satellite. Each TubeSat kit includes the satellite’s structural components, printed circuit board (PCB) Gerber Files, electronic components, solar cells, batteries, transceiver (requires an authorized frequency allocation from the FCC or equivalent non-US entity), antennas, microcomputer, and the required programming tools. With these components, the builder can construct a satellite that can be received on the ground by a hand-held amateur radio receiver. Simple applications include broadcasting a repeating message from orbit or programming the satellite to function as an orbital amateur radio relay station. These are just two examples. The TubeSat also allows the builder to add his or her own experiment or function to the basic TubeSat Kit. Examples of add-on experiments or applications include the following:
▼ Earth-from-space video imaging
▼ Earth magnetic field measurement
▼ Satellite orientation detection (horizon sensor, gyros, accelerometers, etc.)
▼ Orbital environment measurements (temperature, pressure, radiation, etc.)
▼ On-orbit hardware and software component testing (microprocessors, etc.)
▼ Tracking migratory animals from orbit
▼ Testing satellite stabilization methods
▼ Biological experiments
▼ On-orbit advertising
▼ Space art
▼ Space burials
The hexadecagon-shaped TubeSat is assembled from a set of printed circuit boards (PCBs). A PCB stack forms the inner structure with a set of Solar Cell PCBs and Aluminum Closure Strips forming the external structure (see the Solar Cell PCB photo below). External Guide Bearings facilitate the satellite’s deployment from a tubular ejection unit on orbit.
The TubeSat Transceiver PC boards are compatible with transceivers in the amateur radio band (Radiometrix TR2M with an Radiometrix AFS2 amplifier) or the Industrial, Scientific, and Medical (ISM) band (Microhard n920 or Microhard n2420). TubeSat builders have the option of using the included PCB Gerber files for the Radiometrix or Microhard transceivers or selecting a transceiver of their choice and building a custom transceiver PC board. The owner of a TubeSat operating in the amateur radio band will require an amateur radio license, a license to use an allocation frequency, and any applicable experimental permits from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or non-US equivalent. For information about obtaining the required amateur radio band frequency allocation, click here. For information about commercial operations from space, contact the FCC or equivalent (requires an Experimental Radio Service license in the US).
If the builder selects the Radiometrix transceiver, it will be sent out as soon as the TubeSat builder has been assigned a transceiver frequency by the US FCC or or equivalent non-US entity. If the buyer selects the Microhard, he or she can order their unit directly from Microhard Systems Inc. and will receive a rebate for the value of the Radiometrix units. For detailed information reqarding the shipment of the Radiometrix units or ordering the Microhard transceivers.
TubeSats are also available as Double TubeSats, or Triple TubeSats. The length, volume, and mass of these expanded TubeSats are based on the multiplying factor.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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