DIY Space: Personal Satellite Kits

Tubesat image from IOS website. Click on it to embiggen.

For this DIY project things are a bit pricey–as in thousands of dollars pricey.  If you’re one of those lucky few who happens to have that kind of money sitting around, then perhaps these two kits are meant for you.  The kits are available online from Interorbital Systems (IOS).  If you buy one or two, the rest of us will just have to watch and provide pointers, if asked.

The Cubesat Personal Satellite Kit is what it says it is:  a cubesat bus or satellite with the basics provided, such as solar cells, a battery pack, and more (kit details are here).  From those basics, a kit buyer can then add any kind of experimental payload or software package to the kit.  The only real barrier is the weight.  The satellite can only weigh 1 to 1.33 kilograms (2lbs 3oz to 2lbs 15oz).  Because of the weight variation, there’s no set price, but however much the satellite weighs, the cost of launch is included in it.  And of course the cubesat can be customized quite a bit–but costs go up correspondingly.

Then there’s IOS’ Tubesat Personal Satellite Kit.  $8000 buys a smaller satellite than the Cubesat, but it also includes the launching of the Tubesat into space.  The Tubesat can be loaded up with the payload of your choice until the whole thing weighs .75 kilograms (around 1lb 10oz).  But its shape is what gives the kit its name, it looks like a cylinder with solar panels on the side.  Details of the Tubesat are here.  Like the cubesat kit, the tubesat can be heavily customized, but again, costs go up according to weight, etc.  But it could be an imagery bird, a communications satellite, or something unimagined–which is what makes the smallsat field exciting.

When the cubesats/tubesats are ready to be launched, they will be launched with IOS’ Neptune rocket system.  The rocket launches from a “private island launch site” in the Pacific (coast of California, Hawai’i, or Kingdom of Tonga), and places both Cubesats and Tubesats in a 310 kilometer (192 mile) low earth orbit.  They say the satellites will operate for up to nearly two months.  However, IOS also say the space weather could impact a cubesat’s/tubesat’s orbit duration, so the satellites might re-enter as early as three weeks after launch or on schedule after two months.

Based on that information, it might be good to get a space weather report before sending your satellite up there.  Just sayin’…



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