Before I begin the fairly short DIY part, this is just a reminder for those who don’t know, or just plain forgot. Today is the anniversary of Sputnik I, the first man-made satellite, which was launched into orbit on the top of an R-7 rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome. The R-7 had already been successfully tested as a missile earlier, on August 21, 1957. That test demonstrated the R-7 to be the world’s first intercontinental ballistic missile as it flew the 3,700 miles to hit a target near the Kamchatka Peninsula.
However, the nosecone system designed to protect the nuclear payload had failed during that test. In September, another R-7 basically did the same thing again, but this time the nosecone worked as designed. In spite of the historical and strategic significance of the missile tests, the West didn’t really bat an eyelid. It only reacted once Sputnik was launched into orbit. If you wish to read a really great story about the origins, development, and launch of Sputnik, I recommend Matthew Brzezinski’s “Red Moon Rising.” It does a great job of humanizing the Soviet Chief Engineer, Sergei Korolev. Sputnik I was always Korolev’s goal, but the missile program helped him get there. The story shows the Soviet Union’s rocket development efforts in contrast to the antics going on in the United States at the time.
Also, Sputnik’s anniversary kicks off the start of “World Space Week” for 2014. For those interested, please go to the website, which is full of good information.
Back to DIY, though. If you’re a teacher who believes the classroom needs more hands on with space projects, this might be the key, depending on your resources. Ardusat wants to bring satellite building into the classroom. They offer a few kits, and according to this Readwrite.com post, the cost of the kits is as low as $2,500. The kits use a Spire (formerly Nanosatisfi) Cubesat bus and, of course, an Arduino (What! You don’t know what an Arduino is??!! Go here to find out). It also includes a few sensors and wires. There’s more to their kits, but you can go to this part of their website to find out, if you’re curious.
If you and your students have an idea for an Ardusat experiment, then just go this part of Ardusat’s site and sign up for their Association of Space Explorers Astrosat Challenge. You can sign up until October 30, 2014. The prize? One week’s worth of data from an on-orbit satellite.