While most of us wouldn't know where to start if we were given access to a satellite, the ArduSat Kickstarter project aims to enable people who would. The project involves designing a CubeSat — a standardized satellite form factor measuring just under four inches per side — based on Arduino hardware and which will be leased to scientists, students, and hobbyists as they need it. The ArduSat is loaded with sensors, cameras, and radios that will be available for use in just about any experiment you can think of, and that's the point: the team is trying to create an open source, crowd-funded opportunity to run experiments in space without having to undergo months of planning and fundraising.
The ArduSat will be equipped with three cameras, an open source spectrometer, magnetometer, and even a Geiger counter. It will also come with accelerometers, a gyroscope, a flight navigation system, and a spare GPS chip just for research purposes, among many others. Data collected during the experiments will be stored on SD cards and transmitted back to earth via UHF radios, where it will be passed on by the staff of ArduSat. The entire satellite will be powered by solar panels located on 4 inch square exterior frame.
Because of the Arduino's well documented, open-source nature and multitude of add-ons, the open source prototyping platform has become a hit with engineers, scientists, and students since its debut in 2005. By choosing a platform with such a widespread adoption rate, the ArduSat team is hoping that peoples' familiarity with the programming language will help them stage experiments faster than they could have otherwise.
The ArduSat Project is being run by a team of three NASA Ames Research Center employees — Peter Platzer, Jereon Cappaert, and Reka Kovacs — while the last member, Joel Spark, works for EADS Astrium in Germany. By breaking down the financial and technical barriers to entry, these four will hopefully open up space-based research to anyone who needs it. The Kickstarter project has already met its $35,000 goal, and it still has 23 days to go.