SkyCube satellite offers iPhone users access to outer space

Macworld Australia Staff
16 August, 2012
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Apple iPhone users may have the opportunity to broadcast messages and capture images in space through a nano-satellite, if a Kickstarter campaign proves successful.

In an interview with MacDirectory the creator of the SkyCube satellite, Tim DeBenedictis said those who donate to the project will be able to write messages and take photographs using their smartphone at any point during its mission.

“You control when/where they are taken… It may be possible for individuals to capture weather patterns, etc. – or make a movie of the entire Earth from orbit. The point is that folks will come up with ideas and uses that we haven’t – and they can utilise our satellite to realise them,” DeBenedictis said.

The satellite, which began design in July last year after DeBenedictis and a friend took a trip to see NASA’s final Atlantis space shuttle launch, will circumnavigate the world using the earth’s magnetic field.

“SkyCube has passive magnetic stabilizers, which will align it to the Earth’s magnetic field, like a compass needle. Since the orientation of the Earth’s magnetic field lines varies considerably at different latitudes on the Earth, the satellite will experience different orientations as it travels on its 52-degree-inclined orbit,” DeBenedictis said.

“We have no control over its orientation. We expect it to tumble slowly (about one turn every 25 minutes) as it orbits the Earth. We can tell it which cameras to turn off/on, and what/when to broadcast. We can also tell it when to inflate the balloon, which will end the mission and bring the satellite down at the end of its useful lifetime.”

The length of flight depends on the reception it receives, according to DeBenedictis, with the US FCC authorising a maximum period of six months.

“If we never inflated the balloon, the satellite would have an orbital lifetime on the order of years, not weeks. We’re planning to leave it up for 90 days, taking pictures and “tweeting” before we inflate the balloon. If things go well, we may leave it up there a bit longer.”

For US$1 donators are able to send a single 120-character message into the universe, while US$6 offers six messages and a photo. Donations of US$10,000 buys you 10,000 messages, 2000 pictures, a radio receiver that can pick up the transmissions, two T-shirts, a movie of earth from orbit and two round-trip tickets to Cape Canaveral to see the lift-off.



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