Ever wanted to build your own satellite? Good news, for the first time ever, it’s possible to do just that using commercially available components. It’s not cheap, nor is it easy, but it is possible using a CubeSat design. (To find out how, click here to visit the online design specs.)
Follow the plans and what you’ll end up with is a 10 centimeter cube, equivalent to one liter of volume, that weighs about a kilogram. Whatever you can stuff inside is fair game, but if you’ve got even more that simply must break atmo, you can attach a few cubes together to make it fly (literally).
Daring? Yes. Exciting? Extremely. But it will cost you: Expect to pony up around $50,000. Ouch. That’s way more than most of us have in our “mad-money” funds. Still, it’s mere pocket change compared to what full-size satellites cost. (You’d need to add some more zeros to that figure.) And then there’s the launch. That alone could run at least 100 grand.
But don’t despair: If you’re a space nerd looking for a cost-effective way to get your petite-sized rig in space, there’s still hope.
Come up with a worthy science mission and send it to NASA. If your science mission qualifies, it will send your CubeSat into the big black for free as part of its CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) program, which issues up to three cubes from a Poly-PicoSatellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD). (The cubes stay in orbit for about a month before returning to Earth.) So far, more than 100 CubeSats have been launched since 1999.
If you could build and launch your own CubeSat, what would you do with it? Send Tweets like, “Look, Ma! No gravity!”? Well, that’s a given, but what else? Take pics from space? Report on atmospheric conditions or attempt to send a signal into the great beyond? Tell us about your fantastical space rig below in the comments.