If SpaceX are out of your budget range, and you’re not willing to wait for laser propulsion to mature to commercially viable levels, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were bang out of affordable options for launching your own satellite into orbit.
Since the TubeSats are placed into self-decaying orbits 310 kilometers (192 miles) above the Earth’s surface, they do not contribute to any long-term build-up of orbital debris. After a few weeks of operation, they will safely re-enter the atmosphere and burn-up. TubeSats are designed to be orbit-friendly. Launches are expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2010.
Each TubeSat kit includes the satellite’s structural components, safety hardware, solar panels, batteries, power management hardware and software, transceiver, antennas, microcomputer, and the required programming tools. With these components alone, the builder can construct a satellite that puts out enough power to be picked up on the ground by a hand-held HAM radio receiver. Simple applications include broadcasting a repeating message from orbit or programming the satellite to function as a private orbital HAM radio relay station.
Sounds pretty limited in scope, doesn’t it? But then so do many generic technology platforms, right up until the point where hackers and other inventive types start testing their limits… and $8,000 isn’t a completely unreachable investment for a small clade of geeks with a big idea, or for an organisation with less savoury motives. If nothing else, we may see some sort of orbital-broadcast pirate radio revival… [via SlashDot; image courtesy Interorbital Systems]