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Just two weeks ago, the crew from the International Space Station released a photo of their nine crew members – an odd number considering that the facility only has space to house six astronauts at a time. In fact, the crew had just gathered for a celebratory dinner before three of the astronauts were to return home. The new astronauts joining including Hazza Al Mansouri, the first astronaut from the United Arab Emirates (who has since returned from his mission), as well as astronaut Jessica Meir and cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka.

Amidst the excitement over the upcoming 10 (!) spacewalks in the next three months, there’s also been some cool developments in the open source space, with one of the first ESP32s launched into space.

[Nico Maas] from the Microgravity User Support Center (MUSC) at DLR (German Aerospace Center) worked on an experiment launched by MORABA (Mobile Rocket Base) at DLR. The launch site was at the Esrange Space Center in Kiruna, Sweden, with the mission launching on June 13, 2019 at 4:21 am local time.

The experiment – APEX (Advanced Processors, Encryption, and Security Experiment) was onboard the ATEK / MAPHEUS-8, mission, rising to an altitude of 240km into space and returning back to earth after six minutes of microgravity.

[via AIP]
The goal of the research was to develop an off-the-shelf computer with a more powerful system for high-speed sensors and image acquisition than the Microchip ATmega328P, the current standard. The flight test measured the speed of the system as well as stress testing its ability to handle compute-intensive tests.

The main board included two ESP32s and a Raspberry Pi Zero W, running resinOS / balenaOS, an operating system designed to run parallel Docker containers and optimized for IoT fleet management.

Prior to the experiment, the standard for on-board computers for use in CubeSats was the ATmega/Arduino-based ARDUSAT. Since it was first made available for use in CubeSats in 2013, the performance has become limited, with improvements needed to perform higher throughput data sampling or operations requiring more computational power.

It’s also cool to note that the system, built using a 3D-printed holder, survived the re-entry (reaching up to 20.6g) with hardly a scratch.

One of the more interesting ideas being experimented with in VR is 1:1 mapping of virtual and real-world objects, so that virtual representations can have physically interaction in a normal way. Tinker Pilot is a VR spaceship simulator project by [LLUÍS and JAVI] that takes this idea and runs with it, aiming for the ability to map a cockpit’s joysticks, switches, and other hardware to real-world representations. What does that mean? It means a virtual cockpit with flight sticks, levers, and switches that have working physical versions that actually exist exactly where they appear to be.

A few things about the project design caught our eye. One is the serial communications protocol intended to interface easily with microcontrollers, allowing for feedback between the program and any custom peripherals. (By the way, this is the same approach Kerbal Space Program took with KSPSerialIO, which enables custom mission control hardware at whatever level of complexity a user may wish to implement.)

The possibilities are demonstrated starting around 1:09 in the teaser trailer (embedded below) in which a custom controller is drawn up in CAD, then 3D-printed and attached to an Arduino, and finally the 3D model is imported into the cockpit as a 1:1 representation of the actual working unit, with visual positional feedback.

Unlike this chair experiment we saw which attached a Vive Tracker to a chair, there is no indication of needing positional trackers on individual controls in Tinker Pilot. In a cockpit layout, controls can be reasonably expected to remain in fixed positions relative to the cockpit, meaning that they can be set up as 1:1 representations of a physical layout and otherwise left alone. The kind of experimentation that is available today even to individual developers or small teams is remarkable, and it’s fascinating to see the ideas being given some experimentation.

  We were glued to our screens last month as NASA successfully landed the InSight module on Mars. (Bet you were, too.) What an amazing sight a Martian sunrise turns out to be! Now, we’ve got the bug. The bigtime Space Bug. Accordingly, our final Humble Bundle ebook deal of […]

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The post Catch Some (Major) Air: New Space Humble Bundle! appeared first on Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers.

The cost of getting a piece of hardware into space is now cheaper than ever, thanks in no small part to the rapid progress that’s been made by commercial launch providers such as SpaceX. In the near future, as more low-cost providers come online, it should get even cheaper. Within a few years, we could be seeing per kilogram costs to low Earth orbit that are 1/10th what they were on the Space Shuttle. To be sure, this is a very exciting time to be in the business of designing and building spacecraft.

But no matter how cheap launches to orbit get, it’ll never be cheaper than simply emailing some source code up to the International Space Station (ISS). With that in mind, there are several programs which offer students the closest thing to booking passage on a Falcon 9: the chance to develop software that can be run aboard the Station. At the 2018 World Maker Faire in New York we got a chance to get up close and personal with functional replicas of the hardware that’s already on orbit, known in space parlance as “ground units”.

On display was a replica of one of the SPHERES free-flying satellites that have been on the ISS since 2006. They are roughly the size of a soccer ball and utilize CO2 thrusters and ultrasonic sensors to move around inside of the Station. Designed by MIT as a way to study spaceflight techniques such as docking and navigation without the expense and risk of using a full scale vehicle, the SPHERES satellites are perhaps the only operational spacecraft to have never been exposed to space itself.

MIT now runs the annual “Zero Robotics” competition, which tasks middle and high school students with solving a specific challenge using the SPHERES satellites. Competitors run their programs on simulators until the finals, which are conducted using the real hardware on the ISS and live-streamed to schools.

We also saw hardware from “Quest for Space”, which is a company offering curricula for elementary through high school students which include not only the ground units, but training and technical support when and if the school decides to send the code to the matching hardware on the Station. For an additional fee, they will even work with the school to design, launch, and recover a custom hardware experiment.

Their standard hardware is based on off-the-shelf platforms such as Arduino and LEGO Mindstorms EV3, which makes for an easy transition for school’s existing STEM programs. The current hardware in orbit is setup for experiments dealing with heat absorption, humidity, and convection, but “Quest for Space” notes they change out the hardware every two years to provide different experiment opportunities.

Projects such as these, along with previous efforts such as the ArduSat, offer a unique way for the masses to connect with space in ways which would have been unthinkable before the turn of the 21st century. It’s still up for debate if anyone reading Hackaday in 2018 will personally get a chance to slip Earth’s surly bonds, but at least you can rest easy knowing your software bugs can hitch a ride off the planet.

We’ve all enjoyed looking up at a clear night sky and marveled at the majesty of the stars. Some of us have even pointed telescopes at particular celestial objects to get a closer view. Anyone who’s ever looked at anything beyond Jupiter knows the hassle involved.  It is most unfortunate that the planet we reside on happens to rotate about a fixed axis, which makes it somewhat difficult to keep a celestial object in the view of your scope.

It doesn’t take much to strap a few steppers and some silicon brains to a scope to counter the rotation of earth, and such systems have been available for decades. They are unfortunately quite expensive. So [Dessislav Gouzgounov] took matters into his own hands and developed the rDuinoScope – an open source telescope control system.

Based on the Arduino Due, the systems stores a database of 250 stellar objects. Combined with an RTC and GPS, the rDunioScope can locate and lock on to your favorite nebula and track it, allowing you to view it in peace. Be sure to grab the code and let us know when you have your own rDuinoScope set up!


Filed under: Arduino Hacks

[gocivici] threatened us with a tutorial on positional astronomy when we started reading his tutorial on a Arduino Powered Star Pointer and he delivered. We’d pick him to help us take the One Ring to Mordor; we’d never get lost and his threat-delivery-rate makes him less likely to pull a Boromir.

As we mentioned he starts off with a really succinct and well written tutorial on celestial coordinates that antiquity would have killed to have. If we were writing a bit of code to do our own positional astronomy system, this is the tab we’d have open. Incidentally, that’s exactly what he encourages those who have followed the tutorial to do.

The star pointer itself is a high powered green laser pointer (battery powered), 3D printed parts, and an amalgam of fourteen dollars of Chinese tech cruft. The project uses two Arduino clones to process serial commands and manage two 28byj-48 stepper motors. The 2nd Arduino clone was purely to supplement the digital pins of the first; we paused a bit at that, but then we realized that import arduinos have gotten so cheap they probably are more affordable than an I2C breakout board or stepper driver these days. The body was designed with a mixture of Tinkercad and something we’d not heard of, OpenJsCAD.

Once it’s all assembled and tested the only thing left to do is go outside with your contraption. After making sure that you’ve followed all the local regulations for not pointing lasers at airplanes, point the laser at the north star. After that you can plug in any star coordinate and the laser will swing towards it and track its location in the sky. Pretty cool.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, cnc hacks, news, solar hacks

sotu_perf_headerNick Squires details his time spent using his maker skills to produce an interactive art installation and performance.

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The post Go Behind the Scenes of Installing an Interactive LED Art Exhibit appeared first on Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers.

Part_2.2Houston Mini Maker Faire attendees had a chance to create scientific creatures, assemble a clock, take a peek through augmented reality, and much more.

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The post From Aerospace to Weaving, Houston Mini Maker Faire Is an Inventors’ Paradise appeared first on Make: DIY Projects, How-Tos, Electronics, Crafts and Ideas for Makers.

barndoorfigureaTo photograph the stars, you need a gadget that can track the revolving night sky in a perfectly timed arc. Otherwise all you’ll see is streaks and blurs.

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The post 6 DIY Star Trackers for Perfect Night Sky Photos appeared first on Make: DIY Projects, How-Tos, Electronics, Crafts and Ideas for Makers.


The project Emanuel Bombasaro submitted to the Arduino blog is about a high altitude balloon he launched on August 21st over Denmark. The balloon, called Titan 1, is made of a helium-filled latex balloon,  a payload box holding the flight computer, sensors and a parachute (36” diameter). A GoPRO camcorder mounted inside the payload box and capturing an image every second.


The flight computer is an Arduino Mega which logs position (GPS), pressure, temperature, humidity, luminosity, earth magnetic field, acceleration and spin, measured by a variety of sensors:

At 1:10 we jump from cloud level (~3200m) towards reaching the peak altitude of 35393m. Immediately the moon appears on the right and is visibile again and again. 2:05 the fragments of the bursted balloon can be seen and up it goes back to earth. 3:00 we drop down to cloud level (~3200m) and soon after hit the ground.

This is the list of modules and sensors connected to the Arduino Mega:

  • MTX2 Radiometrix
  • MTX2 434 MHz Radio Module.
  • HX1 VHF Narrow Band FM 300 mW Transmitter, 144.800 MHz, used for APRS.
  • MAX-M8 GPS module used for position (longitude, latitude and altitude) and time acquisition.
  • DS18B20 Temperature sensor on HABuino showing the temperature of the flight computer compartment. This temperature should remain most near to 20 ” C. Any temperature variation will e?ect the transmission frequency of the radio module.
  • MCP9808 Maximum accuracy digital temperature sensor measuring air temperature.
  • HTU21DF Temperature and humidity sensor measuring air temperature and relative humidity of the air.
  • MPL3115A2 Precision altimeter mainly used for measuring atmospheric pressure, but also temperature and altitude is detected.
  • TSL2561 Light to digital converter BST-BMP180 Pressure sensor mainly used for measuring atmospheric pressure, but also temperature and altitude is detected.
  • L3GD20 3D gyroscope
  • LSM303DLHC 3D accelerometer and 3D magnetometer module
  • LSH20 Saft LSH 20 battery used as power supply with 3.6 V and 13.0 A h. The power feeds into the low input voltage synchronous boost converter TPS61201 on the HABuino shield.

Check the detailed documentation with Flight Computer Software sketch on this Design Mission PDF document.

You can also explore the Flight Data Report showing the collected mission data graphically on this PDF.

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