Launch my own satellite

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mutestorm
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Launch my own satellite

Postby mutestorm » Thu Apr 12, 2012 12:11 am UTC

I've imagined this for a while. How much would it cost to throw a raspberry pi into geocentric orbit? Lets say I want to use it to communicate. I guess it would need a few things...a power supply, a transmitter...what else? How much thrust would be required to get it up there? Does it need some sort of precision thruster?

As always, sorry if this is the wrong forum. I don't spend much time here but it never fails me for good answers/discussion.

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Re: Launch my own satellite

Postby PhoenixEnigma » Thu Apr 12, 2012 12:44 am UTC

Something like a CubeSat is probably the way to go, if only because they're standardized to a good degree and a lot of the work has been done for you. Launch costs are pretty variable, but look to start at $15k per U (10cm cube), and run up closer to $50k/U. Looking over their pricelist of components, I'd expect a basic satellite to run $20k+, though you could easily spend far more. All told, $100 000 would probably be enough to get something in orbit.
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thoughtfully
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Re: Launch my own satellite

Postby thoughtfully » Thu Apr 12, 2012 2:25 am UTC

You might want to aim a little lower (ahem) than geosynchronous orbit, which is way the hell out there. As in, propagation delays are noticeable to human ears. It's a quarter light-second out and back. That takes considerably more fuel to achieve than low orbit, where the space shuttles used to hang out.
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Re: Launch my own satellite

Postby eligitine » Fri Apr 13, 2012 2:52 pm UTC

I suppose you could cut down on costs if you used several weather balloons to get a light payload moderately high in orbit before using some type of thruster. Purely hypothetical, but there does rise the issue of pushing enough against the low atmosphere.
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Re: Launch my own satellite

Postby SlyReaper » Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:15 pm UTC

thoughtfully wrote:You might want to aim a little lower (ahem) than geosynchronous orbit, which is way the hell out there. As in, propagation delays are noticeable to human ears. It's a quarter light-second out and back. That takes considerably more fuel to achieve than low orbit, where the space shuttles used to hang out.

He said geocentric, not geosynchronous. So at least we know he isn't aiming for lunar orbit or beyond.
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Re: Launch my own satellite

Postby Tass » Fri Apr 13, 2012 5:04 pm UTC

eligitine wrote:I suppose you could cut down on costs if you used several weather balloons to get a light payload moderately high in orbit before using some type of thruster. Purely hypothetical, but there does rise the issue of pushing enough against the low atmosphere.


Uhm, no. That would be developing his own entire launch system. Stratospheric launch from balloons have been considered, but have not yet been developed commercially. Making a rocket that can achieve orbital velocity is not for amateurs, even reaching space on a suborbital flight is tough. Height is a very little part of the energy required, the velocity to maintain orbit is the main part.

Buying space on a tested commercial rocket with the benefit of economies of scale is always going to be cheaper than developing an orbit capable launch system from scratch. In this case by several orders of magnitude.

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Re: Launch my own satellite

Postby freakish777 » Fri Apr 13, 2012 5:20 pm UTC

mutestorm wrote:I've imagined this for a while. How much would it cost to throw a raspberry pi into geocentric orbit? Lets say I want to use it to communicate. I guess it would need a few things...a power supply, a transmitter...what else? How much thrust would be required to get it up there? Does it need some sort of precision thruster?


If you're planning on leaving earth's atmosphere you're going to need serious electromagnetic and thermal shielding from the sun so your circuits don't get destroyed by radiation or heat. You're also going to need government clearance.

Yes, you'll need a precision thruster to keep it on course. Furthermore, you're required by law to, once you've reached a certain amount of fuel left on that thruster, to move your satellite to Graveyard Orbit.

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Re: Launch my own satellite

Postby The Geoff » Sat Apr 14, 2012 12:39 am UTC

I'm not recommending any of the following.

Firstly, make a very small satellite. A ball with a little lens protected by something that will ablate on re-entry - the Chinese have experimented with oak I believe. You could probably keep it to grapefruit size. You'll also need some kind of locating device, that may prove tricky. Total cost, around USD$10k I reckon.

Next you need to go to Kazhakstan and find a friendly launchpad technician who will strap it to a launch for you. Probably cheaper than official routes, and hey, it's only a small satellite. Make sure you use an Acme time-delay snapping strap.

Total cost, in the low tens of thousands I reckon. Might work, might burn up, but it would be cool.

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Re: Launch my own satellite

Postby wam » Mon Apr 16, 2012 9:40 am UTC

eligitine wrote:I suppose you could cut down on costs if you used several weather balloons to get a light payload moderately high in orbit before using some type of thruster. Purely hypothetical, but there does rise the issue of pushing enough against the low atmosphere.


My mate and friends have just done this as part of their Uni courses. Im afraid the only infor page I have is facebook though https://www.facebook.com/pages/ProjectS ... 1842652287
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Re: Launch my own satellite

Postby mfb » Mon Apr 16, 2012 3:43 pm UTC

But I guess your platform does not involve rockets going to space (~100km). And even if it would, getting stuff in an orbit is more difficult by at least one order of magnitude.

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Re: Launch my own satellite

Postby SlyReaper » Mon Apr 16, 2012 5:57 pm UTC

Getting into orbit is far more about the speed than the height. A suborbital flight can attain altitudes of thousands of miles, compared to Low Earth Orbit of ~150 to 200 miles. Yet the orbital stuff stays up, the ballistic stuff doesn't.

Besides, iirc weather balloons only go about a third of the way up to the Karman line. It really doesn't gain you much compared to the additional complexity of launching a rocket from such an unstable platform.
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Re: Launch my own satellite

Postby mfb » Mon Apr 16, 2012 9:04 pm UTC

Well, the height can help: You avoid >90% of the atmospheric drag with ~30km. You can launch the rocket in a smaller angle and don't need the (large) rotation usually done during rocket launches. In addition, the propellant to payload mass ratio grows exponentially with the required deltav capacity.

>> the additional complexity of launching a rocket from such an unstable platform.
That is a problem, of course.

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Re: Launch my own satellite

Postby SWGlassPit » Fri May 11, 2012 4:13 pm UTC

Slightly related, you can buy space on the International Space Station through Nanoracks at a cost of 25K USD (educational) or 50K USD (commercial) per CubeSat unit (a 10-cm cube). For CubeSats not sent to the ISS, check out http://www.cubesat.org
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Re: Launch my own satellite

Postby EdgePenguin » Fri May 11, 2012 8:04 pm UTC

PhoenixEnigma wrote:Something like a CubeSat is probably the way to go, if only because they're standardized to a good degree and a lot of the work has been done for you. Launch costs are pretty variable, but look to start at $15k per U (10cm cube), and run up closer to $50k/U. Looking over their pricelist of components, I'd expect a basic satellite to run $20k+, though you could easily spend far more. All told, $100 000 would probably be enough to get something in orbit.


This is your best option (launch systems are horribly complex. Only one amateur group has got beyond the Karman line and that was a very light weight sounding rocket that did not get into orbit.

I don't think you need government permission to launch one; I think you are covered by the people who arrange the launch. What you will need to do is to get your cubesat in someone's launch vehicle, and convince THEM that it won't cause any problems; specifically problems for their primary payload. It is important to understand that, from the point of view of the people launching the rocket, your cubesat payload is basically ballast.

Main problem is the complexity of a cubesat. One individual almost certainly can't pull it off without screwing something up. Most cubesats are built by teams of engineering postgraduates, often with hand-holding from industry or national space agencies. If you want to simply be able to point up and say "I've made something that flies in space" perhaps your best bet would be to find an existing team near to you, and offer whatever skills you have to them.

As for radiation; don't sweat it. COTS electronics can survive a while in LEO, even if you fly through the south Atlantic anomaly. You just need to make your system reasonably robust; its got to be able to cope with being shut off by a brown out or a single event upset and be able to reboot itself nicely. Your obit will probably decay over the same timescale as your electronics being permanently damaged.


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