Deploying Software updates to ArduSat in orbit - Jonathan Oxer
Incomplete transcript, up to timestamp ~10:00:00
So last Friday I arrived here in Perth for LCA and uh, I was feeling a little bit tired and jet lagged. So I went off to my room at trinity, it was getting a bit late, and I was stuffed, so I decided I would just have to sleep,
SO I, um, I turned off the light, and it just went pitch black. I couldn't see a thing. So I was doing the thing where where you're shuffling around trying not to, you know, bash your shins on anything. And I found the bed and lay down, just feeling exhausted and opened my eyes, and after a few seconds I realised I could see stars, even though I was inside. Some previous resident had put luminous dots on the ceiling. An they'd even gone to the trouble to get the constellations correct.
So for all of human history the sky has been a source of inspiration for us. It's been a mystery, Its been up there, unattainable something that was out there. And it's always been above us. We've been stuck down here at the bottom of earth's gravity well. It's only in the last few years that we've been able to step outside of earth and look outside, and get a different perspective to what humanity has had for all of the time of our existence.
Um, Just a few months ago, Chris Hadfield came back from, ah, about 6 months on-board the international space station, and he told a story about a moment when his perspective changed in relation to the way he saw the earth.
He was conducting a space walk, so he was outside the international space station and from his perspective his brain was telling him that the earth was very solid. It was this big thing that was down below him and it was below his feet, because he was interpreting what was coming through his eyes. And then did a perspective shift, and all of the sudden it wasn't below him, he was floating in the universe - the ISS was over here, earth was just something else that was just floating over there. He'd achieved some level of mental disconnection from it, and it was no longer down, it was just something in the vastness of space.
So, we see that even more strongly if you look at images like this one which was taken from Apollo 17 at a distance of about 35,000 kilometres as they were travelling to the moon. You can see the slender shell of the earth, how little there is around it that really supports life, and this is where we live.
And Voyager taking this photo 1.6 billion kilometres away from the earth looking back. So this is the original unscaled full resolution image that it took looking back directly towards the earth, which you can see, obviously. It's ,you know, right there. So, zoom in a little bit. And just in case you still can't see it, it's that little dot there. So it's .12 of a pixel in this particular image.
So, Um, How- Given that space is such an inspiring thing, I mean, I'm a nerd, so I love technology, I love doing this sort of stuff. How many people here at some point in their lives how cool it would be to work with space technology, you know, getting something up into orbit? Okay, so I'm among friends.
So, a slightly tougher question. How many people here at some point have worked on a project that has or will go into space? Yeah - there are a few in the room. That's amazing. That shows how special this audience is. But imagine the effect on our education system and and on uptake of science technology, engineering and mathematics if you could walk into the average high school science classroom and every single student put their hands up? Now that would be an amazing thing.
So, how many people here have used Arduino? Ok .most of you have, but there are many who haven't./ For those who haven't, Arduino is a tiny micro-controller board. It's about the size of a pack of playing cards. You can get it for 20, 30, 80 dollars, depending on the particular model. You plug it into your computer using USB, and you can make it, um, connect to sensors, you can make it drive things, and it comes in a whole lot of different models. There's a reference design which is all open hardware. You can get versions with built in Ethernet if you want to do networking. A few years ago some of you will have got the tiny USB thumb derive sized Leo-stick. Because it's open hardware of course, you can do it yourself, so. My remote control is going crazy
So you can, um, bread-board it if you want to. you can also get, um, kits. So in one box you have everything you need to do experiments with sensors and actuators. Some suckers have even written books about it, but I don't know why they would have done that. And there is a huge resource of expansion boards that can go onto it, so, just about anything you can imagine in terms of connectivity you can do with an Arduino. Now what the has resulted in is a huge body of knowledge of how to use this platform, there are millions of people around the world who have worked with it, It's very commonly used in education, both in high schools and at university level, and, um, including in, um, space education.
So this is Steven Hobbs. This is a photo I took at the Australian Space Science Conference, um, late last year, and his little Mars rover that he uses for education. It's got an Arduino brain and it can drive autonomously and avoid obstacles, and it replicates the functionality of a Mars rover.
So, the thing is that space technology is generally very expensive, very inaccessible. How do we take the openness and Accessibility of Arduino and combine it with um, the mystery, I suppose, and the inspiration of space? So in 2012 four graduates of the international space university got together and decided to take these two things and combine them. Most space projects are built with a very specific purpose in mind. They, ah, optimise for a scientific outcome, or to achieve some particular engineering test. But what they had in mind was instead to take the flexibility of Arduino, and put it in orbit so that students could access it just like they could use an Arduino sitting on a bench in their classroom. So they tested the concept by taking a number Arduinos, connecting it up to a shared sensor suite, and proved that they could use a shared communications bus to talk to all of the sensors.
Now the way they chose to go about this was using a standard called cube-stat standard. Cube sats have been growing rapidly in popularity over the last 10 years in particular. They originated in 1989 at Cal-poly. And the cube sat standard stipulates that a satellite has to be a 10 cm cube under 1 1/3 kgs in mass. And there are a number of other restrictions on it as well, but by having a common format for a very small very cheap satellite, it makes it possible for small groups of people to - with very little funding - build a satellite that can actually be placed in orbit, and by having a standardised for factor, it means that a lot of the infrastructure around it, like, um, "how do you actually get this into orbit, how do you then deploy it?" can be standardised.
So there have been quite a few cube sats launched over the years, um, as of late 2013 there were, there have been just under 100, I believe, that have been launched, including these three - I showed this picture at the last LCA.
This is 3 cube sats being deployed from the international space station. And I particularly like this picture because it illustrates the flexibility of cube sats in terms of having an idea for something that is not necessarily going to require a lot of funding, or its not going to achieve a lot of funding. but its still an interesting thing to do. If you look at the top right cube-sat there, that's a cube-sat called, uh, FITSAT, which was made at the Fukuoka Institute of Technology in Japan. And this is a closer look at it.
So FITSAT, if you look at eh top of it, all of those things are high intensity LEDs, and the purpose of FITSAT is to blink out Morse code messages as it flies across the sky. So it's a high-intensity blinking LED in space.
So, the ArduSat team had a plan for how they would use this cube-sat standard and incorporate a number of Arduinos into it, and a range of sensors. But they needed funds for it, so of course they went to Kickstarter. And I think it was about a day or two days after this project went up that I saw it and I thought 'oh, space technology and Arduino, this is awesomeness combined, I really ought to get into this. So I contacted them and offered my services. and I basically said "I'll do anything for you -- I'll give you hardware, I'll make you coffee". So in the end the agreement was that I would design the payload processor module, which is the part of the satellite that will run the experiments in space.
So this was in June 2012.