In part one of this micro-series on spaceships within reach, I told you about a few citizen astronauts–kids and adults–who got to the edge of space with a high-altitude weather balloon, an iphone and a chinese food takeout box. A step up from that, in altitude, complexity and yes, expense, is the Tubesat Personal Satellite Kit. For $8000 Interorbital Systems will sell you a kit and launch a .75 kilo cylindrical, okay, hexadecagonal, satellite into low earth orbit, where it will orbit the earth for a few weeks before entering earth’s atmosphere and burning up. (Which is nice since it won’t contribute to the dreaded Earth-isolated ablation cascade). The little satellites can be designed to do a variety of things and have a standard radio transmitter on them so the data gathered–whatever it might be–can be collected over Ham radio frequencies.
Project Calliope is planning on taking advantage of this new low-cost entrance to space for what promises to be a very cool citizen astronaut project. Alex Antunes is launching a Tubesat that will take readings from the earth’s ionosphere (where the auroras occur) and convert it into music, a process called sonification. The sonified data will be broadcast and also posted on the web for musicians and others to use in their compositions, based on the MIDI format. There’s a story on NPR that will tell you more–it’s great. Think of it as an orbiting Theremin, played by the earth and the sun. Ain’t nothing cooler than a Theremin than one in orbit. Seriously. (By the way, Antunes is raising money for Project Calliope on Kickstarter. Punkastronomy is a supporter, think about helping out even with $5. Only 47 hours to go!)
This is so unbelievably cool. I totally want to make a punkastronomy satellite. I just need eight grand and an idea for what the satellite would actually do!
If I was going to be all punk and situationist about it, I’d just have the satellite broadcast “Girl from Ipanema,” or maybe even better (but perhaps less situationist), Billy Bragg’s The Space Race is Over.