DIY Picosatellites Hack Chat

It may be small, but it's still rocket science

Wednesday, June 21, 2023 12:00 pm PDT Local time zone:
Hack Chat
Similar projects worth following

Nathaniel Evry will host the Hack Chat on Wednesday, June 21 at noon Pacific.

Time zones got you down? Try our handy time zone converter.


Building a satellite and putting it in orbit was until very recently something only a nation had the resources to accomplish, and even then only a select few. Oh sure, there were a few amateur satellites that somehow managed to get built on a shoestring budget and hitch a ride into space, and while their stories are deservedly the stuff of legends, satellite construction took a very long time to be democratized.

Fast forward a half-dozen or so decades, and things have changed dramatically. Satellite launches are still complex affairs -- it's still rocket science, after all -- but the advent of the CubeSat format and the increased tempo of launches, both national and commercial, has pushed the barriers to private, low-budget launches way, way down. So much so, in fact, that the phrase "space startup" is no longer something to snicker about.

One such group of space entrepreneurs is Quub, Inc., a small company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania which is looking to build and fly a constellation of microsatellites to monitor Earth's environment in real-time. They're building sats and signing launch deals, using consumer-grade technology and modularized construction, and we're lucky enough to have Nathaniel Evry, their Chief Research Officer, stop by the Hack Chat. If you've ever wondered what it takes to build hardware that can stand the rigors of launch and then perform a task in space, you'll want to tune in for this one.

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Page 2

    Dan Maloney06/21/2023 at 20:13 0 comments

    lakeskin12:57 PM
    If you need a GPS unit capable of operating at these altitutdes, or an ion thruster for a private project how can you be a member of the general public and attempt this? DIY sort of implies anyone with the knowhow could attempt this but there are obvious barriers, aren't there? Do you have to be professionally certified to be launching these satellites and get your hands on requisite hardware? You mention 'spicy solar panels' and radiation hardened hardware, stuff that isn't easily available to even a hobbyist engineer off hand. I feel like a lot of the DIY part of what you're saying is incomplete, of course you can use a Raspberry Pi or SDR or anything you like, but what about the stuff that you absolutely need? What's the process like?

    Boian Mitov12:57 PM
    How the tin fears in space ? I was under the impression it turns to dust at low temperatures

    Dan Maloney12:58 PM
    @Boian Mitov - like tin whiskers?

    Nathaniel@quub.space12:58 PM
    Hey guys, I'm running very short on time here, gonna try to answer a few quick

    Thomas Shaddack12:58 PM
    Can you just sneak tin-lead in? Would mitigate both the whiskers and tin pest.

    lakeskin12:58 PM
    I feel like I heard a lot of stuff about open source space tech before from outfits like Copenhagen Suborbitals for example, but eventually they had to take their designs down because of security concerns

    Dan Maloney12:58 PM
    No worries, we're up against the top of the hour anyway.

    Boian Mitov12:59 PM
    If I recall the pure tin turns to dust at very low temperatures

    Boian Mitov1:00 PM
    so special soldering has to be done for low temperature applications etc.

    Thomas Shaddack1:00 PM
    Thought. GaN-based optocouplers. Ordinary optos are GaAs that is rather rad-sensitive. GaN should be way more robust. Blue LED optically coupled over a photosensor?

    Thomas Shaddack1:00 PM
    Indium solders for cryo... nom!

    Guru-san1:00 PM
    Wait, is there enough atmosphere for buoyancy to work on the low orbit sattelite?

    Nathaniel@quub.space1:01 PM
    - Tin whiskers are a concern, but we mitigate this whenever possible using very little solder, and specialized ( fairly certain it can be got on Amazon )

    GPS chips themselves are required to not work higher than certain altitudes or faster than certain speeds. However, it's not actually needed to know the positioning. Orbits are fairly reliable and after a location is locked, we can track it until re-entry using math and signal reaquisition alone.

    Nathaniel@quub.space1:01 PM
    > I feel like I heard a lot of stuff about open source space tech before from outfits like Copenhagen Suborbitals for example, but eventually they had to take their designs down because of security concerns

    @lakeskin This is part of why we are maintaining a versioning gap in our releases.

    anfractuosity1:02 PM
    How long do they orbit for? I'm guessing a few months?

    lakeskin1:02 PM
    what if you have to make adjustments? are reaction wheels enough to change your trajectory?

    Nathaniel@quub.space1:02 PM
    Our estimated mission duration per-sat is 3-5 years @anfractuosity.

    lakeskin1:02 PM
    sorry i mean in terms of staying in orbit

    anfractuosity1:02 PM
    oh wow!

    Nathaniel@quub.space1:03 PM
    @lakeskin Reaction wheels are more like flailing your arms while sitting on a barstool. You sort of just spin.

    That's why we have Thrust!

    Thomas Shaddack1:03 PM
    What fuel for the ion engines?

    Thomas Shaddack1:03 PM
    Could laser-ablation of an otherwise inert block of solid "fuel" work too?

    Nathaniel@quub.space1:04 PM
    Check out the link above for AIS, there's a few different fuels.

    Alright, last call for images, questions, anything else before I have to go!

    lakeskin1:04 PM
    I assumed ion engines were for special missions, are they on all your satellites?

    Thomas Shaddack1:04 PM
    What material for wire insulations to cope with space?

    Thomas Shaddack1:05 PM
    Any conformal coatings on the boards?

    lakeskin1:05 PM
    And can you buy an ion thruster as a hobbyist lol

    anfractuosity1:05 PM
    that'd be a fun thing to...

    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Page 1

    Dan Maloney06/21/2023 at 20:11 0 comments

    Dan Maloney12:00 PM
    OK, let's talk satellites! I'm Dan, I'll be modding today along with Dusan for Nathaniel Evry from Quub, Inc as we talk DIY PIcosatellites. Apologies in advance for my wonky keyboard with the stuck spacebar, BTW

    hkurz12:00 PM

    Dan Maloney12:01 PM - Welcome aboard!

    Dusan Petrovic12:01 PM
    Hi Dan

    Dusan Petrovic12:01 PM
    Hello and welcome everyone!

    fid12:02 PM

    Dan Maloney12:02 PM
    Hi Dule!

    Boian Mitov12:02 PM
    Hello :-)

    Nathaniel@quub.space12:02 PM
    @Dan Maloney Thanks!! And funny that the *space* bar is what's bugging you :p

    Nathaniel@quub.space12:02 PM
    Welcome, hackers, scientists, and pioneers! I’m Nathaniel Evry, Chief Research Officer at quub, a vibrant aerospace startup pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the sky above. My career has been a thrilling journey through various domains, from software engineering to hardware prototyping, data science to systems architecture. However, all paths converge at one destination: innovation and the continuous pursuit of knowledge.

    In my role at quub, I harness the power of these diverse skills to accomplish something truly extraordinary - building and managing a network constellation of pico-satellites. This revolutionary project is about much more than exploring the final frontier; it's about democratizing access to real-time, earth-monitoring data for everyone, everywhere.

    As much as I love exploring the cosmos, I'm equally fascinated by the potential of modern artificial intelligence and Language Model development. I'm passionate about how these technologies can shape our future, and I apply them wherever possible in our work at quub, from automating satellite operations to processing the vast amounts of data our pico-satellites collect.

    Outside of work, you'll find me speaking on a variety of topics like AI and Space, deeply involved in the Lancaster Open Source Community, racing high-speed FPV drones, or working on 3D printed prosthetic hands for kids as part of a project that has allowed me to put the magic of technology in the hands of those who need it most.

    Today, I invite you to join me in a discussion about DIY picosatellites, the challenges they present, their potential, and the crossroads where space exploration meets AI and Language Model development. Let's unlock the mysteries of the universe together, one hack at a time!

    Nathaniel@quub.space12:02 PM
    Ask me. Anything

    *braces for impact*

    Dag Spicer12:03 PM
    Can you define a picosat (say vs a nanosat, &c)?

    Dag Spicer12:04 PM
    Shields up?

    hkurz12:04 PM
    What sensors do you have on board and how do you communicate with the satellites?

    Boian Mitov12:04 PM
    I am more curious as of what is actually the practical usage of a picosat

    vincent.e.leveque12:04 PM
    Are any educational institutions involved in your picosat project?

    Rob Mech12:05 PM
    Would picosat's have the ability to time share? Could someone pay for slices of time on the picosats without having to commit to a large expense of owning a sat in the constellation?

    Nathaniel@quub.space12:05 PM
    @Dag Spicer Sure! The naming convention is mostly related to the sizes and weights.

    NASA's page Minisatellite, 100-180 kilograms:

    Microsatellite, 10-100 kilograms

    Nanosatellite, 1-10 kilograms

    Picosatellite, 0.01-1 kilograms

    Femtosatellite, 0.001-0.01 kilograms

    But mostly we think of it in terms of SIZE. Our primary platform is a "6p Pocketqube" That is only ~50mm x 100mm x 200mm

    Norbert Heinz12:06 PM
    What is your personal best picosat in orbit?

    Boian Mitov12:06 PM
    Also how do we avoid collisions with picosats? I mean it starts to get a bit crowded up there...

    hkurz12:07 PM
    hm isn't this a "8p pocketcube", a pocketcube being 50mm x 50mm x 50mm?

    Nathaniel@quub.space12:08 PM
    @hkurz We work on Earth Observation using Optical Cameras, IR, SAR

    The craft needs motion sensing, deployment of solar panel sensing,...

    Read more »

View all 2 event logs

Enjoy this event?



Interested in attending?

Become a member to follow this event or host your own