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Why Yes, It Is Time for Homemade Satellites

Rendering of the AAU CubeSat built by students from Aalborg University in Denmark.
Rendering of the AAU CubeSat built by students from Aalborg University in Denmark.

Here’s a fun fact: Over the next year a dozen or so tiny, homemade satellites will be launched into space. They will travel in low Earth orbit—140 to 600 miles up, roughly as high as the International Space Station—conducting a variety of experiments. With time they will drift toward earth until they reenter the atmosphere and incinerate into memories.

Sandy Antunes, a former NASA employee-turned professor, has documented the rise of these so-called pico satellites in a pair of books: DIY Satellite Platforms and Surviving Orbit the DIY Way. Antunes also runs a website called Project Calliope, which follows his quest to build a satellite. Antunes has paid $10,000 for a spot on a rocket that will carry his homemade satellite to space next year.