Imagine if you could build your very own spacecraft and have it launched into Low Earth Orbit
AmbaSat-1 is a tiny Space satellite kit that you assemble and code yourself.
Once your satellite kit is assembled and programmed, it will be launched on-board a commercial rocket into Low Earth Orbit, where it will spend up to 3 months in space.
AmbaSat-1 uses LoRaWAN and The Things Network to send live data back to Earth. No special radio equipment is needed, you can view all your satellite's telemetry data via the internet.
It’s your very own satellite in Space and we need your help to make it happen
Would you like to have your own spacecraft launched into space?
AmbaSat-1 belongs to a new generation of satellites known as Sprite satellites. They are tiny spacecraft measuring 35 mm square and just a few millimetres thick. Pioneered by the original KickSat, our goal is to launch groups of AmbaSat-1 satellites onboard a commercial rocket. By shrinking the spacecraft, we can fit up to 200 satellites into a single rocket launch.
The AmbaSat-1 Spacecraft
AmbaSats are just a little bigger than the size of a couple of postage stamps but have solar cells, a LoRaWAN radio transceiver, microcontroller (an Arduino compatible ATMEGA 328P-AU), memory, a gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer as well as a range of other sensor options. Making use of The Things Network (TTN), AmbaSats are capable of transmitting data to over five thousand Earth-based TTN receivers (Gateways) which are spread around the whole globe. No specialist radio receiving equipment is required, your data appears over the internet directly to your AmbaSat Dashboard (see full details later).
The Rocket Launch
How will my satellite get into space?
If you choose the rocket launch option (see below), your AmbaSat-1 satellite will travel into space inside a CubeSat. This is a small “3U” container measuring 10cm x 10cm x 32cm. The CubeSat is secured inside the payload area of the launch rocket and contains spring-loaded stacks of up to 200 AmbaSat-1 satellites. On reaching Low Earth Orbit (about 250km above Earth), a radio transmission will be sent from our ground station with the command to release the AmbaSats into space, where they will become free-flying spacecraft. Your satellite will then power itself using its bank of solar cells and you will start to receive data to your AmbaSat Dashboard (see later). Congratulations, you now belong to a very exclusive group of makers! You have your very own satellite, live in Space and sending data back to Earth over a network of 5000+ Things Network (TTN) "ground stations".
Which rocket company will launch my satellite?
We’ve chosen Interorbital Systems as our rocket launch partner. Interorbital Systems (IOS) is a rocket, satellite and spacecraft manufacturing company and they also provide a full launch-service for third-parties. Their innovative modular launch vehicle, the NEPTUNE, will provide your AmbaSat with the world's lowest-cost access to space. Interorbital Systems deliver reliable and affordable space-launch solutions.
What are my basic Pledge/product options?
We've created a wide range of pledge options to meet your budget and goals but the two main differences are battery or solar power.
You can also choose to build your spacecraft first and then add on a rocket launch at a later date.
1. AmbaSat-1 Kit - battery power
This is the base option. If you're interested in building a satellite but don't have the budget or need for a full rocket launch then this is the one for you. Battery powered AmbaSat-1 satellites work just as well on Earth as they do in space and will connect to any Things Network (TTN) Gateway - there are over five thousand of these available around the globe. Choose this option if you'd like to build a kit and use it on Earth. 2 x AA batteries are all that's needed to power your Earth-based satellite for 2 years.
2. AmbaSat-1 Kit - solar
This is very similar to the base option above, except it comes with solar power cells instead of being powered by batteries. Choose this option if you'd like your satellite to be solar powered. The solar cells add additional cost but with the advantage that if you decide later that you'd like to launch your satellite into space then you already have the required package. All you need to do is book your slot on the next available rocket launch.
The remaining options available cover pre-assembled satellites and whether you would like your satellite to be Earth-based or want to go for the full rocket launch into space.
All satellite options which include the full rocket launch are solar powered. No batteries in space!
Your Mission (Building your spacecraft)
Your mission is split up into several stages. Once you receive your AmbaSat kit, it’s time to start assembling the parts. If you’ve chosen the full-build kit option, you will receive the AmbaSat Printed Circuit Board (PCB), microcontroller unit, kit of components, solar cells (or battery holder), etc. Now you can start assembling all the component parts onto the mainboard. If you’re new to hardware and software, there is a backer option available which contains a full kit of tools to get you started, including soldering iron, multi-meter, wire cutters, etc.
If you’ve chosen the pre-assembled kit, then your satellite comes with all components pre-soldered onto the PCB. In that case you can move straight on to coding your satellite (see below). Your kit also comes with all the sample source code and instructions to get your satellite up and running.
Once you have a fully assembled AmbaSat-1, it’s time to break out your coding skills. Don’t worry though, if you’ve never coded before, we’ve included a full step-by-step guide on how to program your satellite. Also included is full example source code plus a range of different code templates which you can copy and modify so that you can get your satellite up and running quickly and doing exactly what you want it to do. See the Coding section below for full details.
After assembling and coding your satellite, it’s time to test that everything is working. In order to test your completed satellite, you will need to sign-in to your AmbaSat Dashboard. This is where you will see all kinds of data related to your spacecraft, including things like launch date, rocket type and specification, maps and spacecraft tracking details, etc. From the Dashboard you can view and test your satellite’s connectivity with the TTN network. See the AmbaSat Dashboard section below for full details.
After testing and tweaking is complete, you are READY FOR LAUNCH! But wait!
Two months before launch date, you will need to return your completed and tested spacecraft back to our labs where it will undergo extensive pre-launch testing. We will perform compliance tests to make sure that your satellite conforms to space flight requirements, followed by a two-week soak-test to make sure all of your hard work can stand up to prolonged space flight. Finally, we will carry out a full vibration test before shipping to the cleanroom labs at Interorbital Systems where your satellite will be mounted into a deployer CubeSat. Once all satellites are mounted into the CubeSat, this will be loaded into the rocket’s NEPTUNE payload capsule ready for launch.
Login, lock-on and get ready for the show!
On launch day you will receive an email notification at T minus 2 hours prior to rocket launch. You should log-in to your AmbaSat Dashboard (see below) where you will see a LIVE video stream from the rocket launch site. Countdown will start two hours before launch. You can also interact with your fellow satellite makers using the built-in Dashboard messaging system.
Mission Control should also be able to provide additional feeds from NEPTUNE’s onboard cameras where we can follow the LIVE rocket ascent into Low Earth Orbit - LEO.
When NEPTUNE reaches LEO (approximately 250km from Earth), the CubeSat container will be deployed from NEPTUNE’s payload capsule into an Equatorial orbit. This orbit gives your AmbaSat-1 spacecraft the best possible communications capabilities.
After a successful launch and deployment confirmation from InterOrbital Systems Mission Control, we will issue the command to release the AmbaSats from their CubeSat container.
Once your AmbaSat satellite is released from the CubeSat container, it will power-up and begin sending data back to your Dashboard via The Things Network of Gateways.
Your satellite is finally in space! You have control!
The AmbaSat Dashboard
The AmbaSat Dashboard is at the heart of your satellite’s Mission Control system. The Dashboard is a web-based app which you can access on your PC, tablet or mobile phone. When you receive your satellite kit, you will also receive a registration document which will give you FREE login access to your very own Dashboard. Login to your Dashboard and take a look around. You’ll see:
- On launch day, a LIVE video feed of the actual launch
- Launch day countdown timer
- A map plotting the trajectory of your spacecraft
- Satellite telemetry which is automatically sent by your AmbaSat
- Voltage, location, etc
- The NEPTUNE rocket specification
- Full flight analysis
- A list of your fellow ‘passengers’ (your AmbaSat co-launch buddies)
- Messaging center for communicating with your ‘passengers’
- Data and graphs from your sensors
Prior to launch, during your building and testing phase, you can use your Dashboard for testing and debugging your satellite and sensors and viewing local data transmissions. Follow our step by step guide on how to assemble your spacecraft, modify the existing code samples and when you’re ready to test, login to your Dashboard to view sensor data.
Your AmbaSat-1 is fully Things Network (TTN) compliant so as well as viewing data in your Dashboard, you can sign-up for a TTN account and access your satellite’s sensor data directly using a range of different TTN extensions.
AmbaSat is Fun but also Educational
If you’re new to the MAKER world then during the process of building your AmbaSat-1 spacecraft, you will learn all about the basics of electronics, including:
- What a resistor does
- How capacitors work
- Electronics fundamentals
- How to solder
- How a gyroscope works
- Physical computing
- How to code
- Arduino coding language (which is based on C/C++)
By building your AmbaSat-1 satellite, you will be developing a cutting-edge spacecraft of the SpriteSat class. Over the coming years, these types of spacecraft will be at the very forefront of future space exploration and deliver accessible space exploration for all of us, not just governments and large corporations. You’ll learn REAL electronics and all about hardware and software, communications, radios, coding and much more. And you will also be taking part in a truly exciting adventure in space exploration.
As well as learning about hardware and software, you will need some REAL tools in order to assemble your spacecraft. Such as:
- A soldering iron (not too expensive)
- Wire strippers
- A screwdriver
- A magnifying glass (not essential but helpful)
- A multimeter
If you're a maker, you probably already have these tools.
If you're just starting out on the maker journey and still don't have these tools, don't worry, we've got you covered. We've created a special version of the AmbaSat kit that already comes with all the required tools. Check out the Pledge section for more info about the available kit versions.
Who is the AmbaSat-1 kit for?
The AmbaSat-1 Satellite kit is suitable for both experienced electronics geeks, hardware and software professionals and all the way through to those with no or little expertise. Regarding age, anyone 11-years-old and above should be able to assemble their own AmbaSat-1, with a little help from an adult. Beginners can follow our step by step guide on how to assemble your spacecraft, modify the existing code samples and program the satellite.
Estimated hardware build time: 4 hours.
The build time will vary depending on the skills of the person and if the person has ever soldered before. SMD (surface mount device) components are very small and can be a little tricky to solder. You may need a magnifying glass, fine solder tips and a steady hand! For best results when soldering SMD components, we recommend a soldering reflow tool with hot air gun solder. These can be purchased for less than $40.
Estimated software development time: 2 hours – unlimited
Building your AmbaSat is just the beginning. You can spend many hours interacting with your satellite during development, trying different sensors, interfacing with The Things Network, learning about software development and experimenting with the hardware. Just imagine what you can achieve.
What’s in the AmbaSat Kit?
1. AmbaSat-1 PCB – the main board where all the components are placed, including the MCU (Micro Controller Unit)
2. Micro Controller Unit – the brains of AmbaSat. This is where your code lives
3. Solar Panels – Spaceflight approved solar panels providing power to your satellite
4. Transceiver – The radio communications chip. This is the chip which will send data back to Earth and into your AmbaSat Dashboard
5. FTDI board – this is used for coding and converts your USB port to serial
6. Gyroscope, Accelerometer, Magnetometer – used to locate your satellite in space
7. A bag of parts containing resistors, capacitors, voltage regulator and other components
8. Your chosen sensor (see below for the range of available sensors)
What’s in the tools pack?
If you choose a reward with the tools pack included, you will get a customised toolbox filled with all the essential tools needed for your AmbaSat assembly:
1. Soldering iron
2. Multimeter for testing your circuit
3. Wire cutters
Software Coding (Programming your Satellite)
Arduino is the language of Makers!
Your AmbaSat is fully Arduino compatible and code is written using C/C++
Every day, without knowing it, you probably use software that is written in C/C++ and big companies use it to code microprocessors, mobiles, tablets and computers and write all sorts of great apps.
Whether you’re new to the ‘C’ language or a seasoned pro, we have all the libraries, example source code and interfaces you need to get your satellite flying.
Your AmbaSat kit comes complete with a FTDI USB adapter allowing direct coding in the Arduino IDE (based on C/C++). It’s the most popular programming environment for makers and hardware enthusiasts. Follow our step-by-step guide to connect your adapter.
AmbaSat is fully compatible with all Arduino related code examples. That’s because your satellite uses the well-respected Atmel ATMEGA-328 which is exactly the same microprocessor used by Arduino!
In fact, your satellite is compatible with all online Arduino software libraries and your code will work with Arduino shields and modules with little or no library code modifications.
Never coded before? Don’t know the first thing about hardware?
That’s no problem. The AmbaSat Kit build will take you from learning how to use a soldering iron all the way through to assembling and coding your very own satellite.
We’ve created a detailed step-by-step learning process:
What can I do with my satellite?
Measure! Explore! Measure!
What better way of showing off your uber-cool geekness than building your own spacecraft?
Your AmbaSat is fun but it’s also practical. Maybe you’re just looking to put your very own spacecraft into space. That’s great and also very cool. You can program it to send any message back to Earth that you like. However, if you’re looking for practical applications, including studying the environmental impact of gases, radiation, global warming, etc then read on!
Every AmbaSat comes loaded with a gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer sensor. These sensors come in the form of an integrated chip (IC) which is called the LSM9DS1. In low Earth orbit, there is no GPS signal available so this chip helps plot your satellite’s orbit in space. It’s a versatile, motion-sensing system-on-a-chip. It houses a 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, and 3-axis magnetometer – nine degrees of freedom (9DOF) in a single IC. See the LSM9DS1 overview section for more details on what this fantastic IC can do.
In addition to the LSM9DS1, when you select your AmbaSat kit, you get the option to choose which type of additional sensor you would like to fit onto your satellite.
Sensors come on 'daughterboards' which you solder to the main AmbaSat-1 printed circuit board (PCB).
The range of sensors which are available consist of:
Temperature & Humidity Sensor
This STS21 sensor is the easy way to measure humidity and temperature readings in one place. A Dual Flat No leads (DFN) package in a 3 x 3mm foot print and 1.1mm depth. It provides calibrated, linearized signals in digital, I2C format.
The BME680 Environmental Sensor is a low power gas, pressure, temperature & humidity sensor based on BOSCH BME680 sensor. It is a 4-in-1 multi-functional MEMS environmental sensor which integrates VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) sensor, temperature sensor, humidity sensor and barometer.
With the BME680 Environmental Sensor, you can monitor 4 environmental parameters simultaneously and is widely used in environmental monitoring, home automation and control, Internet of Things (IoT) wearable device, GPS, etc.
Ultraviolet (UV) Sensor
The GUVA-S12SD chip detects the UV radiation from the sun. It can detect the UV wavelength between 200-370nm and features a fast response, linear analogue voltage signal output.
The sun is a source of the full spectrum of ultraviolet radiation, which is commonly subdivided into UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. These are the classifications most often used in Earth sciences. UV-C rays are the most harmful and are almost completely absorbed by our atmosphere. UV-B rays are the harmful rays that cause sunburn. Exposure to UV-B rays increases the risk of DNA and other cellular damage in living organisms.
Measuring the sun’s UV light enables you to estimate the amount of UV radiation reaching the Earth's surface and forecast high-UV-index days for public health awareness.
Analog Gas Sensor
The analogue gas sensor is based on the MQ2 probe which is able to detect a range of gas types, including hydrogen and methane. Methane is one of the Earth’s “Greenhouse gasses” and is a very hot topic for environmentalists and Earth lovers everywhere.
NASA scientists have previously analysed satellite data and found large methane “hot spots” in the U.S. Southwest which is responsible for producing the largest concentration of the greenhouse gas methane seen over the United States – more than triple the standard ground-based estimate.
Ambient Light Sensor
How about measuring the amount of light emitted from Earth? Or analysing which cities or countries are using the most amount of electrically powered light and identify where power savings can be made.
The Ambient Light Sensor is based on the VEML7700, which is a high accuracy ambient light digital 16-bit resolution sensor. It includes a highly sensitive photo diode, a low noise amplifier and a 16-bit A/D converter. Data output by this sensor is in Lux (Lx).
Can I fit my own sensor?
Yes, as long as your sensor conforms to certain criteria, including size and safety, then you can fit your own. Your AmbaSat satellite provides additional connectivity pins which expose the ATMEGA's I2C bus, as well as digital and analogue pins, plus power.
AmbaSat’s totally awesome specs
For the geek in everyone, here’s the part where we talk about the HARDWARE!
The Microcontroller (MCU)
The ATMEGA328P-AU is an 8-bit high-performance picoPower AVR RISC-based Microcontroller with 32kB ISP flash memory. This is the ‘brains’ of your spacecraft.
Including SPI serial port, I2C interface, a 6-channel 10-bit A/D converter, programmable watchdog timer with internal oscillator and five software selectable power saving modes.
Also featuring ultra-low power consumption and awesome 1 MIPS per MHz speed, balancing power consumption and processing speed.
LoRa RFM95 Radio Transceiver
The RFM95 radio transceiver features the LoRa™ long range modem that provides ultra-long range spread spectrum communication and high interference immunity whilst minimising current consumption. Tested range distances for this wonderful piece of kit are over 700km!
Every AmbaSat is equipped with the LSM9DS1. It’s an Integrated Circuit Chip that can measure three key properties of movement – angular velocity, acceleration, and heading – in a single IC.
The gyroscope can measure “how fast, and along which axis, am I rotating”?
The accelerometer measures acceleration – “how fast am I speeding up or slowing down?”
Finally, there’s the magnetometer, which measures the power and direction of magnetic fields.
By measuring these three properties, we can gain a great deal of knowledge about your spacecraft’s movement and orientation and by measuring the force and direction of Earth’s magnetic field you can approximate your satellite’s heading.
Your AmbaSat-1 is configured to sip very low power and will function on only 1.8v. The onboard regulator maintains a healthy power output for the MCU, sensor and gyroscope, etc. The satellite can be powered by battery (2x 1.5v AA batteries) or solar cells.
TrisolX Solar Wings power your spacecraft and are cut from space-certified solar cell wafers manufactured by Azurspace. With the included onboard voltage regulator to keep the current running smoothly.
AmbaSat is Open Source
We’ve learned a lot from the open source community. Electronics, hardware, coding, software libraries and much more.
So, we want to give our work back to the maker and open source community.
The AmbaSat-1 satellite software is fully open-source and available for full download
The AmbaSat-1 satellite hardware is also totally open source and the schematics and Bill of Materials (BoM) are available for download.
What this means is that you can fully use all the above and create your own version of the AmbaSat satellite. Go ahead and use the schematic and source code and create your very own spacecraft!
Help us spread the word about AmbaSat amongst your family and friends
Up for grabs! We will choose 100 wonderful folks who have shared our campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and thank you with the following:
One of the AmbaSat launch satellites belongs to us (AmbaSat). We will code it to regularly transmit a message from space which can be up to 30 characters long and contains a message of your choosing. It could be your name, your twitter handle, etc. This message will be broadcast from space and received by over 5000 TTN Earth-based stations and will appear on the AmbaSat website & twitter feed.
Who Are AmbaSat?
The people behind AmbaSat are a bunch of technology, software, hardware and environmental geeks who love technology and the environment. About two years ago AmbaSense was created by a team of three co-founders, Martin Platt, Marcel Houtveen and Daniel Hopwood who boast 30 years’ experience in the environmental health and IT industries. Twelve months ago they created the AmbaSat brand to encapsulate their satellite work and apply their business and technology knowledge to this new space venture. The team expanded to include several new faces and skills, including Wannapa Siripong, Environmental Chief, and John Chipp, hardware design expert.
Martin Platt, co-founder and CEO at AmbaSat comments:
“For the past three years we’ve delivered thousands of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to the food and social care industries through our AmbaSense Tiaki brand. During the journey we learned a lot about the business of delivering successful hardware and software and wanted to apply our knowledge and expertise to a very different field but one with a very similar set of fundamental technology requirements.”
“All our technology is designed and developed in-house, this includes the hardware, PCBs, Web Dashboards, server code, etc and all the business bits in between. We are passionate about the environment and through our sensor work have studied the impact human beings are having on our planet. We want to widen the study capabilities, both for Earth and beyond and empower users to solve complex problems with their own environmental challenges and solutions. Educational establishments, students, individuals and MAKERS now have this new tool at their fingertips. The AmbaSat satellite build is also a lot of fun!”
“Just imagine if you could build your very own spacecraft and have it launched into Low Earth Orbit, for little more than the cost of a PlayStation”
Here's to the crazy ones!
Risks and challenges
Creating a new product can be difficult and building a new product in quantity can also be risky. Thankfully we’ve got experience in doing this already. Where possible we’ve also attempted to use a common set of off-the-shelf hardware parts so that components are easy to get hold of. We’ve also built the software on top of the awesome Arduino platform. There are lots of people very familiar with the Arduino hardware and IDE.
Launching something into space is a risky venture and some things are out of our control, regardless of how well we prepare. Rockets blow up, get cancelled or get postponed. We’ve done everything to make sure that we can meet our timeline and if there are things that start to look unlikely then we will let you know straightaway. But we are confident that solutions can always be found. That’s what we do and it’s the nature of our business.
We have resource capacity through our existing AmbaSense business to help with the production of the AmbaSat Kits. And because we directly control the manufacturing process, we can manage the quality of the completed kits.
We already have experience in creating, building and launching successful products and have already delivered 3000 of our Tiaki temperature sensors in 23 different countries.
We are a group of friends who are hard-working and enjoy and believe in what we do and we want to give everyone the opportunity to have their own spacecraft and explore the universe.
Happy space exploration with your AmbaSat!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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