AmbaSat-1 HowTo

Congratulations and thank you for purchasing your AmbaSat-1 Space Satellite Kit!

Here you will find the full step-by-step guide on building your Space Satellite

AmbaSat-1 Satellite Kit – How To Overview

AmbaSat-1 is part of 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, groups of AmbaSat-1 satellites are launched onboard a commercial rocket. By shrinking the spacecraft, up to 200 satellites can be launched at a time, reducing costs.

Making use of The Things Network (TTN), AmbaSats are capable of transmitting data to over ten 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.

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.

What’s in the AmbaSat Kit?

  • AmbaSat PCB – the main board where all the components are placed, including the MCU (Micro Controller Unit)
  • Micro Controller Unit – the brains of AmbaSat. This is where your code lives
  • Solar Panels – Spaceflight approved solar panels providing power to your satellite
  • Transceiver – The radio communications chip. This is the chip which will send data back to Earth and into your AmbaSat Dashboard
  • FTDI board – this is used for coding and converts your USB port to serial
  • Gyroscope, Accelerometer, Magnetometer – used to locate your satellite in space
  • A bag of parts containing resistors, capacitors, voltage regulator and other components
  • Your chosen sensor or default sensor (the default sensor is the STS21)
AmbaSat-1 Kit

Skills for assembling the AmbaSat-1 Spacecraft

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:

  • Basic soldering experience
  • A knowledge of components
  • Understanding electronics schematics
  • What a resistor does
  • How capacitors work
  • Electronics fundamentals
  • How to solder
  • How a gyroscope works
  • How to code
  • Arduino coding language (which is based on C/C++)

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. Follow this 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 your skills and whether you have 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.

Resources

There are several online resources available to help during your build. These are as follows:

The AmbaSat Forum – here you can get advice and tips from other AmbaSat-1 assemblers

https://forum.ambasat.com/

GitHub repository – All our open source code is available from the GitHub repository located at:

https://github.com/ambasat/AmbaSat-1

Eagle board schematics – available at:

https://github.com/ambasat/AmbaSat-1/tree/master/Release/Eagle

Example source code is available to download at:

https://github.com/ambasat/AmbaSat-1/tree/master/Release/Source/Examples

Main Components

  1. The Mainboard (PCB)

This is the main printed circuit board (PCB) of the AmbaSat-1 kit. It’s like a computer’s ‘motherboard’.

The AmbaSat-1 PCB also contains the microcontroller or brains of the satellite (the ATMEGA 328), as well as the radio transceiver unit which is used to send data back to Earth.

There is power management circuitry to control the amount of power delivered to the components. AmbaSat-1 is configured to sip very low power and will function down to 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.

The PCB features a tiny chip which is a special 3-in-1 Integrated Circuit (IC) 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.

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 are over 700km

  1. The Solarboard (PCB)

The solarboard houses 5 spaceflight approved solar panels. These TrisolX Solar Wings power your spacecraft and are cut from space-certified solar cell wafers manufactured by Azurspace.

  1. Sensor ‘Daughterboard’ (PCB)

In addition to the gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer sensor, you can choose from one of eight additional sensors.  These come on ‘daughterboards’ which you solder to the main AmbaSat-1 printed circuit board (PCB).

You can view the range of eight sensors from the link below:

https://ambasat.com/ambasat-2/sensor-options/

  1. Battery holder

This is a standard 2xAA size battery holder. Use this when developing and testing your ambaSat-1 assembly. 3v of power will be reduced by the onboard regulator to 2.5v for testing.

  1. 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!

  1. CH340 Programmer and cables

The CH340 is a programming board used to program your satellite. It plugs into the USB port of your computer and converts data into RX, TX, DTR, VCC, GND & DTS signals. It can be used with Arduino boards too and is designed to be used for USB to TTL electronic projects. Built-in USB to TTL Transfer chip.

There is a Status LED, and dual 3.3V and 5V Power outputs.

Software drivers for the programmer can be downloaded from the internet and Sparkfun has a video on ‘How to Install CH340 Drivers’. Check out the link below.

https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/how-to-install-ch340-drivers/all

  1. Component Pack

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The smaller components are included inside a single ‘components’ pack. Inside the pack, components are divided into 3 separate ‘strips’.  These strips are:

  • Resistors (10k, 1k, 1.6k)
  • Capacitors (10uf, 1uf)
  • Other components (Voltage regulator, crystal, etc)