Harlow College students build CubeSats using Raspberry Pi Pico #Space #RaspberryPi #MicroPython #CircuitPython @ATaylorFPGA @Raspberry_Pi @Pimoroni

First and second year engineering students at Harlow College (Harlow, Essex, UK) have been busy designing and building a new CubeSat platform, with the ultimate aim of getting their boards and designs in space, taking photos of the Earth and beaming them back to the classroom.

The CubeSat platform is based around the Raspberry Pi Pico, consisting of three parts to the design: an acquisition board loaded with a camera and various sensors and storage; a master controller board with a radio link; and a ground station containing a radio link and decoder software. All three boards use the Raspberry Pi Pico, and the software is written with a mix of MicroPython and CircuitPython across the three boards.

Over a period of two years, two hours per week, students have been studiously experimenting, designing, re-designing, prototyping and testing and perfecting the designs, and building parts of the system. The acquisition board contains a number of Adafruit and Pimoroni sensor boards, an ArduCam, an Adafruit SDCard breakout board, and of course the Raspberry Pi Pico. This board takes high resolution photos and stores them on the SDCard for later analysis and transfer. The master controller board and ground station decoder both use an Adafruit RFM69W radio transceiver breakout board.

Students have been working diligently on this project over a two year period within the college’s enrichment programme – a programme of activities every Wednesday afternoon delivered by teachers and STEM Ambassadors, with the aim of helping students see the real application of technology while working with local experts in their field. With limited contact time every week, the students have found the range of breakout boards and open source software both easy to use and fast to plug together and prototype and experiment with ideas.

The programme aims to progressively launch the platform higher and higher, first flying it on a QuadCopter, next launching it on a high altitude weather balloon, and eventually finding and targeting a small shared and managed CubeSat platform when the design is fully verified.

The weekly sessions are supported by STEM Ambassadors from The Stem Hub, Harlow College teaching staff, Adiuvo Engineering  and Training Ltd, Thinking Binaries Ltd, Harlow Council and Anglia Ruskin University. Board designs are done using EasyEDA and fabricated via JLCPCB. Training kits for the programme were built for the college using boards and printed material provided by Monk Makes Ltd and Pimoroni Ltd.

You can read more on Twitter.


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