Space Science / Rocketry Education Resources
Note that some resources/links will be listed under multiple headings.
Raspberry Pi / Arduino Resources
Raspberry Pi / Astro Pi competition / SenseHAT
In December 2015, British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake blasted off to the International Space Station for Mission Principia – and two Raspberry Pi computers with a special add-on board are ready for him. As part of his mission, he ran experiments which utilised the board’s sensors, created and coded by English school students (modified text from https://astro-pi.org/about/).
A Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer originally designed for education, inspired by the 1981 BBC Micro. Creator Eben Upton’s goal was to create a low-cost device that would improve programming skills and hardware understanding at the pre-university level. But thanks to its small size and accessible price, it was quickly adopted by tinkerers, makers, and electronics enthusiasts for projects that require more than a basic microcontroller (such as Arduino devices). Text from https://opensource.com/resources/what-raspberry-pi
The Sense HAT (text source) is an add-on board for Raspberry Pi and was made especially for the Astro Pi mission. The Sense HAT has an 8×8 RGB LED matrix, a five-button joystick and includes the following sensors:
- Barometric pressure
The Sense HAT is still available for sale. Using it with your students would allow you to recreate the experiments undertaken on board the International Space Station or they could create their own.
Smartphone rocket launcher
A great video on how to use a Raspberry Pi to control a model rocket launch. Ideal for an advanced project for your students. The article can be found on the Make magazine website.
Satellite making / Satellite Simulations
Cansats are relatively unknown in the Australian education community. They provide a relatively low cost way for students to gain experience in building a satellite that is launched by a model rocket for a (very short) mission. Very detailed information about building one can be found in this document.
Another way to simulate a satellite mission is to attach the data collecting instruments to a drone. Students can then fly the drone to collect information as desired. Using a drone has the advantage of allowing a longer flight.
The ‘mission’ could be as simple as recording the temperature as the drone changes height. Initially, I plan to trial this with a small group of students flying my drone and using Google Sheets to see if the temperature changes as the drone gains height. I was planning to use an Arduino equipped with a temperature and height (pressure) sensor and have the data stored on a SD card for importing into a spreadsheet program such as Google Sheets. Unfortunately, my programming skills are not ‘there’ yet, so I will have students record the height of the drone using trigonometry and match this to the data on the cheap data logger.
Radio Astronomy / Listening to spacecraft
Until recently, radio astronomy was out of reach of schools due to the cost of the radio receivers. The arrival of very low cost TV receivers (that look like fat USB drives with a plug for an antenna cable) that can run free software has changed this.
A good starting point for reading about using these software defined radio dongles can be found here.
Listening to spacecraft
A great project if you have access to a (expensive) radio scanner or an inexpensive software radio defined dongle is to listen to the International Space Station astronauts communicate on the radio as they pass over head. You can also apparently download free images from weather satellites as they zip overhead too.
Make magazine has an article titled ‘Listening to Satellites with a Homemade Yagi Antenna‘ which is worth reading and attempting.
I also came across an article (free download in PDF format) by Richard Crow on how to build an even cheaper / easier version of the antenna titled ‘Build this Cheap and Easy Satellite Downlink Antenna by Richard F. Crow‘. It is on my list of projects to try.