DIY Satellites Become a Reality

Private launch companies put space within easy reach


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.