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The DIY Space Race – blast your own satellites into space

DIY space race

Join the soap box space race now

Tom Walkinshaw believes we are at the start of a DIY space race – where instead of mega-rich corporations and governments, even ordinary people will blast their own satellites into space.

On January 10, the 24-year-old entrepreneur’s PocketQubeShop opened its doors, and Walkinshaw says he hopes it will be the start of a “DIY space age” – with satellites available for as little as $15,000.

“I was inspired by Craig Clark (now MBE) and a talk he gave regarding ‘The decade of the Space Entrepreneur’,” says Walkinshaw. “I am also a huge fan of Elon Musk – what he has achieved with SpaceX is incredible.”

Musk, founder of PayPal has launched several missions to the International Space Station. Walkinshaw’s satellites are a little more modest in scale – and price.

 A PocketQube is 1/8th the volume of the current smallest satellite – it’s about 5cm 
“A PocketQube is 1/8th the volume of the current smallest satellite – it’s about 5cm –  and launch prices start around $20k. For the actual satellite PQs are slightly cheaper, but a sensible budget is around $15k. One group of students built theirs in only two months.”

The tiny satellites ‘hitch’ rides to space on other rockets – and Walkinshaw admits he has to wait,

“I think the next PocketQube launch will be end of 2014 or early 2015, although it depends on other people’s schedules. There are eight teams working on the project – primarily students, but with very varied goals. One team are working on tracking migrating birds which has a real impact back here on the ground.”

Walkinshaw hopes to launch 30 to 40 campaigns in 2013, and hopes that PocketQubeShop has a part to play in a DIY space revolution, “We never used to have PCs in every University/School, but now a classroom without them is unthinkable. Just last month the first high school got their satellite to orbit. Imagine the economic/technological multiplier effect if every University and High School followed in their footsteps.”

Walkinshaw launched the project via KickStarter, hitting his funding goal late in 2013. The smallest current satellites – CubeSats – cost around the price of a house – whereas PocketQube will be the price of a car. The Apollo missions cost billions, and a significant portion of the U.S. government’s budget throughout the Sixties. The Soviet government never disclosed the cost of Sputnik One, the first satellite, which transmitted a pulsed radio signal, causing consternation among the American population, and laying the foundations of today’s GPS systems.

Walkinshaw says, “We believe small satellites are on the cusp of a major breakthrough much the like personal computers were in the late 70s/early 80s. We believe space should be open to all.”

Join the soap box space race today by visiting Walkinshaw’s PocketQube Shop.

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