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The Forefront of Space Science

ARTSAT: Art and Satellite Project
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In order to extend the satellite’s public function widely, we set three mottos for the production of INVADER. These were “everyone’s satellite,Eto make it open to society; “sensible satellite,Eto stimulate people’s perception and emotion; and “aesthetic satellite,Ea total design combining function and form.

To this end, INVADER carries Morikawa*3, a mission On-Board Computer (OBC) compatible with the open-source platform Arduino. Arduino is widely used in many classes at art/design universities as the de facto standard for creating interactive works. By developing a library of Morikawa applications, such as INVADER sensor-data acquisition or control of camera and digitalker (voice transmission), many people other than scientific/technological specialists and professional programmers can execute their own programs in orbit and directly transmit voice and music data as well as numerical data to the ground. Receiving messages from the ground and executing programs in orbit, Morikawa is a remote-creation performer in place of creators on the ground. We expect to develop Morikawa as a multi-purpose mission OBC for extreme environments, capable of being installed not only on satellites but also balloons, deep space payloads, and submersible ships.

The main-control station using amateur radio of INVADER, TamabiGS (Tama Art University Ground Station), was built at Tama Art University. The students produced its software using the open-source toolkit openFrameworks for creative coding. Control of the station’s radio and antenna are carried out by resident daemon (artsatd). It is designed to reduce load during satellite operation by realizing a flexible system structure of the server-client type.

Figure 2. Ground station built at Tama Art University

The INVADER data retrieved by TamabiGS will be released publicly by ARTSAT API*4. API stands for Application Programming Interface, a mechanism to exchange data between programs. Morikawa processes the sensor data in orbit and then downlinks the results to the ground, while ARTSAT API transmits the data to the ground first, allowing us to acquire and process data discretionally. Since the transmission speed between INVADER and the ground is 1200bps, the total volume of data that could be obtained from the satellite per day would be at most approx. 10 kb. This communication volume will create a bottleneck in traffic between the satellite and the ground. In other words, Morikawa processes the satellite sensor data before the bottleneck, while ARTSAT API processes the data after the bottleneck. The advantage of in-orbit processing is that it allows utilization of raw sensor data. Meanwhile, the advantage of ground processing is that it allows us unlimited repetition of data processing using trial and error. It is essential that, depending on the nature of the creative works, we can use the two systems independently or in combination.

The INVADER’s chassis, which operates in the extremely severe environment of outer space, is made of elaborately machined aluminum parts. By integrating many parts into one and emphasizing a chassis structure fabricated by an experienced craftsman, we designed a satellite that was sophisticated in terms of artistic form not just function. The power to move the human mind is created by a beauty that fuses art and technology and incorporates intricate elaboration.

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