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The Forefront of Space Science

ARTSAT: Art and Satellite Project
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Have you heard of an ultra-small satellite? When it comes to rockets and satellites, most people usually think of something large and expensive. Lately, however, just like compact computers and mobile phones, ultra-small satellites of under a few 10 kg in weight have been utilized around the world. In particular, CubeSat, which is only 10 cm square in size and 1 to 2 kg in weight, has become popular since students at University of Tokyo and Tokyo Institute of Technology successfully launched them in 2003. Since then, many universities and ventures have initiated their own CubeSat development. Amazingly, 65 ultra-small satellites were launched into outer space in the last week of November 2013.

Inspired by the spread of bottom-up space development, the ARTSAT Project*1 was launched in 2010. It was begun with the motivation to apply satellites and spacecraft, which had been designed and developed from the aspect of science and technology, to the field of art design.

The first ARTSAT Project satellite ARTSAT 1: INVADER*2 was launched as a piggyback payload on H-IIA F23 on February 28, 2014 and inserted into earth orbit. INVADER is a 10cm-square CubeSat as discussed above. It is the world’s first “art satelliteEto be launched for the purpose of a wide range of media arts created by the open release of the satellite’s data. Computers used to be big and expensive. With the emergence of small and inexpensive personal computers (PCs), however, a variety of applications have been developed including computer arts, digital design, games, and entertainment products, not just science and technology. With the popularization of ultra-small satellites, the connection between space and the earth is being personalized, just as the PC was personalized 40 years ago. I believe that satellites will be utilized for many social applications across the borders of disciplines and cultures. INVADER is very small satellite for space-development professionals, but a great leap for us as creators.

Another significant point of the ARTSAT Project is its implementation of different-field collaboration, which is a source of creativity throughout the ages. The project was launched by a collaborative initiative between Tama Art University and The University of Tokyo. The two sides, satellite manufacture (engineering group) and satellite utilization (art group), have been in discussion from the outset. We shared and integrated ideas and further enriched our imagination by making the jointly built satellite a common language between the two sides. Such an attempt at organic, different-field collaboration, making use of our strengths to explore an unknown world, is very rare.

The ARTSAT project aims to help build a society where satellites and the universe are familiar in our daily lives. Although satellites are usually invisible, they silently orbit the earth at ultra-high speed, transmitting various data. The art satellite has no specific mission such as scientific exploration or engineering demonstration. We hope to introduce an awareness of satellites and the universe into our lives. This will be achieved by creating media art works, for example, that appeal to human perception and sensation using familiar data transmitted from the satellite such as temperature, brightness, and attitude. Another example is the design of everyday products and applications such as furniture and accessories linked to the satellite’s motion, status, and environment.

Figure 1. Flight model of the art satellite INVADER

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