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Start-Up Seeks to Certify Arduino Hardware for Space Missions

Gareth Halfacree

Spectrum Aerospace

If you've had visions of conquering the stars since our look at Calumn Macintosh's rocket telemetry project, there's another hurdle you'll need to overcome. While space is mostly empty of matter, it's teeming with radiation that can fry normal electronics - assuming the insulative properties of the vacuum of space don't get there first. Anything sent up into space needs to be radiation-hardened and go through a testing process to become 'space qualified.'

That, funnily enough, is exactly what Spectrum Aerospace is looking to fund with a new Kickstarter campaign. A small start-up created from the incubator programmes at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and European Space Agency (ESA), Spectrum Aerospace is looking to encourage makers and hobbyists to get into extra-atmospheric electronics with a range of parts it calls Space-COTS (Commercial Off-The Shelf).

The Kickstarter campaign focuses on a pair of Arduino boards, certified to withstand the harsh environment beyond Earth's protective atmosphere. As well as a Space-Arduino Mini and Space-Arduino Uno, the company is also offering bare ATmega328 microcontrollers certified as space-suitable, along with add-on telemetry boards and a smart QML-based graphical user interface allowing for bidirectional telemetry in a user-friendly manner.

While it may seem like putting electronics into space is a game for national government agencies and enthusiastic billionaires, there is increasing interest in low-cost private space projects. From larger scale projects like Copenhagen Suborbitals to miniature CubeSats, prices are dropping all the time - though possibly not fast enough for Spectrum Aerospace to hit its ambitious €100,000 goal to complete its two-month crowdfunding campaign.

Arduino is the most popular electronic kit for electronic hobbyist and is a powerful tool for complex designs. A lot of application examples and accessories are available for the Arduino system, and now the new application field for the Arduino will be in space. For the professional use of electronics in space the semiconductor parts must be qualified.


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