Thursday 6 February 2014

ISS on a raspberry pi

This week I came across a brilliant kickstarter project looking for funding, it's the international space station alarm that will alert you to the international space station going overhead at 17000mph and about 500km away.

The space station takes around 90 minutes to orbit the earth and is the size of an American football pitch.  I was lucky to see it a few years ago camping with the Russian space cargo shuttle tailing it and was lucky to see it at dusk with it very close to the earth and directly overhead.

Since then I've always been interested in it, it certainly brightens up evenings when camping around a campfire and with many phone apps why would someone want this?

Well for one you can plug in most add ons, piglow, ledborg, blink stick and adafruit 16x2 rgb screen.  Kids will love the excitement as the lights come to life as the ISS approaches, flies over and then the lights go as the ISS disappears.

The ISS can be visible if it passes us by close to sunset or sunrise. If it's going to be visible look for the pass type of "visible". Not all passes are as good as another. If you want to see the space station you will want to find a visible pass where the ISS is predicted to be very bright. Look at the Brightness column- you want the lowest number dislayed there. A good number would be -3 or lower. That would mean the ISS is as bright or brighter than the planet Venus in the sky (which is often the brightest thing in the night time sky other than the full moon). 

So how do I get this working? First of all you need to back the kickstarter project for issabove or visit their website 

Once downloaded and the .img installed to a sd card, plug in the pi and start up, log into it with ssh and change the config file as per instructions to your location, a name for your device, the individual login details for tweets to be sent (supplied by iss, type of notification device ie ledborg, adafruit lcd and edit the tweet to what you would like it to say.

Picture shows screen as ISS goes overhead.

You might also want to edit wifi details so it can log on wirelessly to your router so it can update itself (usually once every three days will do) or just use ethernet.

The location you put into the config is good for a 50 mile radius of your location so don't worry to much if you decide to take this to work and sit it on your desk.

Once you reboot the device will come to life to let you know it's working, you can also log into it with its IP address in a web browser and view it's Webserver, details like next pass and other interesting facts are shown along with a tweet button to tweet the ISS and let the crew know what a great job they are doing.

So if you are stuck for a project idea, want something for the kids or something to take camping (this could quite happily run off a cigarette USB adapter) then this is it.

Want to see it in action? Then visit their website or if you are attending the Cambridge raspberry jam this weekend I will have it with me and will be demoing it along with my cacheberry pi.

Thank you to the creator Liam for adding me to the beta program and allowing me to review this great device.

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