Satellites communicate with Earth through ground stations. For a ground station to receive data from a satellite, the satellite must be overhead. For this reason, to maximize the amount of time satellites can send data back to Earth, it makes sense to use a network of ground stations set up in many different locations across the globe. As a civilization, we are at a precipice where space technology is at risk of being increasingly closed off as corporations begin selling access to space through their proprietary tools. Conversely, SatNOGS is building an open community dedicated to developing a network of connected ground stations that uses only open technologies and open source software. Their database of satellites, ground stations, and observations (the data received from satellites by ground stations) is built from the ground-up by interested volunteers, and now libraries can get involved too.

cubesat launch in space

The Space Library

The Wolbach Library at the Center for Astrophysics and SatNOGS recently received funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to create new infrastructure to support small satellite missions and enable public engagement with space technology. These efforts will be part of a new multicomponent initiative at Wolbach called the Space Library. The funding provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation will be used to fund two specific Space Library projects: MetaSat and the Library Space Technology Network (LSTN).

MetaSat is an effort to define a metadata schema for small satellite missions. This will make information from and about satellites easier to find, use, and understand. Wolbach Library recognizes that for tools like MetaSat to be broadly useful feedback will be needed from scientists, engineers, and novices alike.

To reach satellite novices and to create new opportunities for the public to engage with space-based science, the Space Library team will also install open ground stations at five public libraries. These five libraries will be the first participants in LSTN, a program to make tools built for space missions accessible to the public. The first LSTN participants will give feedback on MetaSat, which will ultimately help inform plans to expand the network and build resources to support participating library communities.