Introduction to the Library Space Technology Network

The Library Space Technology Network (LSTN) is a project that offers public library communities the chance to build and engage with space technology.

Each public library in LSTN will operate their own ground station capable of communicating with over 100 different satellites when they pass overhead.

To understand this project better, let’s first take a quick look at the history of satellites and cubesats.

Starting with Sputnik in 1957, humans have been launching satellites into Earth’s orbit for the past 60 years.

Today, satellite technology allows us to predict the path of hurricanes, use GPS navigation, track air pollutants, study gravity and much more.

For the first 40 years of satellite development, most satellites were large and very expensive to make.

This all changed in the late 1990s, when two professors developed the first cubesat.

A cubesat is a small inexpensive satellite using off-the-shelf parts that expanded access to space by bringing down the costs.

It was now possible for students to build their own satellites and conduct science experiments in space.

The success of cubesats is largely dependent on NASA, ESA, and other major space agencies. For example, a student-made cubesat may take a free ride to the International Space Station (ISS) on a resupply mission.

Once this cubesat arrives at the ISS, it can be launched into low Earth orbit from the Nanorocks CubeSat Deployer built into the ISS.

NASA started allowing cubesats to ride for free through their CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) and Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) programs. This has allowed cubesat missions to flourish and allowed for thousands of students to participate in missions too.

Satellites are only useful if they can communicate with us on earth. This is where ground stations come in. Satellites typically communicate through a radio connected to an antenna.

To actually receive this message though, a ground station right under the path of the orbiting satellite has to be tracking the satellite and ready to receive the message with its own antenna and radio.

These small satellites orbit in low Earth orbit meaning they make a complete orbit around the globe in just 90 minutes and are only overhead any one particular location for about 10 minutes.

The LSTN ground stations are part of a growing network of open source satellite ground stations called SatNOGS, which was created by the Libre Space Foundation.

SatNOGS is reliant on active participation and once a library starts operating a ground station, they can also begin scheduling satellite observations on other ground stations in the network.

While the LSTN ground station can communicate with satellites communicating in one particular frequency band, participation on the SatNOGS network means being able to hear thousands of satellites that communicate at different frequencies.

With LSTN, we hope to get public libraries around the world involved with real space technology by lowering the cost and technical hurdles of owning and operating a satellite ground station.

Image Credits
Over Seas and Clouds, processed by Stuart Rankin, CC-BY-NC 2.0
iss051e050137, NASA, Public Domain
iss038e056389, NASA, Public Domain
Replica of Sputnik 1, NASA, Public Domain
TIROS, the Nation's First Weather Satellite, NASA, Public Domain
KSC-20170222-PH_ELA01_0001, NASA, Public Domain
Cubesat in Hand, Svbodat, CC BY-SA 3.0
Stm student build, NASA, Public Domain
NASA/Crew of STS-132, NASA, Public Domain
iss038e044890, NASA, Public Domain
Falcon 9 and Dragon Vertical at Pad 39A, SpaceX, CC0
iss038e044890, NASA, Public Domain
FUNcube-1, Pa3weg, CC BY 3.0
Marathon Public Library, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, CC BY 2.0