A long time ago I inherited the Jason Comet 480 pictured above. It's a small newtonian telescope that came with a tripod and a variety of filters. It was good for looking at the moon and some planets, but beyond that I never got much use out of it. It mostly sat in a closet until the fateful day that I got my 3d printer.
It's a delta printer called Athena (and it's open source!). Designed by the Michigan Tech open-source hardware group, I received the printer as part of EE4777. In that class, you were graded based off of a few build projects (that were hopefully mostly 3d printed). For the final project, we just had to build something "useful". While hunting around for project ideas, I came across that old telescope. I thought, wouldn't it be nice if I could breathe some new life into it?
My goal: design a robotics conversion kit for telescopes
With my Jason 480 as the guinea pig, I hoped to put together some 3d printed parts, stepper motors, and some kind of processor to allow the telescope to track objects in the sky. As a measure of success, I picked an object to attempt to track.
My target object: The International Space Station
The ISS is close enough and bright enough my Comet 480 should be able to see it. It's also fast enough that I shouldn't have to wait too long for it to transit within my veiwable sky. In fact, it's so fast it's impossible to get a good picture of without a tracking apparatus! That makes it a perfect target for us. If we can get a good image of the station, then we have a pretty good tracker.
My first attempt:
Went badly. I tried a design that was pretty shaky (literally and figuratively), and a long and important print failed the night before the showing. That is on top of completely overestimating the amount of time the electronics would take. Thankfully I had enough to show that I passed, but I basically threw out the whole project afterwards.
My second attempt:
After a year, a graduation, and a new job, I was looking for a project. I happened upon the old design files in my archive and decided to take another crack at it.
So far it's going well enough I thought I would write about it here. The next couple posts in this series will detail my progress so far.