2023 Grant Recipient

Virtual Tower - Virtual Satellite

Tennessee Valley Stellar Corporation (TVSC or “Stellarcorp”) is building a Virtual Tower – a novel application of an aerial radio transceiver around a drone in a box. Unlike permanent towers, our elevated transceiver is temporary (~45 minutes hover) but rapidly deployable / relocatable. 

A pop-up tower is an order of magnitude cheaper than traditional towers and unencumbered by opaque permitting codes.

It is suitable for diverse weather and terrain since it can be protected from the elements and operated anywhere permissible. A virtual tower can substitute for many applications hosted on a fixed physical tower, including search and rescue, emergency response, orienteering, and routine station operations. 

Tennessee Valley Stellar Corporation

Stellarcorp is also building a Virtual Satellite. An observer on the ground sees a typical satellite in low Earth orbit go from horizon to horizon in about 5 minutes. But instead of hovering at a fixed altitude as above, a drone can also fly any programmed path, while simultaneously adjusting the power and sensitivity of its transceiver. This means that, from the point of view of a fixed ground station, a drone can mimic the overhead trajectory of any satellite or celestial body, as well as its emission / reception characteristics. To the observer, the drone’s actual ~2-km flight path is indistinguishable from ~2000-km path of the real thing. Because the overflight by definition takes the same 5 minutes, a drone can fly multiple passes on a single charge. Thus with a simple mode shift, Virtual Tower becomes Virtual Satellite, providing a way for users to learn how to “work a bird”, at a tiny fraction of the expense and lead-time. Stellarcorp is developing an open-source Sortie Planner and user interface to go with this. 

Project Goals

1. Virtual Tower

Demonstrate emergency message passing between two ground stations and one aerial station – the drone acting as a radio relay.  

2. Virtual Satellite

From a fixed point on the ground, demonstrate the capability mimicking the path of a satellite or a celestial body like the Sun or Moon.

Virtual Tower and Virtual Satellite are rapid prototyping methods for early development of space communication skills, in support of our long-term prototype satellite project, the Dyson picoDot. Our ultimate aim is to prove that a feasible space-based method exists to forestall catastrophic climate change, to be used in extremis, by artificially cooling the earth with a school of planetary sunshades flying in non-Keplerian radiation-levitated orbits sunwards of the Sun-Earth Lagrange-1 point (SEL1(lev)). 

Virtual Tower - Virtual Satellite

Tennessee Valley Stellar Corporation (TVSC or “Stellarcorp”) is building a Virtual Tower – a novel application of an aerial radio transceiver around a drone in a box. Unlike permanent towers, our elevated transceiver is temporary (~45 minutes hover) but rapidly deployable / relocatable. 

A pop-up tower is an order of magnitude cheaper than traditional towers and unencumbered by opaque permitting codes.

It is suitable for diverse weather and terrain since it can be protected from the elements and operated anywhere permissible. A virtual tower can substitute for many applications hosted on a fixed physical tower, including search and rescue, emergency response, orienteering, and routine station operations. 

Tennessee Valley Stellar Corporation

Stellarcorp is also building a Virtual Satellite. An observer on the ground sees a typical satellite in low Earth orbit go from horizon to horizon in about 5 minutes. But instead of hovering at a fixed altitude as above, a drone can also fly any programmed path, while simultaneously adjusting the power and sensitivity of its transceiver. This means that, from the point of view of a fixed ground station, a drone can mimic the overhead trajectory of any satellite or celestial body, as well as its emission / reception characteristics. To the observer, the drone’s actual ~2-km flight path is indistinguishable from ~2000-km path of the real thing. Because the overflight by definition takes the same 5 minutes, a drone can fly multiple passes on a single charge. Thus with a simple mode shift, Virtual Tower becomes Virtual Satellite, providing a way for users to learn how to “work a bird”, at a tiny fraction of the expense and lead-time. Stellarcorp is developing an open-source Sortie Planner and user interface to go with this. 

Project Goals

1. Virtual Tower

Demonstrate emergency message passing between two ground stations and one aerial station – the drone acting as a radio relay.  

2. Virtual Satellite

From a fixed point on the ground, demonstrate the capability mimicking the path of a satellite or a celestial body like the Sun or Moon.

Virtual Tower and Virtual Satellite are rapid prototyping methods for early development of space communication skills, in support of our long-term prototype satellite project, the Dyson picoDot. Our ultimate aim is to prove that a feasible space-based method exists to forestall catastrophic climate change, to be used in extremis, by artificially cooling the earth with a school of planetary sunshades flying in non-Keplerian radiation-levitated orbits sunwards of the Sun-Earth Lagrange-1 point (SEL1(lev)). 

Community Benefit

Multiple communities would benefit from the project Stellarcorp is asking the Hacker Initiative to support.  Here is a non-exclusive list.

Volunteer Emergency Responders

Several local ham radio clubs have told us how useful it would be to have a pop-up radio tower that could be activated on short notice to relay emergency messages to recipients out of direct line-of-sight (LOS) or beyond the range of their own antennas, avoiding the major expense and hassle of a permanent fixed tower, or the hassle of mobilizing a vehicle with a crank-up tower.

Young Radio and/or Space Enthusiasts

Even a modest so-called "toy" drone can be out of reach of youngsters, who are not affluent in or out of school. By subsidizing cooperation, we put the power of technological progress in a far greater number of hands, and far younger ones at that.

Citizen Scientists and Independent Researchers

Because our drone has been fitted with a quick-disconnect attachment point designed and 3D-printed by us, which provides power and securely holds the payload, it becomes a User Facility! Independent researchers can fly their own experiments.