Category Archives: GPS

‘Satellite Lamps’ project highlights the GPS

 The Global Positioning System or GPS has become like weather imaging and Direct-to-Home TV – another space application that is pervasive in our lives and yet taken totally for granted. Most of the public now uses GPS routinely on cell phones but is not aware that GPS is enabled by a constellation of satellites.

The Satellite Lamps art/education project by designers Einar Sneve Martinussen, Jørn Knutsen, and Timo Arnall that aims to “illuminate” how the otherwise invisible GPS is actually a dynamic, variable, and active system. Their approach involves a set of lamps whose brightness depends on the strength of GPS signals detected by a receiver attached to each lamp. 


As the satellites go in and out of view of the receivers, the lamp’s glow will vary. This is particularly so in cities where tall structures limit direct views of the sky.


The project is outlined at Kairos 19.1: Martinussen et al, Satellite Lamps – Introduction

In Satellite Lamps, practices and languages of design are put to use to explain and situate the phenomena of GPS. We use photography, filmmaking and fieldwork, electronics and product design, as well as design observations on culture and technology to explore some of the ways in which GPS can be communicated and understood.

This short film also describes the project:


More  at Illuminated Orbs Embedded with GPS Receivers Visualize Satellite Technology – PSFK


Misc: Space elevator newsletter & conf. + Growing plants in low gravity + The 1st geocache

Some miscellaneous items I’ve had in my queue:

I recently got the  International Space Elevator Consortium‘s latest update in my email box  : ISEC Newsletter – April.2014

The ISEC Space Elevator Conference will be held August 22-24 at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington.


The German space agency DLR is planning an interesting mission to test the growing of plants in gravity less than earth’s by using the rotation of a spacecraft to provide centrifugal force to provide artificial gravity. It will spin

The experiment involves use of bacteria and algae that will convert synthetic urine into fertilizer to promote the growth of tomato plants. Variations in rotational speed around its longitudinal axis will simulate lunar and Martian gravity.


The first of the two greenhouses will operate under lunar conditions over the first six months, while the second greenhouse will operate in a Martian environment for the following six.

This project will run for a year, after which the satellite will reenter the Earth’s atmosphere.


Geocaching has become a popular worldwide GPS game and hobby. There is a special plaque to mark the very first geocache: – image uploaded by @GoGeocaching

Owly Images

Chinese Beidou & European Galileo satellite navigation coming on line

Global satellite navigation has joined weather observation and communications via satellites as a space based service that is taken so totally for granted, most of the public don’t even know that space is involved. Satellite navigation will become increasingly robust as two new systems join the  operational American Global Positioning System (GPS) and Russian GLONASS.

The Chinese Beidou Navigation Satellite System is now being activated and will be globally available by the end of the decade: Beidou to cover world by 2020 with 30 satellites – Xinhua |

Activation of the European Galileo system is also underway and will be completed by 2019.

So by 2020, many navigation devices should be able to work with all four systems and always have multiple satellites in view. This will be important for aviation where highly reliable navigation is crucial, especially when routes are selected for optimum fuel consumption rather than according to limited fixed lanes set by ground navigation systems.

“Travel bug’ going to the great geocache in the sky

Geocaching has become a popular “treasure hunt” activity around the world. Small stashes of miscellaneous items are hidden in containers in over 2.25 million spots around the globe and their locations archived at  Participants use their GPS units to find a cache, which might be by a waterfall in a forest or behind a telephone pole along a city street. The geocacher can take an item from the cache but they should replace it with some new item.

Geocaching has now extended from earth into space: Geocaching in Space FAQ – The Geocaching Blog.

In 2008, Richard Garriott placed a small cache on the International Space Station during his visit there. This evening, a Soyuz with three new ISS crew members will blast off and arrive at the station in the morning. They include US astronaut Rick Mastracchio who will be carrying a Travel Bug Dog Tag. A travel bug is a Trackable item that simply has an ID that is registered at and as it is moved from cache to cache, the movers write about the tag’s travels on the website. Garriott left one on the station and Mastracchio will take a new one that is sponsored by the 5th grade class of Chase Elementary School in Waterbury, Connecticut and add it to the cached on the station. He will, however, return it to the class when he returns from space in six months.

For more details see: