Goonhilly Earth Satellite Station in Cornwall, UK , and the iconic Arthur satellite dish, brought Britain into the space age. It enabled transatlantic broadcasts for the first time, carrying broadcasts of Neil Armstrong’s first walk on the moon on July 20 1969 and modernised communications with the rest of the world.

Project_Arthur is a fun project allowing you to construct a 3d paper model of the dish which will track the location of the ISS (International Space Station) using an embedded Raspberry PI and notify you when it is over your chosen location!

Download on Github

How does it work?

The 3d paper model contains a RaspberryPI, which is a clever inexpensive microcomputer that is connected to the internet. The project uses a conditional web applet that we create on the IFTTT (If This Then That) platform, the applet monitors an API via NASA and Open Notify that we give a specific location on Earth(like your house/school etc), it will then compute when the ISS will be overhead and then send a tweet to your Twitter account accompanied with a particular hashtag such as #ISS_overGoonhilly when this is picked up by the code running on the PI the LED will flash to indicate the ISS is overhead!

It is a great project for all ages to learn a range of skills such as physical computing, programming, basic electronics, and papercraft!

Getting started

Things you will need

Building the model

The model requires around 2-3 hours build time and can be complex in places. I hadnt built a paper model before with this level of complexity and i had to reprint a few parts before getting it right and i learnt some very handy tricks to make it easier for you build.

There are plenty of YouTube tutorials to learn paper craft but sofsdesigns.com who helped create the model has the best support for the design on her website here.

Paper model building tips.

  • The model needs to be built in reverse so start with the largest number and build back to 1.
  • If you are building with younger children use the larger model.
  • Use a craft knife to cut the parts and the back of the blade to score the fold lines.
  • Make sure your hands are clean as its very easy to transfer dirt onto the paper when mixed with the glue and create a mess.

The ISS

The space station looks like an airplane or a very bright star moving across the sky, except it doesn’t have flashing lights or change direction. It will also be moving considerably faster than a typical airplane (airplanes generally fly at about 600 miles (965 km) per hour; the space station flies at 17,500 miles (28,000 km) per hour), so its location changes really fast! Where is it right now?