While there are companies that are dumping millions of dollars into their R&D labs to research and come up with something new, and later boast about their achievements, there are silent achievers who surprise us with their amazing innovations. Song Hojun, a 34-year-old Korean artist, is one such silent dreamer who is making headlines for building a satellite at home in just $500.
While some high-end smartphones such as the iPhone are available for a price much higher for $500, Hojun has built a fully working satellite. He is just weeks away from fulfilling his dream of launching a homemade, basement-built satellite into space. Song Hojun, who said he built the $500 OpenSat to show people they could achieve their dreams, said, “Making a satellite is no more difficult than making a cellphone. I believe that not just a satellite, but anything can be made with the help of the internet and social platforms. I chose a satellite to show that symbolically.”
Song says that the idea struck him while working as an intern at a private satellite company and he decided that one day he'll have his own personal satellite. This resulted in his “Open Satellite Initiative” and he set off to contact space professionals from Slovenia to Paris, who were more than eager to help him. “I'm just an individual, not someone working for big universities, corporations or armies, so they open up to me and easily give out information,” said Song.
Song, who is an engineering student, spent nearly six years browsing through academic papers, shopping online at sites that specialise in stuff used for space projects and rummaging through electronic stores in the back alleys of his hometown, Seoul. Song funded his project through earnings he made from a small electronics business he ran to support himself. However, his parents helped him with the major part of his funds. Though the entire cost of manufacturing was only 500,000 won ($440), the cost for launching it hit 120 million won after Song signed a contract with NovaNano, a French technology company, which acted as a broker to arrange the launch, including submitting paperwork and finding a rocket.
The cubical OpenSat weighs 1 kg (2.2 lbs) and measures 10 cubic centimeters. It will transmit information about the working status of its battery, the temperature and rotation speed of the satellite's solar panel. Radio operators will be able to communicate with the OpenSat and if all goes well, the satellite will respond by sending a message in Morse code using its LED lights at a set time and location. The satellite is scheduled for a launch with another satellite from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in December.
Song is clearly proudly of his feat and explains that his is the first truly personal satellite designed and financed by an individual. As an acknowledgement of his genius, Song has been invited to talk at MIT Media Lab and CalArts in the United States, and the Royal College of Art in London. “The reason why technology or science is talked about is not because it is an absolute truth, but rather because it generates interesting stories,” reacted Song.