The Mission

Science Objectives

The primary objective of the Calypso optical payload is to demonstrate the viability of a fully optical spacecraft complete with an uplink and downlink on the VLC downlink and the PV-cell uplink. A number of exciting technologies have presented themselves through the adoption of VLC technology. The mission has the following goals:

    • To measure atmospheric attenuation over time in various atmospheric conditions through power monitoring on the pre-calibrated transmitter
    • To train and evaluate a deep learning system for optical communication error correction on a earth-to-LEO link
    • To evaluate the feasibility of differential phase delay correction using two or more ground stations and a wide-beam VLC transmitter

Educational Objectives

 Numerous opportunities for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) collaboration will accompany this proposal before and after the spacecraft is on orbit. Currently, we are in discussions with schools for collaboration on a student designed and managed secondary payload as well as participation in the final development, testing and launch of the demonstration mission. We are awaiting a memorandum of understanding to be finalized in support of this collaboration.

Additionally, we will encourage and promote third-party participation in various activities once Calypso has been delivered to orbit.

The Calypso project will feature a website that will provide educational material relating to optical communications system, space-to-ground communications – history, technologies and utilization – including fact sheets, sample lesson plans and activities for the classroom. Additionally, the website will have a dashboard where the public will be able to view the status of the spacecraft and its systems in real-time, including uplink and downlink messages.

From the dashboard, people will be encouraged to enter and transmit their own message (with appropriate delay for safety). These messages will appear in the downlink data as well as being detectable upon transmission from Calypso. This will provide schools a unique interactive platform for educating students and the public in a variety of scientific disciplines, including but not limited to:

    • Atmospheric studies (induced distortion – i.e. “twinkle”, Doppler effect, changes in perceived color due to atmospheric variation)
    • Airborne pollution
    • Physics of light propagation
    • Climate of the upper atmosphere
    • Communications system technology and operation

As part of the Calypso project, designs for a receiving station and tutorial on its operation will be made available to schools and the public so that anyone will have the information on how to build their own ground station. Individuals will be able to submit messages for transmission and reception by the various ground stations all over the world. This will open up the field of amateur/public long distance over-air communications without requiring the kind of extensive, time-consuming and sometimes costly training, certification and licensing that hampers adoption of amateur (HAM) radio.


The Calypso project mission will be guided by four complementary and overlapping teams under the corresponding individual authority:

    1. Project Planning
    2. Mission Design and Operations
    3. Science Operations
    4. STEM and Outreach

The Project Planning team will be responsible for ensuring successful execution of the overall project, including regulatory compliance, launch provider integration, launch, NASA interface, External and Public Relations and finance.

The Mission Design and Operations segment will be responsible for spacecraft final assembly, testing and qualification, flight software development and qualification, payload integration in the spacecraft, ensuring compliance with all applicable criteria as directed by the launch provider and NASA, preflight testing and verification, on-orbit commissioning, interface and coordination with the STEM and Outreach team.

We are utilizing the NASA Operational Simulator for Small Satellites (NOS3) and Open Mission Control Technologies (OpenMCT) as key tools for mission design, development, simulation and operations.

Science Operations will interface with the Mission Design and Operations team to ensure the payload is successfully integrated and prepared for launch and to complete on-orbit checkout after launch. Science Operations will be responsible for the operation of the payload once the spacecraft has been declared operational and all activities relating to the payload will flow through Science Operations, including STEM activities. Science Operations will interface with the Mission Design and Operations and STEM teams to ensure successful operation of the science payload and execution of all planned activities.

The STEM and Outreach team will coordinate all educational activities and be the Point Of Contact for educational institutions participating in the Calypso mission and associated STEM activities. This team will also be the primary interface with the public and media and will create and direct all activities related to public outreach and media relations. The STEM and Outreach team will operate under the direct supervision of the Project Planning team.

Mission Budget

The majority of the spacecraft hardware components have already been purchased or manufactured. Three components that we still need to acquire are:

CubeSat Kit Flight Module
Telemetry Module

All software is either on hand or in the late stage of development. This includes the software that will run on the spacecraft, ground systems software and programs used during design, assembly and testing. We anticipate no future monetary costs related to project software.

Labor costs for paid employees has already been factored into our budget planning as a sunk cost and will not add to the project cost total in the future. Nearly all work is performed by volunteers. Mission operations, scientific and engineering investigations as well as outreach activities will be conducted solely utilizing volunteer labor. As such, we do not anticipate a significant labor cost, if any, to result from this proposal.

All prelaunch testing and qualification will take place at our facility prior to delivery to the launch provider or payload integrator. Execution of the Calypso mission will take place at ARES Institute. Ancillary costs, e.g. internet access, electrical, water, are being assumed by ARES Institute, Inc. as a component of their normal operational budget and have not been nor will be charged to the Calypso project.