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3 Feb, 2014 22:37

Track the space station: 'ISS-Above' device causes crowdfunding boom

Track the space station: 'ISS-Above' device causes crowdfunding boom

An amateur-designed device that lights up whenever the International Space Station makes a close fly-by has surpassed its crowdfunding goal at Kickstarter in just five days. Dozens of space fans are anxious to track the ISS and even greet it with tweets.

Many do not realize that the ISS--a 420-ton international space lab--may be flying right above our heads every once in a while 400 kilometers above the Earth, says American astronomy enthusiast and coder Liam Kennedy.

To raise the awareness of that fact, but also to “let those who are ‘up there’ know that we know and appreciate what they are doing” Kennedy has made a little LED-equipped device that alerts with rapid flashes of lights every time the station approaches.

Kennedy also supplied it with a built-in web server that provides one with details on current and future passes of the ISS via a small LCD screen.

Initially designed by Kennedy as an educational tool for his grandkids, the device caused a furor at the San Diego Mini Maker’s Faire after he brought a sample there, making waves through Reddit and other social media.

After installing about 20 such devices at different locations across the globe, Kennedy decided to launch a campaign on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to raise a sum of US$5,000 for limited production of the tool, which he named simply “ISS-Above.”

The project attracted the necessary amount of funds by Sunday, in just five days. Currently, more than $7,000 has been pledged by 80 backers, and it still has 24 days to go.

Other than the device itself and a choice of different colors and LED designs, particularly generous backers are promised a customized option of sending greeting tweets to @ISSAboveYou every time the station is near.

How's it hanging in the ISS today? from Home Station/Pasadena, CA - we are just 513 km away #ISS#issabovehttp://t.co/wAkf8D4q8W

— ISS Above (@ISSAboveYou) February 3, 2014

Since the first manned mission arrived to the ISS in November 2000, the station has made more than 86,000 spins around the Earth, completing about 15 orbits per day. The joint project by Russia’s Roskosmos, America’s NASA, Japan’s JAXA, Europe’s ESA and Canada’s CSA agencies has sparked interest in space exploration in many of the world’s nations.

Videos filmed on board the ISS, stunning views from its Cupola observation module, as well as numerous spacewalks and spaceship dockings are frequently posted on YouTube, and many astronauts have also been sharing their space experience on Twitter or Instagram.

Recently, media attention to the space station seems to be on the rise. In May, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield shot a music clip on board the ISS, in August the station’s crew was joined by a talking robot companion from Japan, and in November Russian cosmonauts brought the Olympic torch for a first-ever spacewalk ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Games.

Image from issabove.com