All posts by lookuptonight


ISS-Above and Lightsail-Above

Bill Nye LightSail You may have already heard how Bill Nye The Science Guy is obsessed with his ISS-Above(s). We’re taking that obsession to the next level and at Bill’s request I created a special version of the ISS-Above code that will act as Mission Control for their LightSail project. This version of the system is of course called LightSail-Above. It was a special reward on their Kickstarter

Every ISS-Above customer who is also a Planetary Society Member will be able to have their ISS-Above also track the Lightsail when the “full” version launches in 2016.


Wait What? LightSail-Above?

Bill Nye LightSail You may have already heard how Bill Nye The Science Guy is obsessed with his ISS-Above(s). We’re taking that obsession to the next level and at Bill’s request I created a special version of the ISS-Above code that will act as Mission Control for their LightSail project. This version of the system will of course be called LightSail-Above. It’s a special reward on their new Kickstarter – please head over there and check it out. Become a backer and help The Planetary Society and Bill Nye – CHANGE THE WORLD!

Become a Planetary Society Member (or back their Kickstarter at a reward level that includes membership) and any ISS-Above customer will be able to instantly switch their device to track the LightSail II when it launches in 2016

Chelsea Wine Bar

Chelsea Wine Bar Texas is getting an ISS-Above. Why is that a big deal?

I’m heading back to Houston, TX tomorrow to hang out with some friends – and while there I will be setting up a very special ISS-Above.

Just a couple of miles away from NASA Johnson Space Center is a very special place called Chelsea Wine Bar.

During my last two visits to Houston the NASA folks I was with had an “after-event-social” at this very lovely establishment. I even setup a demo ISS-Above unit – and experienced or the first time what happens when you have an ACTUAL ISS Astronaut in the room with you when the ISS-Above is flashing away and doing all it does during an overflight of the ISS.

Astronaut Scott Kelly (far right) visiting Chelsea Wine Bar on Jan 15 2015 chatting with a #NASASocial group who had just attended the One Year Mission briefing at JSC

Astronaut Scott Kelly (far right) visiting Chelsea Wine Bar on Jan 15 2015 chatting with a #NASASocial group who had just attended the One Year Mission briefing at JSC

Despite Mission Control for the ISS being just a few miles away – very few people really understand how frequently the ISS is in their skies. This is my way of making people more aware – and providing a great thing for all the friends of past / current and future astronauts who happen to be visiting.

I also wrote a press release to let the locals in Houston know this is happening.

Chelsea Wine Bar near NASA JSC celebrates the installation of an ISS-Above on April 8th, 2015 5pm


With #1YearInSpace crew launch – updates to ISS-Above

With the launch earlier today I’ve updated the Expedition Info Panel for ISS-Above to now show the full Expedition 43 Crew – with a special reference to the #YearInSpace crew members Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko.

Message to all ISS-Above HD customers – be sure to update your system to get the new info panel.


*replace issabove.local with the ip address for your device if you this link does not work.


Learn how you can impact the world by gaining an “Orbital Perspective” – read the book by Ron Garan

Orbital Perspective : Book by Ron Garan

The Orbital Perspective: Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles (By Ron Garan Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.)

Is it really possible to learn how to make a difference in the world by reading a book by an Astronaut?

That was a question I had before reading a pre-release copy of “Orbital Perspective: Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles”

I had met with the author Ron Garan on several occasions over the past few years and heard the story of how his time in space provided an existential transformation about what it means to be human. In Ron’s case (like many – but not all astronauts) that was the catalyst that propelled him to a life now which is committed to personally impacting the quality of life for all of humanity. This is evidenced through the many projects he has been directly involved with.

I have to admit however to having some pre-conceptions about what the book would actually be about – and what I would get from it.

I was expecting the story of an “existential awakening” from being exposed to views of the earth by being IN SPACE. I was expecting the tales of international collaboration (specifically US/Russian) that made the building of the ISS possible.

What I had not quite expected was the bottom line.

The bottom line is that Ron is saying the KEY to making a difference is never about governments. In the end it’s not even about Institutions (e.g. NASA / Roscosmos).

It’s never about “This organization” or “That organization”.

In the end it is about ordinary people who through whatever means manage to lift their views of what is possible to an “Orbital Perspective”. Out of that level of “Elevated Empathy” a new future becomes possible that disregards the short term gains that might otherwise be in the way of a sustainable solution to a critical issue in the world.

Who are these ordinary people? You and Me. #TheKeyIsWe

Read the book for the full scoop.

I hope you too can become present to what’s possible if we all raise ourselves up to the level of an “Orbital Perspective” and tackled our issues from that view.

note: As part of the “OP Crew” I was given early access to the book for the purposes of being able to write this review.

Liam Kennedy
Inventor of the ISS-Above
Space Geek since forever.

ISS Above Pumpkin

ISS-Above Pumpkin – Raspberry Pi based system that flashes when the International Space Station is nearby

I created this special version of the ISS-Above – Pumpkin edition. Kids who come by our house this Halloween will get a different kind of a treat – with live views of the earth from the International Space Station with light displays from an LED strip with 144 RGB LED’s – all controlled via Bluetooth LE.

Here is a little edited video of what the display looks like during an active pass of the ISS

More detailed photos of the pumpkin here->

note: Kids visiting on Halloween will also get the usual candy treats too :-)


Connect your ISS-Above to WiFi – using SSH (advanced)

note:  This is the old instructions to configure your wifi settings using SSH.  Please check out the somewhat easier method here.

Yes – the ISS-Above can connect to your home WiFi network – here is how you can do that.

You have probably seen the two USB ports on the device near to the ethernet port.   You can purchase a pretty inexpensive WiFi “dongle” that can plug in to one of the USB ports.

BEWARE – not every WiFi Adaptor is compatible with the Raspberry Pi (the computer inside the ISS-Above).   If you google search “Wifi Adaptors compatible with Raspberry Pi” you will find some…. or you can just buy this one from Amazon.

The setup is not quite as simple as it would be on your PC or Mac – as to complete the setup you have to manually change a configuration file on the Raspberry Pi (on the SD card).   It’s an “operating system” file – so it can only be changed by connecting to the computer using either a hdmi monitor/usb keyboard or via a “Terminal program” on your computer.   I prefer making all such changes using a Terminal program.

Of course to make these settings for the WiFi adaptor you must FIRST connect your ISS-Above to your home router via a wired ethernet connection (which you have done already right?)

If you have a PC/Windows computer I recommend you download and install a free terminal program called MobaXterm Personal Edition.

If you have a Mac – you can use the built-in terminal program instead.

Instructions for Windows users:

Launch MobaXTerm.

Select Session / New Session / SSH enter the ip address of your ISS-Above, optionally specify the username (pi).  Then click OK.  (The username/password is the default for every Raspberry Pi – pi/raspberry)

For the Mac launch the in-built terminal program and type

ssh pi@your-issabove-ip-address

You’ll be prompted for the password – raspberry (the default for all Raspberry Pi’s)

At the command prompt type

sudo nano /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf

This will load a basic text editor with the wifi configuration file.

I have helpfully left lots of examples with all the WiFi settings I use (feel free to camp out on my wifi if you ever drive by my house).

You will just need to add a new “section” to the file for your network.

e.g.  Say that your SSID  is “myhomelan” and it uses WPA2 security with a wifi password of “5a9x2334b”   you would add the following lines

network ={
pairwise=CCMP TKIP

To save this press <Ctrl> X  then press Y and finally press <ENTER>.

At this point if you reboot your device it should then connect to your WiFi.


sudo reboot

Now remove the Ethernet Cable.

During boot up you should see the WiFi dongle’s activity light start blinking (rapidly) to indicate it has established a connection to your wifi.

You’ll then need to find out what IP address has been assigned to the WiFi connection as you previously did in order to find out what the wired ethernet connection was (it won’t be the same number). Then remember to use THAT new IP address whenever you want to access the built-in web site for your ISS-Above device.

If you’ve got this far and you’ve never done anything like this before – give yourself a pat on the back for being a bad-ass linux hacker. Welcome to the club!

ISS-Above Worldwide

ISSAbove – Worldwide Map outgrows Google Maps.

We now have  312 ISS-Above locations worldwide – and that is 12 more locations than are allowed on a the free Google Maps system.  Here is the latest map showing how far the ISS-Above has reached.

View a larger version of ISSAbove Locations – June 2014

Note:  The locations shown have had a random “fuzziness” factor applied to shift their location up to a couple of miles away from their actual location (this is for privacy reasons).



Kickstarter Update – Tweeted for all Non-Reward backers.

Although every one of the physical Kickstarter rewards were shipped months ago – I am embarrassed to admit that I never got around to sending the Tweet messages I promised for all non-physical-reward backer levels.

For all non-physical reward backers I promised to send a tweet on your behalf via the @ISSAboveYou account when the ISS passed over your location.

To do that I needed to develop a special program that would handle this.   I did that a few days ago – and ever since then I’ve had one of my ISS-Above’s here running the code and dutifully sending the tweets whenever the ISS passed by their location.

This graphic shows the distribution of those tweets over the past few days

bkWorldMap-Tweets-FINALAnd here are some of those tweets

tweet-thxtweet-thx2 tweet-thx3It has been a lot of fun to see these tweets going out.

Thanks to ALL the backers of the ISSAbove Kickstarter.