Motorize your telescope
with ARDUINO
and SKYPIKIT

by Jean Vallières     Version 2020-05-05
Telescope Motorization with Arduino
NGC7000.COM
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GOAL OF THE PROJECT
Motorize a telescope mount to enable it to do astronomical photography and visual observation using ARDUINO and SKYPIKIT microcontrollers and other parts available on the market.


Possible applications:
PROJECT DEVELOPMENT
After testing this project with my own instruments and those of amateur astronomer friends, I developed a telescope motorization and control system that could be reproduced and modified to be used for several situations and several models of telescopes.

This system is based on the
ARDUINO platform and on a microcontroller chip, named SKYPIKIT, containing a firmware programmed to accomplish all the complex tasks of controlling a telescope mount, which greatly simplifies the design and programming of the Arduino and others components of the system.

COMPETENCE LEVEL
To undertake this project, you will need to assemble mechanical and electronic parts. Mechanical mounting depends on the type of project. It will be more complex if you build a home made mount from scratch. It will be easier if you modify an existing commercial mount. For electronics, you can use our printed circuit boards already all assembled and tested but you will still have to connect cables, connectors, and do a little soldering. Basic knowledge of electronics is recommended to interpret the diagrams and test the operation of your circuits. Above all, you must love learning new things without being afraid to take on new challenges.


CONTENT OF THE SITE
In this site, I tried to put if possible all the necessary documentation so that you can reproduce the project or modify it and apply it to various models of telescopes. All background documents are in PDF format and there are also various files containing Arduino applications and sample programs.

To get a good idea of the project, first consult the document "Introduction to the project" then the other documents if necessary.
INTRODUCTION TO THE PROJECT

(2019-12-20)
This document is a general introduction to the project.

It provides the information necessary to get a good idea of the specifics of this project and what could distinguish it from other telescope motorization projects.

It is recommended to read this document before approaching the other documents on this page.
PC BOARDS SETS
SKYPIKIT ARDUINO SHIELDS BOARDS

(2020-02-17)
This set includes boards that fit directly onto an ARDUINO. Each board is thus an Arduino shield which is used to control a telescope motor.

The set currently includes three models of boards, a model for bipolar stepping motor, a model for unipolar stepping motor and a model for DC motor with encoder.
SKYPIKIT PLEIADES BOARDS

(2020-05-05)
The boards in this set are made to simplify mounting since they already contain many elements that you do not need to install. You just have to drill the holes in the right places in a case large enough to hold the boards.
BOARDS FOR MOTORIZING A LX200 GPS TELESCOPE

(2020-02-15)
This series is intended to replace the electronic circuits of a MEADE LX200 GPS or RCX400 mount which has stopped working properly.

This series includes three boards that are found inside the mount and Pleiades boards in an external box.
DOBSON PUSH-TO MOTORLESS TELESCOPE BOARD

(2020-02-26)
This series contains a single board that allows a DOBSON motorless telescope to communicate wirelessly via Bluetooth link with an Android tablet or smartphone. The Android application (in development) will display the position of the telescope on the tablet screen and will contain a list of many celestial objects.

The user will have to add two encoders (one on each axis) to complete the project.
UNIPOLAR STEPPER MOTOR MINI DRIVER BOARD
(documentation to come)

To control a bipolar stepper motor, you can easily find the Polulu A4988 mini board or one of its clones. But there was no equivalent to control a unipolar stepper motor.

This new mini board for unipolar motor in pinout compatible with the A4988 board and can for example be inserted in the same place as the A4988 board on a TAYGETA-3 stepper motor control board.
APPLICATION EXAMPLES
MOTORIZATION OF A SMOOTH SECTOR MOUNT

(2020-02-28)
This home-made telescope is a Newton with 250mm aperture and 1100mm focal length. It is a worm drive system, tractor nut and smooth sector.

The original drive contained only a right ascension motor controlled by an electronic system based on an unstable RC circuit.

The project consists in adding a second declination motor and a control with Skypikits to have a more stable control and to make autoguiding for astrophotography.

This project uses the Arduino shields set of boards.

Arduino sketch for this telescope
MOTORIZATION OF AN EQ3 MOUNT

(2020-03-03)
Here we had a small portable mount with a single stepping motor on the right ascension axis, without the possibility of GoTo or autoguiding.

The project consists in adding a second declination motor and a control with Skypikits to be able to do GoTo and autoguiding during astronomical photos.

The controller of this mount uses the Pleiades set of boards.

Arduino sketch for this telescope
MOTORIZATION OF A LOSMANDY G11 MOUNT

(2020-03-05)
The original mount was a used Losmandy G11 mount with two stepper motors, without the possibility of GoTo or autoguiding.

Modifications made on this telescope:
- replace the motors with DC motors with encoder;
- add the motor control for a focuser;
- add the possibility of GoTo and autoguiding for
    long exposure astrophotos.

The controller for this mount uses the Pleiades set of boards.

Arduino sketch for this telescope
REPLACING THE ELECTRONICS OF A LX200 GPS MOUNT IN RIMOUSKI

(2020-02-28)
Here we have a LX200 GPS telescope mount which originally supported an optical tube with 400 mm mirror, and whose electronics had stopped working.

The electronic circuits have been replaced by circuits from the Pléiades series.

Arduino sketch for this telescope
CONTROL OF A MOONLITE FOCUSER

(2020-02-22) 
The MOONLITE focuser can be delivered with a precision stepper motor.
This motor is a unipolar stepper motor.

This document shows how the unipolar motor of the MOONLITE focuser can be controlled with a board from the Arduino shield set or with a TAYGETA-3 board fitted with the unipolar stepper motor driver.

Arduino sketch for this focuser
TOOLS AND DOCUMENTATION
CALCULATION AND CHOICE OF MOTORS AND GEARS

(2020-02-26)
One important thing that you must know before going further into the project is how to choose the motors and the gears which will give the right speeds to follow the stars at sidereal speed and to make a fast displacement during a GoTo.
ELECTRONIC ASSEMBLY

(2020-02-26)
Small electronic assembly guide with tips for soldering, assembling and testing. Especially usefull for those who want to mount everything on blank printed circuits boards.
THE SKYPIKIT MICROCONTROLLER

(2020-02-26)
Technical manual and user's guide. Detailed document on the operation and use of the SKYPIKIT chip.

Description of pins. Characteristics. Description of the I2C interface.
List of commands and format of the SKYPIKIT protocol.
Control of various models of motor power drivers.
Autoguiding with the On-camera method and with PulseGuide.
Limit switches, Index signal and Sensor signal.
Programming examples of ARDUINO and astronomy software.
THE SKYPIKIT MOTOR TESTER TUNER APPLICATION

(2020-02-11)
The Windows program SMTTA "SKYPIKIT MOTOR TESTER TUNER" is used to test the operation of a motor and to find the right settings for optimal control:
- allows you to adjust the settings of the USB communication;
- allows testing of different frequency of status requests on the I2C link;
- allows to adjust and test all the settings of the controller: sidereal tracking, fast movements, autoguiding, proportional-integral gains, etc .;
- gives a graph of analysis of speed and position as a function of time, in the fixed reference system and in the sidereal reference system;
- calculates the motor precision in autoguiding: peak to peak deviation, standard deviation ...;
- also helps to make the calculations to choose the motors and the correct gear reduction.

SKYPIKIT MINIMAL Arduino sketch
THE SKYPIKIT FEX APPLICATION

(2020-02-17)
This free application is used to directly control an equatorial mount of a skypikitized telescope from the COELIX software. It can also control a motorized focuser.

It works for any type of motor. You just need to enter the correct settings for control and USB communication between the computer and the telescope.

This application is now part of the COELIX software from Apex 2.120 or Demo 1.120 version .
THE ASCOM SKYPIKIT DRIVER (under development)

An ASCOM driver allows you to control a precise model of telescope, focuser, dome, field rotator, etc., from any astronomy software (COELIX, Stellarium, Sky Maps, or others ).

The devices developed with ARDUINO and SKYPIKIT can thus be controlled using these astronomy software.

An ASCOM driver for equatorial mounts built or modified with ARDUINO and SKYPIKIT is in development.

COSTS OF PARTS


If you want to skypikitize your telescope, you can get the boards
of the different sets all assembled and tested.

You can also get the Skypikit microcontrollers and unmounted boards
if you have the knowledge and skills to mount them yourself.
Recommended only for experts.

In all cases, you must send me an email at vjean@videotron.ca
to check availability, ask questions or place an order.
Payments are always made through PayPal and costs are in USD.
You will need to add shipping charges and taxes if required.
ARDUINO SHIELD BOARD FOR BIPOLAR STEPPER MOTOR

  54.95 USD : Assembled and tested board with 9 volts regulator

  49.95 USD : Assembled and tested board without 9 volts regulator

    8.95 USD : Blank board

  99.95 USD : Set of two boards (
only one with the 9 volts regulator)

note:  the picture shows two boards mounted over the Arduino
ARDUINO SHIELD BOARD FOR DC MOTOR WITH ENCODER

  54.95 USD : Assembled and tested board with 9 volts regulator

  49.95 USD : Assembled and tested board without 9 volts regulator

    8.95 USD : Blank board

  99.95 USD : Set of two boards (
only one with the 9 volts regulator)


ALCYONE-3 BOARD (PLEIADES SET)

 
41.95 USD : Assembled and tested board without Arduino

  13.95 USD : Programmed Bluetooth module

    8.95 USD : Blank board

ELECTRA-3 BOARD (PLEIADES SET)

  39.95 USD : Assembled and tested board

    8.95 USD : Blank board


TAYGETA-3 BOARD (PLEIADES SET)
with A4988 driver for bipolar stepper motor

  46.95 USD : Assembled and tested board

    8.95 USD : Blank board (no A4988 mini board)





TAYGETA-3 BOARD (PLEIADES SET)
with TB67S142NG for unipolar stepper motor

  54.95 USD : Assembled and tested board

    8.95 USD Blank board (no TB67S142NG mini board)




MEROPE-3 BOARD (PLEIADES SET)
for TB6612 driver for DC motor with encoder

  44.95 USD : Assembled and tested board

    8.95 USD : Blank board (no TB6612 mini board)






MAIA-3 BOARD (PLEIADES SET)
for TB67H303HG driver for DC motor with encoder

  49.95 USD : Assembled and tested board

    8.95 USD : Blank board
SET OF BOARDS FOR THE MEADE LX200 GPS TELESCOPE

  39.95 USD : For the assembled and tested set of boards

This cost is only for the three boards that install inside the mount (as shown in the image).

You must add the Pleiades set of control boards that install into the external box, as well as the simple handpad.

See the document for LX200 GPS boards.
BOARD FOR DOBSON PUSH-TO MOTORLESS TELESCOPE

  79.95 USD : Assembled and tested board including two Skypikit, one Arduino Nano and one JY-MCU Bluetooth programmed module.

  49.95 USD : Mounted and tested board without Arduino or BT module

   8.95 USD : Blank board

Project still in development. The electronics are completed but the Android application is in development and will be free when it becomes available.
UNIPOLAR STEPPER MOTOR MINI BOARD DRIVER

  19.95 USD : Assembled and tested mini board

This board has the same pinout as the Polulu A4988 mini board for bipolar motor, but it serves as a driver for unipolar motor.
SKYPIKIT MICROCONTROLLER

  11.95 USD : for ONE SKYPIKIT microcontroller

  21.95 USD : for TWO SKYPIKIT microcontrollers

  29.95 USD : for THREE SKYPIKIT microcontrollers

   
9.95 USD : each for four or more, or if purchased at the same time as
                         assembled and tested Skypikit boards .
SHIPPING
Packaging: 4.00 USD

Shipping according to the destination (max. 500 gr) :
   Canada : 15.95 CAD
   United States: 15.95 USD
   Western Europe: 29.,95 USD
   Australia : 35.95 USD

   Cheaper if the weight is less than 250 gr.

Shipments by air with tracking number and delivery confirmation.
improve the control of an existing telescope, for example add the possibility of GoTo or autoguiding
to a telescope that does not have one;
replace the circuits of a telescope whose electronics have stopped working;
motorize a telescope whose mount was home built;
motorize the focuser of a telescope;
simply add digital graduated circles to a PushTo motorless telescope;
replace the control pad (handpad) with an Android or IOs tablet with a Bluetooth link;
want to understand how your telescope works and be able to repair it yourself rather than
rely on random after-sales services from certain manufacturers;
and so on ...