Motorize your telescope
with ARDUINO
and SKYPIKIT

Version 2023-09-23
Telescope Motorization with Arduino
NGC7000.COM
This project ceased to be active in September 2023 as the designer is no longer able to solder and mount the necessary printed circuit boards (PCBs). However, support is still offered to all those who have motorized their telescopes with Skypikit boards (Pleiades or others) during the ten years of the project's life. The documents are still available here for consultation.

GOAL OF THE PROJECT
Motorize a telescope mount to enable it to do astronomical photography and visual observation using ARDUINO and SKYPIKIT microcontrollers.

The proposed system makes it possible to control practically all types of motors used in amateur telescope mounts (DC motors with encoders, stepper motors...). It can power motors with a voltage from 12 volts to 24 volts and a maximum current of 2.7 amps.


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.

SKILL LEVEL
This project is not a turnkey system. 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 assembled and tested but you will still have to connect cables, connectors, and do a little soldering. You can also get the boards already installed in an enclosure. Basic knowledge of electronics is required to interpret the diagrams and test and tune the operation of your circuits.

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

(2023-01-21)
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.
SKYPIKIT BOARDS SETS
SKYPIKIT PLEIADES BOARDS

(2023-01-21)
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.
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 A FORK MOUNT AND OF A FOCUSER

(2021-09-19)
This home-made telescope is a Newton with 400mm aperture and 1830mm focal length. It is a system with a large equatorial disc supported by two rollers, one of which is motorized.

The original drive contained both right ascension and declination motors, but long exposure photography was not possible due to the imprecision of the original drive system.

This project uses the Pleiades series boards to control the stepper motors of the telescope and a motorized focuser with greater precision.
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
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.
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.

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 .
SKYPIKIT ASCOM DRIVER FOR EQUATORIAL MOUNT (pdf)

ASCOM DRIVER FOR MOTORIZED FOCUSER (pdf)
PDF doc coming soon for the focuser
(2022-11-09)
An ASCOM driver is used to control a precise model of telescope, focuser, dome, field rotator, etc., from any astronomy software (COELIX, N.I.N.A., Stellarium, Cartes du Ciel, or others).

There are two Skypikit ASCOM drivers:
- an ASCOM driver for equatorial mount;
- an ASCOM driver for motorized focuser.

These two drivers have been successfully tested with Coelix, N.I.N.A.,
and the ASCOM Compliance App.

FILES TO DOWNLOAD
THE SKYPIKIT MOTOR TESTER TUNER APPLICATION  SMTTA  (version 3.1.2)

SKYPIKIT GENERIC EQUATORIAL  ARDUINO SKETCH PROGRAM (
for the control with the SMTTA application and tests)

SKYPIKIT ASCOM DRIVER FOR EQUATORIAL MOUNT

SKYPIKIT ASCOM DRIVER FOR MOTORIZED FOCUSER

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;
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 ...
NGC7000   H alpha   JV
NGC7000 H alpha JV