Clear your calendars for July. Planning for the next Space Hacker Workshop is underway — with funding from the Department of Mad Scientists!
Space is not just the final frontier. It’s the citizen-science frontier. Thanks to rapid advances in technology, it’s now possible for citizen scientists to build high-quality space-science hardware with off-the-shelf components.
Interest in citizen science and participatory exploration has exploded in recent years. New technologies are making it easier for private citizens to become involved in the scientific process. More and more, the professional scientific community is recognizing the importance of contributions made by dedicated amateurs. Citizen scientists are discovering exoplanets and dinosaurs, monitoring climate and endangered species, and helping to map the human genome.
The development of low-cost reusable suborbital spacecraft will be the next great enabler, allowing citizens to participate in space exploration and space science. The development of low-cost reusable suborbital spacecraft will be the next great enabler, allowing citizens to participate in space exploration and space science.
Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, is riding this new wave of citizen science citizen space exploration.
For the first phase of our project, we have acquired an initial contract for 10 suborbital spaceflights with one of the new space transportation companies — XCOR Aerospace. This represents, to the best of our knowledge, the largest single bulk purchase of suborbital flights to date. We will be making payload space on these flights available to citizen scientists and to professional researchers who play by our open-source rules. We expect to fly up to 100 small experiments in our initial flight campaign. For information on submitting payloads, see our Call for Experiments.
Citizens in Space will also select and train 10 citizen astronauts to fly as payload operators. We have three astronaut candidates already in training. We’ll be recruiting seven more over the next 12 to 24 months.
For more information on our program, click here.
Clear your calendars for July. Planning for the next Space Hacker Workshop is underway — with funding from the Department of Mad Scientists!
Swiss Space Systems (S-3) recently announced its intent to develop a small satellite launcher. The S-3 launcher would comprise an unmanned spaceplane carried on the back of a zero-g-certified Airbus A300. The spaceplane would be launched from the A300 at an altitude of 10 kilometers (32,800 feet) and climb to an altitude of 80 kilometers (49 miles) on rocket power. At that point, it would deploy an upper stage and satellite before gliding back to its spaceport for landing, as shown in the following video.
Swiss Space Systems, which is working with the French Aerospace firm Dassault and Belgian firms Sonaca and Space Application Services, will leverage work previously done for the European Space Agency’s Hermes spaceplane and NASA’s X-38 lifting body. The system is designed to launch satellites weighing up to 250 kg (550 pounds) at a price of 10 million Swiss Francs (about $10.5 million) per launch. The company hopes to bring the new launch system to operation by 2017 at a cost of 250 million Swiss Francs (about $260 million). It has already signed a contract with the Van Karman Institute for four launches.
Although unconventional, the idea of using a large airliner as a launch platform for a reusable spaceplane is not a new idea. In fact, the idea is more than 30 years old.
Northrop Grumman has completed a feasibility study of commercial lunar lander configurations for the Colorado-based Golden Spike Company. Part of the study includes a novel low-mass ascent stage concept, which Northrop Grumman calls Pumpkin.
Once again, Citizens in Space is back at Maker Faire in the Bay Area.
This year, we’ve combined booths with our next-door neighbor (NASA). Come see Citizens in Space, PhoneSat, and the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, all in one booth.
On Sunday, Citizens in Space will take part in a DIY Space Chat at 4:00. Also taking part will be Peter Platzer, co-founder of NanoSatisfi, which is developing the Ardusat satellite, and Matt Reyes from NASA Ames Research Center. Keith Hammond, projects editor for Make Magazine, will moderate.
Maker Faire, produced by Make magazine, is a two-day festival of do-it-yourself science, engineering, art, and crafts. Maker Faires are held in various places around the US, but Maker Faire Bay Area, which takes place May 19 and 20 at the San Mateo Event Center, is the oldest and largest. About 150,000 people attend each year.
The map below shows the location.
Some things have not changed since the end of the Cold War. Russia is still making the mistake of believing its own propaganda.
A new article by Alexei Lyakhov and Artyom Kobzev proclaims, “Russia Has No Rivals in Space Tourism.” The article was published by the Voice of Russia, the international radio service of the All Russia State Radio and Television company.
The first Space Hacker Workshop for Suborbital Experiments, presented by Citizens in Space and the Silicon Valley Space Center, was a stunning success. One hundred participants crowded into the main hall, which was standing-room-only on May 4 And 5. Turnout greatly surpassed the organizers’ original goal of 40 people. Available tickets sold out prior to the event, and some people had to be turned away at the door.
A member of the Hacker Dojo in Mountain View, where the workshop took place, said, “I’ve never seen the Dojo this busy.”
Participants praised the hands-on format of the workshop, which provided access to actual hardware from companies such as Infinity Aerospace. Participants mingled with microgravity researchers, representatives of XCOR Aerospace, and astronauts from NASA, Citizens in Space, and Astronauts 4 Hire before breaking off into groups to work on software/hardware projects.
“These are the makers of space,” one participant said. “This event is about making and doing, rather than talking and talking.”
The excitement at the workshop caught the attention of news media including the San Jose Mercury News, Wired, Make Magazine, and the Discovery Channel. One reporter even flew in from Denmark to cover the event.
We are currently in the process of planning Space Hacker Workshops for four additional cities.
Many people are familiar with the events of May 5, 1961, when US Navy Commander Alan B. Shepard, Jr., became the first American to reach space. Less well known, however, are the events of May 4, 1961. The day before Shepard became America’s first astronaut, two other Navy officers ventured to the edge of space beneath a plastic balloon on the Strato Lab High V flight.
Here is the official video news release from Monday’s successful powered supersonic flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two (VSS Enterprise).
Scaled Composites posted the following comments in their flight log for Powered Flight 01, which was the 115th flight for White Knight Two:
Monday we “lit the candle” for the first time. SS2 control and handling was very positive during its first supersonic, rocket-powered flight. The motor operated as designed and provided a smooth but noticeable/ significant push through the sound barrier. The boost was terminated at the intended shutdown duration of 16 seconds. Trajectory was nominal with Mike [Alsbury] & Mark [Stucky] topping out at 1.22 Mach and 56,200 feet. Post shutdown glide was nominal. The vehicle and the team performed as expected – excellent! We’d like to thank our team, our many vendors, and the support of Virgin for making today a possibility. The fun has only just begun!
NASA Administrator Major General Charles Bolden says he will have to make cuts to NASA’s “Commercial Resupply Services” contract, Aviation Week reports.
NASA has awarded CRS contracts to Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Orbital Sciences Corporation for 12 and 8 cargo missions, valuaed at $1.6 billion and $1.9 billion, respectively.
On April 25, General Bolden told the Senate Appropriations Committee, “I’ll have to renegotiate those contracts. We won’t fly the number of missions that we have. Right now we’re flying 20 commercial cargo missions to the International Space Station over the next five years for three-point-some-odd billion dollars, an incredible value to the nation. I can’t carry that out under sequester.”
It’s hard to see how the proposed renegotiation would save money, however. The International Space Station needs a certain number of cargo flights to operate. There are some optional science experiments, but science aboard ISS is already severely restricted and it’s hard to see how it could be cut much further.
Most space conferences are nothing but talk. The Space Hacker Workshop provides hands-on access to hardware. This is the conference for doers.
If you’d like to do space rather than just talk about, and you’re in the Bay Area, sign up now. The registration rate so far has been fantastic. Following our success in Silicon Valley, we plan to bring the workshop to other cities around the US. If you’d like to bring the Space Hacker Workshop to your area, contact us to find out how.
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two went supersonic today on its first powered flight test.
Virgin Galactic broke the news in a series of tweets:
For the 1st time ever, SS2 has lit her rocket engine in flight! A major milestone in human spaceflight.
Wheels stop—SpaceShipTwo safely on the ground after a triumphant day in the sky. So proud of our team! Pics, video, details coming soon
Pilots Stucky and Alsbury confirm: SpaceShipTwo exceeded the speed of sound on today’s flight! Photos, video, and details to follow
Video and press release follow.
Researchers at the University of Connecticut and Penn State Altoona have developed nanoscale antennas that convert sunlight to electricity with much higher efficiency than solar cells — up to 70%. See articles here and here.
The idea of using nanoantennas to collect solar energy has been around for a while, but fabricating the antennas has been a problem up to now. Brian Willis, associate professor of chemical, materials, and biomolecular engineering at the University of Connecticut, believes he has solved that problem, using the atomic layer deposition (ALD) fabrication process, which he developed in 2011 at the University of Delaware.
If perfected, this technology could be a boon for spacecraft and satellite design.
Orbital Sciences successfully launched its Antares rocket on Sunday, achieving another milestone for NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. Future flights of the Antares will carry Orbital’s Antares space tug, which is intended to service the International Space Station. Overlooked by most of the news reports are four small satellites which Antares carried as secondary payloads.
Alamode is a $50 Arduino-compatible add-on board for the Raspberry Pi single-board microcomputer. Alamode connects to the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins and is compatible with all Arduino shields and libraries.
Developers can connect a Raspberry Pi to an Arduino, to take advantage of the Arduino’s analog connectivity and add-on boards, but Alamode provides a neater solution. Alamode may be appealing to developers who are familiar with the Raspberry Pi platform, but the new BeagleBone Black provides similar capabilities at lower cost. The combination of a Raspberry Pi Model B and Alamode costs a total of $85, while BeagleBone Black combines the capabilities into a single board for $45. Still, it is good to have so many options for hardware development. We hope that many of these options will be tried out by citizen scientists who respond to our Call For Experiments.
“We can rebuild it. We have the technology. We can make it better, strong, faster… cheaper than it was before.”
The next-generation BeagleBone, known as the BeagleBone Black, has been released with a selling price of $45. The good news is, Newark Element 14 informed us that they received their first shipment this morning. The bad news is, they’re already sold out.
[Update: We've managed to obtain a sample for you to play with at our Space Hacker Workshop in Silicon Valley on May 4-5.]
The suborbital spaceflight industry and researchers are preparing for this year’s Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference, which takes place at the Omni Interlocken Resort in Broomfield, Colorado on June 3-5.
Keynote speakers at the conference will include NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver, former Shuttle program manager Wayne Hale, Commercial Spaceflight Federation president and former Shuttle astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, FAA associate administrator for space transportation Dr. George Nield, Mojave Air and Space Port Manager Stu Witt, and the associate administrator for NASA’s new Space Technology Mission Directorate, Dr. Michael Gazarik.
For the first time this year, the program will feature dedicated three-hour provider tracks offering “deep dive” coverage of three suborbital transportation providers (Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR Aerospace). The schedule also includes panel sessions on topics such as Life Sciences, Astrophysics and Solar Physics, Microgravity, Education and Public Outreach, Planetary Science, and Atmospheric Sciences.
Citizens in Space will present two papers at the conference.
During the session on Markets, Policy, and Training, we will present “Citizen Science and Citizen Space Exploration” by Edward Wright, Lt. Col. Steve Heck (USAF-ret.), Maureen Adams, Michael Johnson, Dr. Sean Casey of the Silicon Valley Space Center, and Ravi Kamitreddy, MD, of VitalSpace and the Scripps Translational Science Institute.
During the session on Payload Accommodations, we will present “The Lynx Cub Payload Carrier for Small Suborbital Experiments” by Edward Wright, Charles Hill and Dr. Frank Little of the Space Engineering Research Center, and Prof. Justin Yates, Eric Chao, Cress Netherland, Donald Boyd, and Austin Goswick of the Texas A&M University Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.
Both papers will be presented Tuesday afternoon, June 4.
A number of organizations will have hardware on display, including a mockup of the Lynx Cub Payload Carrier being developed by Citizens in Space in cooperation with the Space Engineering Research Center and Texas A&M University.
On Monday evening, there will be a public lecture by Dr. Alan Stern, former NASA associate administrator for space science and leader of the Suborbital Application Researchers’ Group, on “The Promise of Commercial Spaceflight.”
Conference registration is currently $295 but goes up to $350 on April 25. Onsite registration is $385. Onsite registration for students is $150.
On April 12, 1961, Soviet news agencies announced that Red Air Force Major Yuri A. Gagarin had just orbited the earth in a spacecraft named Vostok. Unknown and anonymous the day before Gagarin, the world’s first cosmonaut, abruptly became an international celebrity.
Tim Pickens, who developed the propulsion system for SpaceShip One, talks about the significance of the project.