San Francisco, CA (Mar. 28, 2012) — Citizen scientists and hardware hackers are being challenged to develop payloads for commercial reusable suborbital spacecraft during the International Space Apps Challenge, a NASA-sponsored event that takes place worldwide and aboard the International Space Station on April 21-22.

The International Space Apps Challenge is a two-day “codeathon” which invites developers, hobbyists, and hackers around the world to work on a variety of hardware and software challenges. Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, is challenging participants to develop suborbital science payloads as part of the event.

Successful payloads may fly into space aboard one of the commercial reusable spacecraft that are now under development by companies such as XCOR Aerospace. XCOR Aerospace is building the Lynx, a two-seat rocketship that is expected to make its first flight before the end of this year.

“Citizens in Space has acquired a contract for 10 flights with XCOR Aerospace,” Wright said. “This is, to the best of our knowledge, the largest single bulk purchase of spaceflights on a reusable suborbital vehicle. We intend to acquire additional flights with XCOR and other suborbital spaceflight companies in the future.”

“We’re challenging the citizen-science and Maker community to contribute payloads for these flights,” said Lt. Col. Steve Heck (USAF-ret.), a middle-school science teacher and Citizens in Space Pathfinder astronaut candidate. “This community has shown tremendous drive and ingenuity. 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. Our goal is to make all of these flights available for citizen science.”

Citizens in Space is challenging participants to work on two types of payloads. One class of payload would fly inside the pressurized cabin of the Lynx or another suborbital vehicle. “In the case of the Lynx, these payloads would be carried in an experiment box behind the left seat,” Heck said. “The payload operator — a citizen astronaut like myself — would activate the experiment during the flight. It will be exposed to microgravity but protected from the space environment. This class of payload is ideal for materials processing, fluid physics, life science, and engineering-test experiments.”

The other class of payload would be exposed to the vacuum of space. These payloads would ride in a special payload port in the Lynx’s aft cowling. At a predetermined time during the flight, a hatch would open to expose the payload directly to space. “This class of payload is ideal for experiments that need access to the space environment or the upper atmosphere,” Heck said. Depending on the experiment requirements, the payload may be ejected from the vehicle by a spring launcher or return to the runway with the Lynx.

Additional details on payload requirements are available on the International Space Apps Challenge Website:

Participants who have payload questions may email project manager Edward Wright:

“Citizens in Space encourages every citizen scientist and hardware hacker to sign up and participate in the International Space Apps Challenge,” Wright said. “NASA expects participants in a number of cities across the United States and around the world, at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, and even aboard the International Space Station. This is a very exciting opportunity. We want to thank NASA for its vision and support of citizen science and citizen space exploration.”

Written by Astro1 on March 29th, 2012 , Citizen Science (General), Citizens in Space, Events

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