Earth's atmosphere as seen from space

The High Altitude Astrobiology Challenge will be featured at the 2014 meeting of the 100 Year Starship Symposium, which takes place in Houston on 18-21 September 2014.

“Searching for Extraterrestrial Life at the Edge of Space” is one of two featured papers that will be presented during the Life Sciences in Space Exploration Track chaired by NASA astronaut Dr. Yvonne Cagle. The paper will be presented by Edward Wright, founder of the United States Rocket Academy and project manager for Citizens in Space.

The High Altitude Astrobiology Challenge seeks to develop a reliable means of collecting microorganisms from the extreme upper atmosphere (altitudes of 100,000 feet and above). Such organisms have been collected by high-altitude balloons, but balloons lack the reliability and controllability of reusable suborbital spacecraft now under development.

The other featured paper will be “When Biology Meets Exobiology,” by David Almandsmith and Dr. Carmen Nevarez of Khotso Consulting.

Symposium registration is now open.

Written by Astro1 on August 2nd, 2014 , Astrobiology, Citizens in Space

Stanford Torus space-settlement design

(Los Angeles, CA) – A new strategy for space development will be presented at the International Space Development Conference, which takes place at the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel this week.

Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy and the Space Studies Institute, will present “The Great Enterprise: From Citizen Space Exploration to Space Settlement” in the Redondo California Ballroom at 3:00 on Saturday, May 17.

“The Great Enterprise is a theme developed by the Space Studies Institute over the past several years,” said Robin Snelson, executive director of SSI. “The end goal of the Great Enterprise is the permanent human settlement of space.

“Space settlement was envisioned by SSI founder Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill, Princeton physics professor and author of the best-selling book ‘The High Frontier,’ nearly 40 years ago.

“O’Neill’s vision inspired the creation of space-advocacy groups like the National Space Society, the sponsor of the International Space Development Conference. Despite the widespread interest in O’Neill’s ideas, space settlement has remained an elusive goal.

“A new strategy is required. Dr. O’Neill showed that permanent human settlement of space is a realistic goal, but we need a practical path to reach that goal. The old belief that government will step in with large sums of money has led nowhere and failed to inspire the general public.”

“The burgeoning Do It Yourself movement provides a model for the new strategy,” said Edward Wright, founder of the United States Rocket Academy and program manager for Citizens in Space. “530,000 people attended Maker Faires last year. Citizen-science projects and hackerspaces are springing up all over the country. Space advocacy organizations must tap into that community to a create a Do It Yourself space movement.

“All progress starts at the low end. We will outline a path for incremental development, beginning with low-cost suborbital spacecraft that are already under construction, followed by practical, achievable steps, leading ultimately to space settlement.”

“Now is the time for a new type of space movement, based on individual initiative and enterprise,” said Robert Smith, evangelist with the Space Studies Institute. “It is time we moved beyond mere advocacy. We must roll up our sleeves and take the bull by the horns. As the saying goes, ‘If you want something done right, do it yourself.'”

Written by Astro1 on May 12th, 2014 , Citizens in Space, Space Settlement

(College Station, Texas) The United States Rocket Academy announced the delivery of the first Lynx Cub Payload Carrier, a new research platform which promises to dramatically reduce the cost of access to space for small scientific and education payloads.

The Lynx Cub Carrier will fly on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft, which is now under construction at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

“The Lynx Cub Payload Carrier is a versatile system that installs in the Lynx cabin, behind the pilot’s seat, allowing small experiments to be carried as secondary payloads on any Lynx flight,” said United States Rocket Academy chairman Edward Wright. “The Cub Carrier can be installed and removed quickly for frequent, low-cost flight opportunities.

“The Lynx Cub Carrier is an ideal platform for small materials-processing, fluid-physics, life-science, and engineering experiments. University teaching and research, K-12 education, citizen science, government and industrial R&D will all benefit from the convenient simple interfaces, rapid integration, and affordability of Lynx Cub experiments.”

The Lynx Cub Carrier was developed by the United States Rocket Academy and the Space Engineering Research Center, part of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), with support from XCOR Aerospace. Design and fabrication of the Lynx Cub Carrier were performed by Texas A&M faculty and students and TEES researchers.

Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, will use the Lynx Cub Carrier on 10 Lynx missions. The Lynx Cub Carrier will also be made available to other XCOR customers, as ready-to-fly hardware or as an open-source hardware design.

“Lynx Cub payloads are based on the popular 1U, 2U, and 3U CubeSat form factors, which are de facto international standards for small scientific payloads,” said Chip Hill, Director of the Space Engineering Research Center. “The payload carrier provides physical accommodations, electrical power, and limited thermal control for Lynx Cub experiments.”

The Lynx Cub Carrier will be part of the XCOR Lynx flight-test program, which is expected to begin later this year.

“For the test flights, we will load the Lynx Cub Carrier with payload simulators, accelerometers, gyroscopes, and environmental sensors,” Wright said. “While XCOR is proving out the vehicle, we’ll be gathering baseline data on the thermal environment, acoustical environment, acceleration, vibration, and other parameters — data that will help guide experimenters in their payload design.”

“I am excited by the connection to K-12 education,” said Dr. Justin Yates, a professor at the Texas A&M Department of Systems and Industrial Engineering who served as a project lead. “I am proud that Texas A&M University industrial engineers could play a part in this project, which will excite, engage, and educate the next generation of scientists.”

“The Lynx Cub Carrier development was a great learning experience,” said Austin Goswick, a senior Systems and Industrial Engineering student who worked on the project. “This project tested me in every way, advancing my communication skills as well as my engineering skills. I can’t wait to hear how it performs in the flight test.”

The Space Engineering Research Center, part of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station in College Station, is also a member of XCOR’s global network of payload integrators, which provides value-added services for Lynx payload customers. TEES is an engineering research agency of the State of Texas and a member of The Texas A&M University System.

XCOR Aerospace, which is developing the suborbital, fully reusable Lynx spacecraft for a variety of scientific and commercial missions, is currently headquartered in Mojave, California. The company will relocate its headquarters to Midland, Texas later this year.

The United States Rocket Academy, a non-profit educational organization that studies and promotes the scientific, military, and commercial applications of human spaceflight, is also located in Texas. Citizens in Space is the United States Rocket Academy’s flagship program.

Written by Astro1 on May 7th, 2014 , Citizens in Space

New “Admirals” to Play Key Role in Future Texas Space Program

(Austin, TX) Two citizen-astronaut candidates have been honored by the state of Texas. Edward Wright and Maureen Adams are among the latest Texans to be awarded commissions as Admirals in the Texas Navy by Governor Rick Perry.

Admirals Wright and Adams are two of the five astronaut candidates currently being trained by Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, to fly on the Lynx spacecraft. Citizens in Space has acquired a contract for 10 flights on the Lynx, currently under construction by XCOR Aerospace. Each flight will carry up to 10 experiments, with a citizen astronaut acting as experiment operator.

The Lynx is a reusable, suborbital spacecraft designed to fly four times a day. In 2012, Governor Perry announced that XCOR Aerospace would move its flight-test center to Midland, Texas. The move is expected to occur later this year. XCOR could conduct as many as 520 spaceflights each year from Midland, according to the city’s FAA launch-site license application.

The Texas Navy was reactivated as an honorary organization by the Governor of Texas in 1958. The flagship of the Texas Navy, the retired battleship USS Texas, does not sail but is on static display at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site in La Porte, Texas.

Texas Navy Admirals are selected by the Governor’s office and commissioned “with the duty of assisting in the preservation of the history, boundaries, water resources, and defense of the state.”

“That is a duty we take seriously,” Admiral Wright said. “Water resources are of great concern to us in Texas, with a large part of the state locked in severe drought for the past few years. Some of the experiments we are planning are directly related to the water cycle. For example, researchers have discovered that precipitation is affected by microorganisms in the atmosphere. The Lynx may provide a useful way of sampling those organisms.”

Awarding honorary rank or titles to explorers is not a new idea, Admiral Adams said. “There is a historic tradition, dating back to the age of sea and air exploration. Columbus was honored with with title of ‘Admiral of the Ocean Sea.’ In the 20th Century, aviation pioneer Roscoe Turner was appointed as a lieutenant colonel by the Governor of Nevada, then elevated to colonel by the Governor of California. Britain awards knighthoods.”

Edward Wright is the founder of the United States Rocket Academy and program manager for Citizens in Space. He resides in Plano, Texas. Maureen Adams is a science teacher and school principal in Killeen, Texas.

Also among the Admirals commissioned by Governor Perry was Andrew Nelson, chief operating officer of XCOR Aerospace.

 

Written by Astro1 on April 30th, 2014 , Citizens in Space Tags:

Citizens in Space has joined the lineup for MakerCon, which takes place at the Oracle Conference Center in Redwood City, California on May 13-14, 2014.

MakerCon is a premiere event organized by Maker Media, publisher of Make magazine and producer of Maker Faire. MakerCon brings together the leaders at the forefront of the maker movement. The conference provides new insights into local and global manufacturing, design, marketing and distribution, and diverse funding options to help makers bring their products to market.

Edward Wright, founder of the United States Rocket Academy and program manager for Citizens in Space, will speak on “Citizen Science and Citizen Space Exploration.” Citizens in Space has acquired a contract for 10 flights on the Lynx spacecraft, which is currently under construction by XCOR Aerospace in Mojave, California. Wright will discuss opportunities for makers to fly experiments through Citizens in Space and opportunities for citizen astronauts to fly as payload operators.

“New vehicles like the XCOR Lynx will dramatically reduce the cost of access to space,” Wright said. “and low-cost access will revolutionize the way people use space. Everyone in the professional maker community needs to think about how space fits into their business plans.”

Other featured speakers at MakerCon include Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk; Massimo Banzi, co-founder of Arduino; Brook Drumm, co-founder and CEO at Printrbot; Eric Klein, partner at Lemnos Labs; Peter Hirshberg, CEO of The Re:imagine Group; Connie Hu, CEO of ArcBotics; Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired and founder of Cool Tools; Jason Kessler, Asteroid Grand Challenge Program Executive at NASA; Eric Pan, founder and CEO of Seeed Studios; Jose Gomez-Marquez, principal medical device designer at MIT’s Little Devices Lab; Brian David Johnson, futurist at Intel; Mickey McManus, CEO of MAYA Design; Edward Screven, chief corporate architect at Oracle; Yancey Strickler, co-founder and CEO of Kickstarter; and Leon Wong, director of market strategy at Xerox PARC.

MakerCon is presented by Intel and hosted by Oracle Corporation.

More information, including a complete list of speakers, is available at www.makercon.com. Registration is available at www.makercon.com/attend. Early-bird registration rates expire on April 27.

Written by Astro1 on April 23rd, 2014 , Citizens in Space

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation has announced that Citizens in Space astronaut candidate Lt. Col. Steve Heck (USAF-ret.) is joining the Federation’s Suborbital Applications Researchers Group (SARG).

SARG chairman Dr. Steven Collicott said, “[Heck’s] work to bring spaceflight experiment opportunities to schools in his region is the type of hands-on STEM education which can be emulated around the country by other inspired educators. He is blazing a new trail in this exciting era of spaceflight.”

Citizen astronaut candidate Lt. Col. Steve Heck (USAF-ret.)

Written by Astro1 on December 18th, 2013 , Citizens in Space

This summer, we invited Popular Science editor-in-chief Jacob Ward to join us for the current phase of our citizen-astronaut training. The resulting story, Trials and Tribulations of Space School, appears in the January issue of Popular Science, which is on the newsstands now.

“Until this point, space, the final frontier, existed almost as an abstraction for most of us,” Jacob writes. “Now it is within reach. The democratization of space has arrived.”

The story is also available online here.

Written by Astro1 on December 18th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration, Citizens in Space

Citizen astronaut candidate Edward Wright training in centrifuge at NASTAR Center

Training, Evaluating New Medical Technology at NASTAR Center

Four citizen-astronaut candidates have completed Suborbital Scientist training at the National AeroSpace Training and Research (NASTAR) Center, the premier aviation and space training, research, and education facility aimed at optimizing human performance in extreme environments.

Maureen Adams, Lt. Col. Steve Heck (USAF-ret.), Michael Johnson, and Edward Wright have been selected by Citizens in Space to fly as payload operators on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft.

The four citizen-astronaut candidates completed multiple centrifuge runs during the three-day training course, simulating g-forces that will be encountered during a suborbital spaceflight. They also completed altitude-chamber training at simulated altitudes up to 28,000 feet and a rapid-decompression exercise.

“This physiological training is essential preparation for the functions we will perform during our missions,” Colonel Heck said. “To perform our tasks as payload operators, we must be familiar with every aspect of the flight environment in both normal and emergency situations. I am happy to say that all of our citizen-astronaut candidates completed NASTAR training with flying colors.”

In addition to physiological training, the group conducted an evaluation of advanced biomedical sensors manufactured by Sotera Wireless, Inc. of San Diego. Edward Wright and Michael Johnson evaluated the sensors during four centrifuge runs at up to 6.2g. The evaluation was conducted under the direction of Dr. Ravi Komatireddy, a physician researcher and president of Vital Space. Steve Heck and Maureen Adams helped attach and monitor the sensors.

The ViSi Mobile device from Sotera Wireless is a next-generation, wireless vital-sign monitoring system. “We demonstrated how the Visi Mobile device might be used in a spaceflight or simulated-spaceflight environment, with no disruption or discomfort for the wearer,” Wright said. “This could open the door for using the device to collect actual data during our future training as well as operational space missions.”

Citizen-astronaut candidates prepare medical sensors for centrifuge run at NASTAR Center

“This was an initial evaluation to determine the feasibility of using the Visi Mobile device in a high-g environment,” said Dr. Komatireddy. “In the past, the most advanced medical technology came out of the space program and was spun off to the private sector. Today, that process is operating in reverse. Low-cost off-the-shelf technology like the Visi Mobile allows us to collect data that, in the past, required expensive, custom-built aerospace medical devices.”

Citizen-astronaut candidate Michael Johnson (left) prepares to evaluate biomedical sensors with help from Lt. Col. Steve Heck

In 2012, Dr. Komatireddy and colleague Dr. Paddy Barrett tested the Visi Mobile device on a Zero-G aircraft flight sponsored by NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program. During that flight, the device was tested in regimes ranging from 0 to 2 g. The centrifuge provided a much more extreme g-force environment. “We have now tested the Visi Mobile device through the full range of acceleration environments that will be encountered on a suborbital spaceflight,” Dr. Komatireddy said. “This is an important step toward proving the usability and usefulness of the device for future spaceflight participants.”

Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, has purchased 10 flights on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft, which it is making available to the citizen-science community. Citizens in Space plans to fly 100 citizen-science experiments and 10 citizen astronauts as payload operators.

The first five citizen-astronaut candidates have been selected and are currently in training. Greg Kennedy, director of education at NASTAR Center, has been selected as the fifth citizen-astronaut candidate. Due to his prior NASTAR training experience, Kennedy did participate in this portion of the Citizens in Space training.

Citizen-astronaut candidate Lt. Col. Steve Heck prepares for altitude-chamber training at NASTAR Center

Written by Astro1 on September 5th, 2013 , Citizens in Space

Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, has announced the selection of its fifth citizen-astronaut candidate.

Informal educator and aerospace historian Greg Kennedy will join four other citizen-astronaut candidates who are training to fly as payload operators on the Lynx spacecraft, currently under construction by XCOR Aerospace in Mojave, CA. XCOR expects to begin Lynx test flights later this year.

“We are pleased to welcome Greg to our astronaut group, “ said Edward Wright, citizen-astronaut candidate and project manager for Citizens in Space. “His experience and skills will help to strengthen our program and expand our outreach in new directions.”

Greg Kennedy is currently director of education at NASTAR Center, a leading provider of spaceflight training for commercial vehicles, in Southampton, Pennsylvania. Previously, he was associate curator for manned spaceflight at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC; director of the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas, Texas; founding director of the American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum in Fort Worth; executive director of the Space Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico; executive director of the Mid Atlantic Air Museum in Liberal, Kansas; and executive director of the American Helicopter Museum in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

“I am proud to join this program, which is providing everyday citizens with ground-breaking opportunities to participate in space science and space exploration,“ said Greg Kennedy.

Kennedy is a noted aerospace historian whose books include Touching Space: The Story of Project Manhigh, Apollo to the Moon, The First Men in Space, Rockets and Missiles of White Sands Proving Ground, and Vengeance Weapon Two: Germany’s V-2 Rocket. He was also a co-author of The Space Shuttle Operator’s Manual and Rockets, Missiles, and Spacecraft of the National Air and Space Museum.

Kennedy is a qualified spacesuit technician and commercial spaceflight instructor. At NASTAR Center, he conducts training for commercial spaceflight participants and suborbital scientists, along with various workshops and summer-camp programs which he has created for teachers and students.

Citizens in Space was originally known as “Teachers in Space.” Lt. Col. Steve Heck, a retired Air Force pilot and science teacher from Milford, Ohio was one of the first astronaut candidates to be recruited. “In 2012, the program was renamed and expanded to include a broader range of participants, including informal educators, university students, hardware hackers and science hobbyists,” Heck said. “Greg Kennedy represents our first outreach to the informal-education community. Today’s announcement is only a taste of things to come.”

Citizens in Space has purchased 10 flights on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft. To fill those flights, Citizens in Space is seeking 100 citizen-science experiments and 10 citizen astronauts to fly as payload operators.

Current citizen-astronaut candidates include Greg Kennedy; Maureen Adams, an elementary-school teacher and principle from Killeen, Texas; Michael Johnson, an aviation instructor from Dallas, Texas; Lt. Col. Steve Heck (USAF-ret.), and Edward Wright.

Greg Kennedy

Written by Astro1 on July 25th, 2013 , Citizens in Space

Space Hacker Workshop (left), XCOR Lynx Spacecraft Over Texas (right)

Space Hacker Workshop to Take Place in Dallas

Space isn’t just for governments and large corporations.

Citizen scientists and hardware hackers will learn how to do “space on the cheap” at a two-day Space Hacker Workshop in Dallas. Participants at the workshop will learn how they can build and fly experiments in space, and even fly in space as citizen astronauts, through the Citizens in Space program.

The Space Hacker Workshop takes place July 20-21 at the Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field. The workshop is sponsored by Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, and SpaceGAMBIT, an international collaboration of citizen scientists operating through makerspaces, hackerspaces, and community groups.

Citizens in Space has purchased 10 flights on the XCOR Aerospace Lynx spacecraft, now under construction at the Mojave Air and Space Port, which will be made available to the citizen-science community.

“We’re looking for 100 citizen-science experiments and 10 citizen astronauts to fly as payload operators,” Citizens in Space project manager Edward Wright said. “The Space Hacker Workshop will provide participants with information and skills needed to take advantage of our free flight opportunities.

“This is an opportunity for citizen scientists to develop and test new technologies in space, to collect microorganisms from the extreme upper atmosphere, to experiment with new processes for creating new materials; and do many more cool things.”

Space is no longer the exclusive domain of NASA and university scientists. A previous Space Hacker Workshop in California attracted a standing-room crowd of men and women from every walk of life. High-school students sat next to medical doctors and astrobiologists. Tinkers and hobbyists worked alongside engineers and physics professors, a heart surgeon, and a NASA astronaut.

“These are the makers of space,” said one participant at the California workshop. “This event is about making and doing, rather than talking and talking.”

“Thanks to modern technology, citizen scientists can build and fly fully functioning space experiments for a few hundred dollars or less, ” Wright said. “With components available at Radio Shack or Fry’s Electronics, citizen scientists can build instruments and experiments with more power than a NASA satellite from a few years back. ”

The Space Hacker Workshop will provide hands-on exposure to a variety of microcontrollers, sensors, imaging systems, and other components. With these components, participants will learn how to design and build microgravity, fluid-physics, life-science, and engineering experiments. Each paid participant will receive a hardware package to take home after the workshop.

A representative of XCOR Aerospace will be on hand to discuss the Lynx spacecraft. Experts from NASA and industry will discuss the research professional scientists have done in the past, prospects for new research on low-cost suborbital spacecraft such as Lynx, and opportunities for citizen scientists to build on the shoulders of NASA giants.

Three citizen-astronaut candidates will also be on hand, to discuss the Citizens in Space astronaut selection and training process.

Admission for the event is $129 at the door. Super Early Bird tickets are available now for $79. Tickets are limited and the event may sell out. Online registration is available at SpaceHackerDFW.eventbrite.com.

Written by Astro1 on June 13th, 2013 , Citizens in Space, Events

The first Space Hacker Workshop for Suborbital Experiments, held in Mountain View (Silicon Valley) on May 4-5, spurred a considerable amount of media interest. Here, in no particular order, are links to some of the stories. There was at least one television story, which doesn’t seem to be available online, and one Danish magazine article which was online but seems to have disappeared.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Astro1 on May 24th, 2013 , Citizens in Space Tags:

Clear your calendars for July. Planning for the next Space Hacker Workshop is underway — with funding from the Department of Mad Scientists!

Written by Astro1 on May 16th, 2013 , Citizens in Space


Buy Tickets to Maker Faire Today!

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Astro1 on May 14th, 2013 , Citizens in Space, Events

First Space Hacker Workshop for Suborbital Experiments, Silicon Valley,  May 2013
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.

Space Hacker Workshop for Suborbital  Experiments (Silicon Valley, May 2013)

Written by Astro1 on May 7th, 2013 , Citizens in Space, Events

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.

Written by Astro1 on April 30th, 2013 , Citizens in Space, Events

[Update: In July 2013, Citizens in Space named Greg Kennedy as a citizen-astronaut candidate by Citizens in Space. For details, see Greg Kennedy Joins Citizen Astronaut Corps.]

Greg Kennedy, director of education at NASTAR Center and former associate curator for manned spaceflight at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum, has joined our writing staff. Greg will be contributing articles on approximately a weekly basis.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Astro1 on April 4th, 2013 , Citizens in Space

The Final Frontier for Citizen Science

Mountain View, California (Apr. 2, 2013) – Are you a hardware hacker? Do you have the Right Stuff to become a citizen scientist or citizen astronaut? Here’s your chance to find out.

Citizen scientists and hardware hackers will learn how to do “space on the cheap” at the first Space Hacker Workshop for Suborbital Experiments. Participants at the two-day workshop will learn how they can build and fly experiments in space, and even fly in space as citizen astronauts, through the Citizens in Space program.

The Space Hacker Workshop takes place May 4-5 at the Hacker Dojo in Mountain View, California, across the street (literally) from NASA Ames Research Center. The workshop is sponsored by Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, and the Silicon Valley Space Center.

Citizens in Space has purchased 10 flights on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft, now under construction at the Mojave Air and Space Port, which will be made available to the citizen-science community.

“We’re looking for 100 citizen-science experiments and 10 citizen astronauts to fly as payload operators,” Citizens in Space project manager Edward Wright said. “This is a chance for citizen scientists to develop and test new technologies, like bioreactors and 3D printing, in zero gravity; to collect microorganisms from the extreme upper atmosphere; to experiment with new processes for creating new materials; and do many more cool things. The Space Hacker Workshop will provide participants with information and skills needed to take advantage of our free flight opportunities.”

“Space is no longer the exclusive domain of NASA and university scientists,” said Dr. Sean Casey, co-founder of the Silicon Valley Space Center. “Citizen scientists can build and fly fully functioning experiments for a few hundred dollars or less, thanks to technology developed here in Silicon Valley. With components available at Radio Shack or Fry’s Electronics, citizen scientists can build instruments and experiments with more power than a NASA satellite from a few years back.”

“Commercial spaceflight is the next high-tech revolution, making space a participatory frontier,” said Dr. Alexander Saltman, executive director of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. “This event will tap into the creative spirit that has made Silicon Valley a center of innovation for decades.”

The Space Hacker Workshop will provide hands-on exposure to a variety of microcontrollers, sensors, imaging systems, and other components. With these components, participants will learn how to design and build microgravity, fluid-physics, life-science, and engineering experiments.

Infinity Aerospace, which is developing the open-source ArduLab for low-cost space experiments, will be on hand to discuss the use of ArduLab hardware as a development platform. Also on hand will be representatives of XCOR Aerospace, which is building the fully reusable Lynx suborbital spacecraft, and NASA Ames Research Center.

Khaki Rodway of XCOR Aerospace will discuss the capabilities and requirements of the Lynx spacecraft. A panel of experts from NASA and industry will discuss research professional scientists have done in the past, prospects for new research on low-cost vehicles such as the Lynx, and opportunities for citizen scientists to build on the shoulders of NASA giants.

Project manager Edward Wright will be on hand to discuss Citizens in Space flight opportunities for experiments and citizen astronauts, including an exclusive glimpse at citizen-astronaut training activities planned for this summer.

Admission for the event is $150 at the door, but early-bird tickets are available now for $100. Tickets are limited and the event may sell out. Online registration is available at spacehacker.eventbrite.com.

For more information about Citizens in Space flight opportunities, see our Call For Experiments.

Written by Astro1 on April 2nd, 2013 , Citizens in Space

Lynx Cub Payload Carrier (artist's concept)

Lynx Cub Payload Carrier Being Developed at Texas A&M

College Station, Texas – A new payload carrier promises to dramatically reduce the cost of access to space for small scientific and education payloads.

The Lynx Cub Payload Carrier was announced today by the United States Rocket Academy.  The Lynx Cub Carrier will fly on the XCOR Lynx space plane, now under construction at the Mojave Air and Space Port, and carry up to 12 experiments on each flight.

“The Lynx Cub Payload Carrier is a versatile system that installs in the Lynx cabin, behind the pilot’s seat, allowing small experiments to be carried as secondary payloads on any Lynx flight,” said United States Rocket Academy chairman Edward Wright. “The Cub Carrier can be installed and removed quickly for frequent, low-cost flight opportunities.”

Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, will fly the Lynx Cub Carrier on 10 Lynx missions beginning in late 2014 or early 2015. The Lynx Cub Carrier will also be made available to other XCOR customers, as ready-to-fly hardware or as an open-source hardware design.

“XCOR is pleased to welcome this new payload carrier to the Lynx family,” said Khaki Rodway, XCOR Director of Payload Sales and Operations. “The Lynx Cub Carrier is an ideal platform for small materials-processing, fluid-physics, life-science, and engineering experiments. University teaching and research, K-12 education, citizen science, government and industrial R&D will all benefit from the convenient simple interfaces, rapid integration, and affordability of Lynx Cub experiments.”

Lynx Cub Payload Carrier (artist's concept) internal view

The Lynx Cub Carrier is being developed by the United States Rocket Academy and the Space Engineering Research Center, part of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), with support from XCOR Aerospace. Design and fabrication are being done by Texas A&M faculty and students and TEES researchers.

“Lynx Cub payloads are based on the popular 1U, 2U, and 3U CubeSat form factors, which are de facto international standards for small scientific payloads,” said Chip Hill, Director of the Space Engineering Research Center. “The payload carrier provides physical accommodations, electrical power, and limited thermal control for Lynx Cub experiments.”

The Lynx Cub Carrier will be flight-ready in September 2013, Hill said, and will be included in the XCOR Lynx flight test program.

“For the test flights, we will load the Lynx Cub Carrier with payload simulators, accelerometers, gyroscopes, and environmental sensors,” Wright said. “While XCOR is proving out the vehicle, we’ll be gathering baseline data on the thermal environment, the acoustical environment, acceleration, vibration, etc. — data that will help guide experimenters in their payload design.”

“The Space Engineering Research Center has put together a first-class team for this development program,” Hill said. “The involvement of Texas A&M industrial and systems engineering students as key team members, under the mentorship of Dr. Justin Yates and direction of technical lead Dr. Frank Little, provides an excellent opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience with real space hardware.”

A&M student Cress Netherland said, “Developing the Lynx Cub Carrier presents a challenging and unique problem. We are extremely excited about the opportunity to apply our studies to a real world application.”

The Space Engineering Research Center, part of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station in College Station, is also a member of XCOR’s global network of payload integrators, which provides value-added services for Lynx payload developers. TEES is an engineering research agency of the State of Texas and a member of The Texas A&M University System.

XCOR Aerospace, which is developing the suborbital, fully reusable Lynx spacecraft for a variety of scientific and commercial missions, is currently headquartered in Mojave, California. The company will relocate its headquarters to Midland, Texas later this year.

The United States Rocket Academy, a non-profit educational organization that studies and promotes the scientific, military, and commercial applications of human spaceflight, is also located in Texas. Citizens in Space is the United States Rocket Academy’s flagship program.

Lynx Cub Payload Carrier development team members Prof. Justin Yates, Texas A&M industrial and systems engineering students Eric Chao, Cress Netherland, Donald Boyd and Austin Goswick.

Lynx Cub Payload Carrier development team members (left to right): Texas A&M industrial and systems engineering Prof. Justin Yates, students Eric Chao, Cress Netherland, Donald Boyd and Austin Goswick. Not shown: Charles Hill and Dr. Frank Little.

Written by Astro1 on March 28th, 2013 , Citizens in Space

Four experiments will fly on XCOR Lynx Spacecraft

Mountain View, California – The Silicon Valley Space Center will develop four scientific payloads to fly on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft, which is currently under construction in Mojave, California.

The payloads will fly on missions sponsored by the United States Rocket Academy’s Citizens in Space program. The payloads are part of a cooperative agreement between the Silicon Valley Space Center and Citizens in Space, which was announced today.

“The Silicon Valley Space Center is proud to support the Citizens in Space program,” said Dr. Sean Casey, co-founder of the Silicon Valley Space Center. “This is a unique opportunity to leverage the technical expertise of the Silicon Valley community in support of citizen science and the emerging suborbital spaceflight industry.”

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Written by Astro1 on March 21st, 2013 , Citizens in Space
Michael Johnson (left), Edward Wright (right)

Michael Johnson (left), Edward Wright (right)

Two from Texas will fly as payload operators on XCOR Lynx spaceplane

(Space Center Houston) – Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, announced two astronaut candidates at the Space Exploration Educators Conference, which took place here today.

Citizen-astronaut candidate Maureen Adams, who has been in training for three years, announced the new additions.

“As a citizen of Texas, I take special pride in making this announcement,” Adams said. “Today we are expanding our astronaut corps to four, as Michael Johnson and Edward Wright, both from Texas, join our training program.”

Michael Johnson is a founding member and executive director of the North American Aerotech Academy, a non-profit organization that provides aviation-based STEM education to schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area including four-year aviation academies at Irving High School and DeSoto High School. Johnson is a single- and multi-engine commercial pilot, instrument ground instructor, and type-rated captain on the Cessna Citation jet aircraft.

Johnson also provides STEM-based afterschool programs and summer camps, most recently teaching the Hot Roc STEM camp at Cedar Valley College in Lancaster, Texas that included a on-site mission-control room and the construction and launch of over 300 rockets. He is currently pursuing an Executive MBA degree at the University of Texas at Dallas and serves in the Texas Wing of the Civil Air Patrol as a Aerospace Officer with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.

Edward Wright is the chairman of the United States Rocket Academy and project manager for Citizens in Space. He brings almost 30 years of experience in the computer, aviation, and space industries. In the past, he developed the first Space Enterprise Symposium and founded X-Rocket, LLC.

“This is an important step in the development of our program,” said Lt. Col. Steve Heck (USAF-ret.), training director for Citizens in Space and another citizen-astronaut candidate. “Citizens in Space has purchased 10 flights on the XCOR Lynx spaceplane, which is expected to enter operational service in 2014. We will be flying over 100 citizen-science experiments and training 10 citizen astronauts to fly as payload operators.

“The individuals named today provide the right mix of skills to help us develop our training program, which will ensure that our current and future astronauts are able to fly safely and perform effectively as payload operators.

As a veteran military aviator and future astronaut, I am well aware of the risks involved in this sort of undertaking and the tragedies that can occur when things go wrong. The United States Rocket Academy is dedicated to providing the highest standard of training to minimize those risks.”

“Spaceflight is an inherently risky activity,” Wright said. “Safety is an ethical matter. I have seen too many friends die in aircraft accidents. I did not feel that I could ask people to participate in this program and accept the risks unless I was willing to do so myself.”

“Citizen astronauts will fly as payload operators, not just space tourists,” Johnson said. “This means that a higher standard of training is necessary.”

Adams, Heck, Johnson, and Wright are pathfinders for a larger training program. The “first four” will participate in training activities at several locations this summer. Training will expand next year as Citizens in Space seeks to fill out all ten astronaut slots.

Written by Astro1 on February 8th, 2013 , Citizens in Space Tags:

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.

Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, is riding this new wave of citizen science citizen space exploration.

XCOR Lynx with Atsa Suborbital Observatory space telescope

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.

Teacher, Air Force Veteran Steve Heck Inducted Into Hall of Fame

(Dayton, OH) – Lieutenant Colonel Steve Heck (USAF-ret.) is being honored by the State of Ohio for his work with Citizens in Space, a non-profit project that promotes citizen science and citizen space exploration.

Lt. Col. Heck is one of 15 veterans who will be inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame today by Governor John Kasich in a ceremony at the National Museum of the US Air Force here in Dayton.

“It’s a great honor to be among this select group of veterans honored for their contributions to the State of Ohio,” Heck said. “I am grateful to the governor and State of Ohio for recognizing the importance of the Citizens in Space program and proud to receive this recognition for the role I have played in it.”

As an Air Force officer, Steve Heck flew the B-52 Stratofortress and KC-10 Extender, setting two world records in the KC-10 aircraft. After retirement, he became an elementary-, middle-, and high-school science teacher in Milford, Ohio.

In 2009, Steve Heck was selected as an astronaut candidate for Teachers in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy. In 2011, the program was expanded to include a broad range of citizen scientists and renamed Citizens in Space.

Steve Heck is one of three astronaut candidates selected by the United States Rocket Academy to fly on the Lynx, a suborbital rocketship being built by XCOR Aerospace in Mojave, California. The United States Rocket Academy has acquired an initial contract for 10 flights on the Lynx and plans to acquire additional flights on the Lynx and other vehicles in the future.

Heck has served the program as an instructor as well as an astronaut candidate, helping to develop a suborbital astronaut training curriculum for Citizens in Space, which will select seven additional astronaut candidates in the next 12-18 months.

“I’m pleased to be using my Air Force experience to help shape this program, which is paving the way for the next generation of American astronauts,” Heck said. “In the next decade, thousands of Americans will fly in space on vehicles like the Lynx, through programs like Citizens in Space. I am proud to help form the training that will ensure citizen astronauts are able to fly safely and accomplish their missions effectively.

“The astronauts selected for Citizens in Space will be busy during their flights, operating and supervising up to a dozen experiments. Preflight training is therefore crucial,” Heck said.

The XCOR Lynx is scheduled to roll out in 2013, followed by about a year of flight tests. If testing goes according to plan, Lynx will enter operational service in early 2014. “Development of the Lynx is proceeding at a rapid pace,” Heck said. “The challenge for Citizens in Space is to make sure we’re ready. We accept the challenge.”

Citizen astronaut candidate Lt. Col. Steve Heck (USAF-ret.)

Written by Astro1 on November 8th, 2012 , Citizens in Space

Former NASA Shuttle commander and XCOR chief test pilot astronaut Col. Rick Searfoss

(Houston, TX) – Colonel Rick Searfoss (USAF-ret.) will address teachers at the Space Exploration Educators Conference, which takes place at Space Center Houston on February 7-9, 2013. Colonel Searfoss will speak during a session on “Citizen Science and Citizen Space Exploration” presented by Citizens in Space.

As a NASA Shuttle pilot and commander, Colonel Searfoss flew into space three times. As chief test pilot for the Lynx reusable spacecraft, now under construction by XCOR Aerospace, he expects to fly into space much more often.

“The suborbital Lynx spacecraft is designed to fly up to four times a day,” Colonel Searfoss said. “We need to dispel the myth that American spaceflight is ending. The real space age is about to begin. In the next decade, thousands of Americans will travel into space.”

Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, has acquired a contract for 10 flights on the Lynx spacecraft, which will be made available to the education and citizen-science communities. Citizens in Space will select 100 citizen-science experiments and 10 citizen astronauts to fly as payload operators.

Colonel Searfoss will address teachers via two-way video link from the XCOR Aerospace hangar at Mojave Air and Space Port in California, where the Lynx spacecraft is now being built. “I would love to visit Houston again and meet teachers in person,” Colonel Searfoss said, “but the Lynx test schedule does not allow it. We expect to begin test flights early next year, perhaps around the time of the conference. So, we will have a lot of exciting developments to share with the teachers.”

In addition to teleconferencing with Colonel Searfoss, teachers will have the opportunity to meet the first three citizen-astronaut candidates selected by Citizens in Space. Teachers will learn how they can incorporate citizen science into the classroom, develop experiments to fly on Lynx, and apply for the citizen astronaut program.

“Suborbital spacecraft like Lynx will revolutionize access to space, for scientists, engineers, teachers, and students,” Col. Searfoss said. “The revolution begins in 2013. Teachers can hear all about it at the Space Exploration Educators Conference.”

Registration for the Space Exploration Educators Conference is open now. On-line registration and conference information is available at www.spacecenter.org/teachersseec.html.

Citizen astronaut candidate Maureen Adams and XCOR chief test pilot and former NASA Shuttle commander Colonel Rick Searfoss

Col. Rick Searfoss and citizen astronaut candidate Maureen Adams. 

Written by Astro1 on November 1st, 2012 , Citizens in Space, Education

Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, has been invited to present at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, to be held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco on December 3-7.

“We are pleased for the opportunity to discuss potential collaboration between professional and citizen scientists before such a distinguished audience,” said United States Rocket Academy president Edward Wright.

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Written by Astro1 on October 2nd, 2012 , Citizens in Space, Events