XCOR Lynx spacecraft cockpit -- cutaway view

The Lynx Cub Payload Carrier will be on display this Friday (6 Feb 2015) during Innovation Day at Space Center Houston.

The Lynx Cub Carrier is a platform designed to carry multiple small experiments aboard the XCOR Lynx suborbital spacecraft. The Lynx Cub Carrier fits in a space behind the pilot’s seat (“Payload A” in the illustration above). It can accommodate up to 15 four-inch cubes or a combination of larger experiments up to 12 inches in length.

The Lynx Cub Payload Carrier was developed by the United States Rocket Academy with support from the State of Texas Aerospace Technology Research and Operations (ASTRO) Center (formerly the Space Engineering Research Center), the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Texas A&M University, and XCOR Aerospace. The first flight article, which will appear at Space Center Houston, was finished in 2014. It was previously displayed at events such as the National Space Symposium, International Space Development Conference, and the National Science Teachers Association conference.

The Lynx Cub Carrier will be on display in the Space Center Houston lobby from opening until 2:45 PM. Along with the Lynx Cub Payload Carrier, the display will feature related experiment hardware, a model of the XCOR Lynx spacecraft, and citizen astronaut candidates to answer questions. At 2:45 PM,  the Lynx Cub Carrier will move to Johnson Space Center’s Gilruth Conference Center for “Texas: the Space State,” a presentation by Citizens in Space at the Space Exploration Educators Conference. Other parts of the display will remain available in the lobby until 4:00 PM.

Other exhibitors at Innovation Day will include the Lunar and Planetary Institute, the Texas Space Grant Consortium, Microsoft, Nanoracks, and the NASA Commercial Crew Program.

Written by Astro1 on February 4th, 2015 , Citizens in Space, Events, XCOR Aerospace

cowboy, horse, and spaceship

Why are commercial space companies flocking to Texas? Representatives of Citizens in Space will speak on Texas, the Space State at the Space Exploration Educators Conference, which takes place this week at Space Center Houston. The talk, which is open to conference attendees, begins at 2:35 this Friday (6 February 2015).

Written by Astro1 on February 3rd, 2015 , Citizens in Space, Events

citizen astronaut Anousheh Ansari aboard the International Space Station

Anousheh Ansari, one of the first citizen astronauts to visit the International Space Station, will speak in Houston this Friday (6 February 2015).

Her lecture, Dare to Dream: Travels of a Private Space Explorer, is part of the Houston Spaceport Frontier Lecture series

The talk will be held at Rice University in the McMurtry Auditorium, Duncan Hall at 4:00 PM. Admission is free. Event parking is $1 in the Greenbriar Lot.

Written by Astro1 on February 3rd, 2015 , Citizen Exploration, Events


The SETI Institute, NASA Ames Research Center, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory are teaming up with the National Park Service to present the third annual MarsFest in Death Valley National Park on 28-30 March, 2014.

The free event will include scientist-led field trips to analog sites Mars Hill, Badwater Basin, Ubehebe Volcanic Field, and the Mesquite Sand Dunes, as well as guest lectures at the park’s Furnace Creek Visitor Center.

More information and advance registration are available here.

Written by Astro1 on March 24th, 2014 , Education, Events, Planetary science

Neil deGrasse Tyson at NASA 40th Anniversary Celebration for Apollo

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s remake of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos TV series premieres next week. Early reviews are mostly positive, although some, like the New York Times, are unimpressed.

When the original Cosmos premiered, there was nothing else like it in on TV. Space-travel shows like Star Trek were still relatively rare, and no one had attempted a big-budget no fiction space show like Cosmos before.

Since that time there have been dozens, if not hundreds, of space and astronomy shows on PBS, the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, etc. While Sagan’s Cosmos had no competition, Tyson’s Cosmos has competition everywhere, including many shows hosted by Tyson himself. It is hard to see what will set the new Cosmos apart from the pack.

The new Cosmos does have support from a major network (Fox), which is undeniable advantage. The quest for network fame may have caused Tyson to make some questionable choices, however. To bring in Fox, he had to partner with Seth MacFarlane, who is known primarily as a writer of foul-mouthed gutter comedy and producer of some of the worst animation ever to appear on television. It is hard to see how MacFarlane’s involvement adds anything to the new Cosmos‘ credibility. He simply brought the money.

With only one episode aired, it is hard to predict what direction Cosmos will take in the future. There are some clues, however. Carl Sagan’s widow, Ann Druyan, who is also involved in the project, has said the new Cosmos will be more overtly political than the original. Considering how preachy Sagan could be in the original (and given MacFarlane’s involvement), we wonder how far the new Cosmos will go in that direction.

The biggest weakness of Cosmos is likely to come from Tyson himself, however. Like Sagan, Tyson has an aristocratic disdain for human space exploration, especially large-scaled citizen space exploration. Tyson is a fan of government “flag and footprint” missions, which will always be rare and expensive. He has spoken occasionally of sending NASA astronauts to Europa, but he sees no value in affordable, near-term citizen space exploration (which he denigrates as “joyrides” and “so-called” spaceflight).

Tyson believes that citizens should explore space figuratively, through television, not literally, through actual spaceflight. But watching television is not exploration; it’s voyeurism.

The universe is vast. It is naive to think that space (or even our tiny little corner of the solar system) could be completely explored by a handful of government employees acting alone.

We do not want to simply watch Cosmos. We want to explore the cosmos. More people travel than watch the Travel Channel. More people cook than watch the Food Network. We look forward to day when more people travel in space than watch space shows on Fox TV.

Written by Astro1 on March 8th, 2014 , Events

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

Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference

The 2013 meeting of the Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference, which concluded on Wednesday, showed signs that the conference is maturing.

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Written by Astro1 on June 6th, 2013 , Citizen Science (General), Events

NASA starship concept

The 2013 meeting of the 100 Year Starship Symposium, run by the DARPA-funded 100-Year Starship Initiative, is taking place on September 19-22 in Houston, TX. The call for papers has now passed, with abstracts due on May 31.

Meanwhile, Icarus Interstellar has announced its own Starship Congress, which is taking place at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas on August 12-18. A call for papers is now open with abstracts due on July 15. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Astro1 on May 30th, 2013 , Events Tags:

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.

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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

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.

Written by Astro1 on April 16th, 2013 , Commercial Space (General), Events, Space Exploration (General)

A new PBS documentary, Earth From Space, premieres this evening.


In the future, suborbital spacecraft will supplement satellites and the International Space Station, allowing more experiments to be performed and greatly reducing the time between idea and observation. Yet, some people still think there’s nothing to discover in near-Earth space.

If you missed it, you can watch online or buy the DVD here.

Written by Astro1 on February 13th, 2013 , Events

A panel discussion on “Space Medicine in the 21st Century: Commercial and Governmental Opportunities” will take place in Menlo Park, California next Thursday (February 21).

The discussion will be led by Dr. Marlene Grenon, assistant professor of vascular and endovascular surgery at the University of California San Francisco. Dr. Grenon, who is also a graduate of the International Space University, is conducting studies simulating the effects of microgravity on Earth at both the physiological (organ) level and the cellular level. She was the lead author on a recent article in the British Medical Journal, ”Can I take a space flight? Considerations for doctors,“ which was widely reported by Forbes, NPR, and Space.com, among others.

Other MDs on the panel are Alex Garbino, physiological monitoring lead for the Red Bull Stratos medical team; NASA astronaut Col. Yvonne Cagle (USAF-ret.); and Ravi Komatireddy, KL2 Scholar of Wireless Health at the Scripps Institute. Also on the panel is Walter De Brouwer, Ph.D., founder of the personalized health electronics company Scanadu, which is competing to win the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize.

Last year, Dr. Komatireddy was part of a team that tested a ViSi Mobile Monitor device aboard a microgravity flight provided by the NASA Flight Opportunities Program.


The panel, presented by the Silicon Valley Space Business Roundtable, takes place at the offices of the Orrick Law Firm, 1020 Marsh Road, from 6:30 to 9:00 PM. Admission is $35 for regular admission, $25 for Roundtable members, and $15 for students. Registration is available here.

Written by Astro1 on February 12th, 2013 , Events, Space Medicine and Safety

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

Citizens in Space will be featured at the Silicon Valley Space Business Roundtable on Thursday, June 21. The theme for the evening is “Citizen Science: Low Risk… High Impact.”

Also participating in the event will be speakers from James Cameron’s DeepSea Challenge project, SETI@home, ClickWorkers, Jellywatch, and Mavericks Rocketry.

The roundtable takes place at TechShop in Menlo Park from 6:00 pm til 9:00. Early-bird registration is $20. More details on the event are available here. Tickets and registration are available here.

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Written by Astro1 on June 15th, 2012 , Citizens in Space, Events

Citizens in Space is going on the road this summer. We’ll be attending a number of events around the country to spread the word about the exciting opportunities for citizen science and space exploration enabled by reusable suborbital spacecraft.

Following today’s event in Seattle, we’ll be appearing at Maker Faire Kansas City on June 23-24 and Maker Faire Detroit on July 30-31.  We will be announcing additional events in the near future.

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

Citizens in Space will be appearing at the Mini Maker Faire in Seattle on Saturday, June 2.

The Mini Maker Faire takes place at Seattle Center, the old World’s Fair site, on the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World’s Fair.

Our presentation is scheduled for 11:10 am. We hope to see you there.

Written by Astro1 on May 28th, 2012 , Citizens in Space, Events

Free Enterprise: The Art of Citizen Space Exploration will appear at the University of California Riverside’s ARTSblock from January 19 to March 23, 2013.

The exhibition, which has been in the planning stages since 2009, will be presented in all three ARTSblock venues: the California Museum of Photography, the Culver Center of the Arts, and the Sweeney Art Gallery.

The exhibit will present the work of artists such as French choreographer Kitsou Dubois, who has flown on over 22 parabolic flights.


Co-curator Tyler Stallings, artistic director of the Culver Center and director of Sweeney Art Gallery, said the recent events such as the SpaceX Dragon docking with ISS mark the dawn of a new kind of space race. “Outsourcing of space travel to private business represents a refocus from the cold war mentality of the 1960s in which space exploration was a grand, national assertion of collective identity, and ownership of the final frontier. In contrast, the president’s 2011 budget emphasizes private development of commercial sub-orbital flight and lunar exploration, signaling a shift from space as an abstract concept for exploration into a de-regulated realm, unconstrained, and exposed, to both socialization and capitalization. International artists will explore these untested territories with aerospace experts, engineers, scientists, visionaries and entrepreneurs.”

The exhibition may be the first of its kind in the US, but The Arts Catalyst in London has produced a number of similarly themed exhibitions. Since 2001, they have presented exhibitions on suborbital space, the International Space Station, and the Moon. The Arts Catalyst projects began with MIR (Microgravity Interdisciplinary Research), an ongoing project organized by The Arts Catalyst and the Marko Peljhan, associate professor of art and media arts and technology at UC Santa Barbara, who is also co-curating the Free Enterprise exhibition.

Written by Astro1 on May 25th, 2012 , Events

The National Science Foundation is sponsoring a CubeSat workshop in the DC area on Thursday, May 24.

The event, which carries the rather wordy title of Workshop to Explore the Utility of Cubesat Projects for Scientific Research and Technology Advances and STEM Education and Workforce Development, takes place from noon to 3:00 pm in the atrium of the NSF building at 4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22230.

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Written by Astro1 on May 11th, 2012 , Events, Nanosatellites

Due to a last-minute software review, the Falcon 9 / Dragon launch has been pushed back to May 19 at 4:55 am. May 22 is also a possibility. Either date should provide time to buy tickets, if you still want to see the launch. Bear in mind that additional delays are possible, however.

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Written by Astro1 on May 4th, 2012 , Events, SpaceX

3D printers work by laying down material, a process called additive manufacturing. Computer Numerically Controlled milling machines (CNC mills) work by removing material, which is subtractive manufacturing.

CNC mills aren’t quite as sexy as 3D printers, perhaps because the technology has been around a bit longer. Nevertheless, both technologies are useful and, indeed, complimentary.

A small company in Arkansas has recognized that fact and developed the first desktop manufacturing machine that does both addition and subtractive manufacturing. The Quintessential Universal Building Device, or QU-BD, will be introduced at Maker Faire in San Mateo.

Just one of the many wonders to be found at Maker Faire. See you there!


Written by Astro1 on May 3rd, 2012 , Events, Innovation

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is sponsoring an international conference to open dialogue about on-orbit satellite servicing.

Fostering Sustainable Satellite Servicing will be held on Tuesday, June 26 in Arlington, VA.

DARPA pioneered on-orbit satellite servicing with the Orbital Express demonstrator in 2007. DARPA is continuing to pursued on-orbit servicing in the Phoenix program, which seeks to demonstrate technologies for harvesting and reusing components from retired, non-working satellites in geosynchronous orbit.

DARPA Phoenix geosynchronous satellite servicing mission

DARPA believes that widespread adoption of on-orbit servicing would benefit from discussions regarding a range of technical and non-technical issues, including policy, legal and other constraints.

Dave Barnhart, DARPA program manager for Phoenix said that may serve as as a model for future on-orbit servicing activities.

Information about the conference can be found here.


Written by Astro1 on April 27th, 2012 , Events

The Full Fuselage Trainer, which NASA used to train Shuttle astronauts for more than 30 years, is now on its way to the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

The first component of the trainer to arrive, a Space Shuttle Main Engine mockup, was unveiled today, April 17, at the museum’s new Charles Simonyi Space Gallery. Museum of Flight president Doug King needed some help from museum employees and ladder to unwrap the artifact at an 11 am press conference.

Museum of Flight president Doug King unveils Space Shuttle Main Engine mockup

The Museum of Flight also received word today that other components of the full-scale Shuttle trainer are on the way. NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston sent word that the cockpit section has been lifted off its cradle and prepared for shipment.

The Museum of  Flight expects the main sections of the trainer to arrive on June 16. On that day, visitors to the museum will have the rare chance to see the arrival of a NASA Super Guppy aircraft, which will transport the exhibit. The museum hopes to have the Full Fuselage Trainer ready for display less than 24 hours after arrival, when the museum opens its doors on June 17 for Fathers Day.

The Museum of Flight built the Charles Simonyi Gallery to support its bid for a Space Shuttle Orbiter. Although the museum did not receive the hoped-for orbiter, museum personnel are pleased with the  Full Fuselage Trainer. In many ways, King said, the FFT is actually a better exhibit. The FFT affords more opportunities for close interaction than an actual orbiter would, which supports King’s goal to make the Museum of Flight the premiere educational aerospace museum in the nation.

Because it does not have wings, the Full Fuselage Trainer also affords more space for secondary exhibits, which will be devoted to the future of spaceflight. The museum has already begun the installation of exhibits that highlight new commercial space ventures from Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin, Boeing, Masten Space Systems, Sierra Nevada, Space-X, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR Aerospace, as well as NASA’s potential future manned mission to an asteroid.

Meanwhile, on the opposite coast, the Shuttle orbiter Discovery arrived at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport.

Written by Astro1 on April 17th, 2012 , Education, Events, Museums