Category Archives: Community/Partners


Several years ago when our president J was getting his PhD in rocket propulsion, he suggested the university look into using cheap, relatively easy to use programmable micro controllers like the Arduino for controlling small satellites like CubeSats. At the time, other micro controllers like the Beagle Bone Black (BBB) weren’t available.

Yesterday, J came across a Google Summer of Code project called BeagleSat, which is the same sort of idea that J had, to have an open source framework for building CubeSats.

Furthermore, if we were to do something like this today, we’d lean towards the BBB because of its power and versatility.

We’re very curious to see how far they can take this project. They published weekly status updates on their project web page, and it looks like there’s some cool work done, but also a lot more to do. We’re always happy to see documentation being reported on a regular basis, and it looks to us like this will be a great open source hardware project.

Jones Boys’ Rocketry

As Open Source Spaceflight Hardware (OSSHW) developers, we love to see other people building, modifying, remixing, and using our designs. In fact, we believe that the “Prime Directive” of Open Hardware is that it must be reproducible. That’s why we got so excited when we were contacted through Open Design Engine by John and Christopher from Jones Boys’ Rocketry. Christopher was working on a rocketry project for school, and was attempting to get a copy of our Shepard Test Stand thrust measurement hardware working.

John and Christopher

John and Christopher in February of ’08

Having someone build your Open Hardware has another advantage – you find more bugs and design flaws. The more people build and use your hardware, the better it gets. Our work with Jones Boys on Open Design Engine was no exception. They found a couple of bugs in our software, and their work brought about some operational improvements that we had glossed over because we’re so used to the hardware.

Christopher Testing the Shepard Hardware

After about two weeks of back-and-forth work, John and Christopher were able to get a successful data capture with a live engine.

Jones Boys’ Test Firing

Christopher was able to collect and analyze data from various motor fuel grain configurations and assembled everything into his science fair project display.

Christopher’s Display

Christopher took his display to multiple science fairs, and did extremely well. He was in 9th grade when he competed, and in the regional ISEF Science Fair, took first place in physics for his group. After that he went on to win second place in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics fair, which included a $100 cash award and a 3 day workshop at Goddard (I’m very envious). He also got an honorable mention from the USAF Office of Scientific Research.

Christopher Explaining His Project at the Science Fair

Congratulations to Christopher for doing a great job, and thanks to him for using Mach 30 hardware. We’re always excited to work with people who want to build spaceflight related hardware without starting from scratch. If you’re interested in building a rocket motor test stand or satellite receiving ground station, please feel free to contact us. We’d love to talk with you.

ad astra per civitatem – to the stars through community

Related Links

ODE Project Spotlight: Photosynq

Back in March, we had our first Open Design Engine (ODE) Project Spotlight, a Google+ Hangout where we talked with the guys behind Photosynq. The project is aimed at bringing data collection about the health and growth conditions of plants out of a few greenhouses and into the hands of crowd-sourced researchers everywhere.  In our hangout, we not only talked about what Photosynq is, but also how the project developers are using ODE and other tools to manage the project. You can watch the video of the hangout through YouTube:

We got a lot out of speaking with Greg and Robert.  It was great to learn how others are using the tools available in ODE, but we were especially excited to learn about some of the technologies they were leveraging.  Jeremy and I found the data analysis tools they’ve developed, with some 3rd party libraries, something great that we might be able to leverage for the Shepard Test Stand.

We hope to have other Project Spotlights with other projects hosted on ODE in the future.  If there’s one in particular you’d like to vote for, please leave a comment! Thanks again to the guys at Photosynq for spending the time to hang out with us and talk about their project.  You can learn more about Photosynq on

Mach 30 at the 2013 Open Hardware Summit

One of the things I look forward to the most every September is the Open Hardware Summit. From the first year, the Open Hardware Summit has been a critical event for Mach 30 team members to attend, and 2013 is no exception. This year involved a number of firsts for Mach 30 including our first opportunity to speak at the Summit, another speaker mentioning Mach 30 and its work, and meeting makers who are using Open Design Engine to host their project.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the Open Hardware Summit (at least personally) was being included as a presenter. As part of our work to develop export control policies to deal with ITAR and similar regulations, the Export Control Task Force decided to submit a proposal to give a presentation on export controls and open source hardware. The topic was accepted by the Summit organizers for its timeliness (Defense Distributed’s 3D printed gun has thrust the topic into the limelight) and the quality of the task force’s export controls research. I must say the task force did a great job preparing the materials, and I can’t thank them enough for all of their support. And I am happy to report our message of preemptively addressing export controls was well received. For those who missed the presentation, we expect the Summit organizers to post videos of the presentations and we will be sure to share the video as soon as we see it is posted.

w0z talks OSHW project management and ODE

w0z talks OSHW project management and ODE

No less exciting for Mach 30 was seeing Open Design Engine (ODE) mentioned in someone else’s presentation. Mach 30 friend Amanda “w0z” Wozniak gave another impressive engineering process presentation . In previous years she has discussed the design process, and this year she discussed project management. As part of her presentation, she discussed the importance of project management tools, highlighting ODE for its lightweight setup and ease of use. She went on to create a project (a laboratory EKG pre-amp) in ODE as a living example of the value of sharing open source hardware projects on sites with builtin project management tools. She even found an answer to an unsolved design problem she had been working on as a side effect of publishing her documentation. Thanks w0z for using ODE and sharing your experience!

??? and Greg show off the Photosynq

Robert and Greg show off the Photosynq

Last but not least I got to meet Greg Austic and Robert Zegarac in the Open Hardware Summit Demo Hall. Greg and Robert are working on a hand-held, low cost, open source photosynthesis measurement platform called Photosynq. Photosynq is hosted on ODE, and this was the first time I have been able to see (and touch) hardware developed outside the scope of Mach 30 which is hosted on ODE. It was a real thrill to see hardware come to life which was birthed on our project hosting portal. Congrats to Greg and the whole Photosynq team. Keep up the great work.

So, there you go. It was certainly an exciting year for Mach 30 at the Open Hardware Summit. The only thing which could have made it better is if we had fired off the Shepard Test Stand. Hmmm. Maybe next year…

Related Articles


Change. It’s never easy, even when it is for the best of reasons. In a group or corporation, it can be chaotic or revolutionary. Yet, as most philosophers will tell you, it is inevitable. Here at Mach 30, we have seen a lot of change from those early days when it was simply a dream in the mind of Mach 30’s founder and president, J. Simmons.

In the last year, there has been a steady increase in volunteers and a change in board members. Maureen Carruthers, treasurer and long time member of Mach 30, stepped down as a board member in March of 2013.  Her  new position as the Program Manager for the National Robotics League is demanding much of her time.  Her contributions to board leadership and Mach 30’s communications team will be missed.  Fortunately, five new volunteers have stepped up to help on a variety of tasks such as Open Design Engine (ODE), the Export Control Taskforce and our Yuri’s Night Celebrations.

2013 is looking to be a busy year for Mach 30 events.  To start off, we celebrated our 4th year as an organization in January. New technology baffled the techies amongst us so the celebration was not as well attended as possible. However, we did overcome some of those issues in time for our Yuri’s Night Celebration. We are looking forward to a repeat of that success in January and April 2014.

Tech Gremlins bit Mach 30 again as we attempted to hold a Hangout concerning the Open Source Hardware Documentation Jam on the same day that Google+ made a sweeping upgrade to their service. We had a great hangout, but lost the video.  It is hoped that we can hold another hangout soon on this topic.

2013 has seen an explosion of projects on and off of ODE due to the diligent work of Jeremy Wright, Aaron Harper, and other volunteers.  These include improvements to ODE itself, enhancements to the Shepard Test Stand, and work on a satellite ground station. A grant proposal to SpaceGAMBIT was made in April in order to update and expand ODE as a development tool and a community.  However, the competition was stiff and ODE didn’t receive any funding. Other avenues are now being looked into to accomplish those goals.

Shepard Demo Sneak Peak

Shepard Test Stand Close-up

Mach 30 is working with Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center (CCSSC) to kitify the Shepard Test Stand for use in STEM programs for schools. In addition, Mach 30 volunteers are working on upgrades to the Shepard Test Stand to make it easier to build and operate.

The open source Ground Station which was featured during the Yuri’s Night Celebration has developed into a low cost satellite receiver station.  This project has been well received, and discussions about kitifying it are in process.

Two of our volunteers are working with the board to update the website and improve our social media outreach. A new theme as well as a reorganization of its content are in the works.  Take a look below for a sneak peak at the new webpage.  It is hoped by mid-summer the website makeover will be complete.


Screenshot of new web page

Last year saw the launch of the Catalyst Club, Mach 30’s annual fundraising campaign.  Support from donors, especially Catalyst Club members, is essential to the continued growth of Mach 30 and the development of open source space flight projects.

The first six months of 2013 have been exciting. The changes that have begun and will continue may feel chaotic at this point. Yet they are necessary in the long run if Mach 30 is to grow. We hope you join us in our adventures to bring Open Source Space Flight to the world.


Related Articles: