Category Archives: News

What IS it all about?

Updated Sept. 26, 2013 – SInce the time of this post’s writing, Mach 30 has modified the schedule for some of the hangouts.   Those changes are reflected in the current version of the post.

Hangouts that is.

Yes, they are meetings. Online meetings. We attend, blog and record them.   As there are changes afoot, we thought it was time for a little  explanation of how they work, or why they are important to an organization like Mach 30.

hangout logo-g+_dk

Google+ has an application known as a Hangout. It allows people around the globe to communicate via video conferencing. Mach 30 has taken full advantage of this free resource. As an organization that is scattered across the US, we use Hangouts as a virtual board room, general meeting room,  events location, and even a virtual Maker Space.The average hangout has an agenda, and topics germane to the meeting. It’s just like any other meeting of  like minded people. The big difference is that it occurs online. Historically, we have met every Thursday at  2200 (10pm), Eastern Time Zone.

Times are changing. Mach 30 has evolved. We have members who speak “#Engineerspeak”, and who are dedicated to inventing the next best space gadget. Others love space, but their interests are art, software, education, administration or photography.  We all have our niche, and to better facilitate the changing ‘face’ of the organization, we are altering our schedule. Thursday is still the day of choice. What we’ve done is reorganized the meetings. Three times a month, we will meet at 2100 (9pm) Eastern Time Zone, for non-technical meetings. Every Thursday at 2200 (10pm) Eastern will be dedicated to #Engineerspeak.

Our new schedule will look like this:

2030 (8:30 pm) Eastern Time Zone:

  • 1st Thursdays

These are our business meetings, known as Report Hangouts. Find out the latest and greatest news.

  • 2nd & 4th Thursdays

The meetings are for anyone and any topic. This is where planning for events, conferences, guest visits and general information occurs.

2200 (10:00 pm) EasternTime Zone:

  • Every Thursday is for  #Engineerspeak.  Here is where you will find out information from the scattered labs of Mach 30. Specific topics may be targeted.

Now that you have an understanding of how we use hangouts, how can you attend? On our social media sites we announce our meetings. Follow us on G+, Twitter or Facebook and when we announce a meeting, click on the invitation or comment on the post. We’ll get back to you at the time of the meeting with an invitation. Our Reports meetings are video taped and you can watch them anytime via YouTube.

Hope to see you soon!

Achievements Unlocked!

It’s been a very exciting month at Mach 30.  We have made amazing progress on the Shepard Test Stand, gotten accepted to speak at a conference, and exhibited at another.  If life were a video game, Mach 30’s volunteers and partners would have just earned a whole slew of achievements.   Check them out.

Replication – Have your OSHW project built by a third party

This month, the Coca Cola Space Science Center (CCSSC) became the first group outside Mach 30 to build a Shepard Test Stand. I am particularly pleased with this achievement since it is such a concrete demonstration of our open source principles at work.  Here’s CCSSC sharing it with us over a Google+ Hangout.

CCSSC's Own Shepard Test Stand

CCSSC’s Own Shepard Test Stand

I’m not the only one who is happy about this news.  Here’s what Matt Bartow, the educational services support specialist at CCSSC, had to say.

“Congratulations to all of you at Mach 30, because I know you were very excited about seeing the first one externally built.  It was a great success, and thank you for all your help through our build process.  We will start posting our data, and, as we begin using it for student educational programming, we will also be posting about that as well.

If you need anything at all, please let us know.  Thank you so much for letting us be a part of the Shepard Program, and we are very eager to watch as everything develops for the betterment of STEM education.”

Smoke and Fire – Complete first test firing of a rocket test stand

This achievement actually goes to our friends at CCSSC. Not only did they build their own copy of the Shepard Test Stand, but a few days later they successfully fired it. Plus they were able to collect data from their tests and as you can see below, it looks very good (the flat spot in the graph is from a known bug in the Data Acquisition (DAQ) software which should be fixed shortly). Congrats to CCSSC and the Shepard project team!

CCSSC Shepard Test Fire 1 - E12-8 engine

CCSSC Shepard Test Fire 1 – E12-8 engine

Spread the Word – Get accepted as a presenter at a conference

OSHW Logo - credit the Open Source Hardware Association

I am also happy to announce that Mach 30’s Export Control Task Force has had its presentation on Open Source Hardware and Export Controls accepted as a topic at the 2013 Open Hardware Summit in Boston. The format for the presentation is a 6+1 (6 minute presentation followed by 1 minute for questions). The task force is currently working on the presentation materials, which of course will be openly licensed. Stay tuned for more details.

Show and Tell – Attend a major conference as an exhibitor

To top off the month, I was able to attend New Space 2013 where I ran Mach 30’s booth. This is the first time Mach 30 has exhibited at a major space conference, though not our first exhibit experience (we have taken the Shepard Test Stand to both the Open Hardware Summit and a regional Maker Faire).  Thanks to the hard work of our volunteers, Mach 30’s booth included display materials and two hardware projects: Shepard and the first ground station prototype. Sadly, due to fire restrictions I was not able to run a test fire on Shepard at the conference.  But New Space and Mach 30 are already talking about what needs to be done to conduct test fires next year.

Look for a complete report on the conference later this week.

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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.


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Of Google+ Pages, Google Drive, and Hangouts

As most of our readers have already guessed, Mach 30 is a big fan of Google’s services.  We hold our meetings over Google+ Hangouts.  We store our documents in Google Drive.  And of course, we have an official +Mach 30 Page on Google+.  Most of the time everything just works seamlessly.  But, such is not always the case, as was demonstrated last month when we tried to hold a Hangout On Air with guest panelists who had attended the Open Source Hardware Documentation Jam, during which our live stream was completely busted, and after which the video was deleted by YouTube for an unknown reason.

After licking our  wounds, owning our mistakes, and much research, I am happy to report we have a much better integration between the +Mach 30 page, our YouTube Channel, our Google Drive storage, and Google+ Hangouts.  Specifically, we can now run Hangouts from +Mach 30 and use Google Drive (instead of +Ezri Clarke, a fake account we set up to allow us to do this in the past).  As a bonus, the Mach 30 YouTube channel is now integrated into the +Mach 30 page, with its own tab at the top.

And how do I know all of this works?  Why, I tested it, of course (with a little help from our volunteer, Jaye Sudar).  And here’s the proof.

Warning, technical content

For those that want to know how we made all of this work, here are step by step instructions.  Of course, they are provided without warranty and with the usual disclaimer that YMMV.

  1. YouTube Integration with Google+ Pages (based on these instructions from Nonprofit Tech Blog)
    1. Login to YouTube with the account that manages the organization’s channel (we had a shared account for this purpose)
    2. Go to YouTube Settings
    3. Click the Advanced link
    4. Click the “Connect with a Google+ Page” button
    5. Select the Google+ Page you want to link to your YouTube channel
    6. Click the “OK” button to confirm the change
  2. Setup username and password for Google+ Pages (based on these instructions from Google)
    1. Open a browser, we will call Browser 1, and log out of all Google Accounts (this step is optional if you do not use multiple Google accounts, but is highly recommended if you do, it can save a lot of grief later on)
    2. In Browser 1, login to the owner account for the Google+ Page you are working with (note, the owner account cannot be a Google Apps/Custom Domain account, it must be a standard Google Account – if this is not the case, change the owner of the page to a standard account and start over with step 2.1)
    3. Now follow the steps in Google’s instructions for adding a username and password to the Page (click Pages, select the Page you are working with, click on Settings in the Google+ menu, click “Setup username & password”
  3. Integrate Google Drive
    1. In a second browser, we will call Browser 2, logout of all Google accounts
    2. In Browser 2, go to and login with the username and password for the Google+ Page you are working with
    3. In Browser 2, go to, you will be prompted to choose an email address (this will be the login name for the Google+ page in all Google Services, like Google Drive); I recommend something like “” so the username is easy to remember (you will be asked to confirm the new email address using text message or phone call, follow all of these steps until you get to the Gmail Inbox)
    4. In Browser 2, go to
    5. If you have existing Google Drive files or folders that you need to use in Hangouts, go back to Browser 1, go to Google Drive and share the files/folders with your new user account for the Google+ Page (chosen in step 3.3)
  4. Test, Test, Test
    At this point, everything should be good to go, so now it is time to test

    1. In Browser 1, visit the Page you are working with, and verify there is a YouTube tab; click it and you should see a list of videos from your YouTube Channel like this one
    2. In Browser 2, start a normal hangout by clicking on the “Hangout” button in the “Share” box on the Page’s home page
    3. Invite one or more attendees to help with the test
    4. Be sure to add Google Drive files to your hangout and verify both you as the Page and the other attendees can edit the files and see each others’ edits
    5. Close the Hangout
    6. In Browser 2, start a Hangout On Air by selecting “Hangouts On Air” from the Google+ menu, then scroll down until you see the “Start Hangout On Air” button on the far right and click it
    7. Name the Hangout, and invite attendees
    8. Again, add Google Drive files to the Hangout
    9. When everyone is ready to start, click the “Start Broadcast” button and wait for the broadcast to go On-Air
    10. Again, verify both you as the Page and the other attendees can edit the files from Google Drive and that you can see each others’ edits
    11. Be sure to say a few words and make sure everything is recording and broadcasting correctly
    12. When you are done, click the “End Broadcast” button
    13. Verify the video shows up in your Page’s stream and on your YouTube channel

If you can get through all of that, you should be good to go.  Happy  Google+’ing!

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Fifty-two Years

It’s been fifty-two years.  No, not of Mach 30 (well, not yet anyway)…  It’s been fifty-two years since the first human spaceflight.  And for the last twelve years people around the world have celebrated the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first flight (and the first US Space Shuttle flight) with Yuri’s Night parties.

Starting last year, with a great deal of encouragement and support from our volunteers, Mach 30 celebrated Yuri’s Night with an online party.  Each year, we choose a theme and hold a space trivia contest, complete with prizes for our guests out in cyberspace.  As a distributed organization we find the online format gives our volunteers, partners, board members, and fans a chance to celebrate human spaceflight together without the need for a transporter.

We just held our 2013 party this weekend.  Check it out in the video above.  The theme was Rocket Science: Live!  During the party we demonstrated two of our open source spaceflight projects (the Shepard Test Stand and our first ground station prototype).  Both were a big hit with our guests including makers from Bucketworks and Club Cyberia, and students from John Mall High School.

From all of us at Mach 30, I want to thank our volunteers, guests, and partners who helped make this year’s party a huge success.  We had a blast!  And we can’t wait to celebrate fifty-three years!

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