Tag Archives: Coca Cola Space Science Center

Our Favorite Moments from 2014

For those of you who don’t follow +Mach 30, the Board of Directors and volunteer leaders gather each month for an On Air Hangout to present status updates on our various projects.  These Reports Hangouts are very business focused which can make them “a little dry.”  We are actively discussing how we can address the business need for status updates and reach out to fans (existing and new) to share with them all the great things Mach 30 is doing.  As an experiment in the outreach side of this equation we did something different for the December Reports Hangout.  Instead of going through the list of active projects by “bus”, board members took turns sharing their favorite moments and accomplishments from 2014.  Highlights included hosting Apogee I at Club Cyberia (and how well our new planning rhythm worked: strategic planning in person at Apogee and annual planning online at Perigee), completing the first version of Ground Sphere, and Jeremy’s very awesome contributions to CadQuery (starting us down the path toward a rich and open CAD modeling package).

Thank you again to all of our volunteers and donors, we couldn’t do this without you.

Don’t forget to join in on the conversation.  Post your favorite Mach 30 moment in the comments below.

ad astra per civitatem – to the starts through community

2013 Recap

2013 was a great year of growth for Mach 30. We launched a new open source spaceflight hardware project, added great new volunteers to make even more projects possible, and fostered new partnerships in the fields of spaceflight and education. We’re looking forward to the opportunities 2014 is already promising, but before doing that we want to look back at where we’ve been.


Maureen Carruthers

Maureen Carruthers, who has been with Mach 30 since the beginning, retired from the board of directors this year. Maureen was instrumental in defining the organizational ethos that has helped bring Mach 30 to where it is today. Founding member, social media guru, organizational pioneer, these were a few of her day-to-day functions. Among the many projects she was involved in during her time as a board member were the organization our Open Design Engine Kickstarter, and many online events such as the Mach 30 Yuri’s Night party. We will miss Maureen’s contributions, but are very excited to see what she’s been doing in her new role with the National Robotics League.

Mach 30 Hangout

Mach 30 Google+ Hangout

Mach 30 runs on volunteers, starting at our board level. Several very active volunteers have come aboard this year, and have greatly increased the amount we can accomplish. Thanks to them, and the existing Mach 30 volunteers, for contributing your time, talent, and enthusiasm. Mach 30’s mission can not be accomplished without you. If you’re interested in volunteering with Mach 30, we’d love to hear from you. You can use the contact form to let us know a little about where you’d like to contribute. Not interested in hardware or engineering? No problem, Mach 30’s mission spans many disciplines, and we need people with diverse interests and backgrounds to get involved.

Export Control Task Force

During 2013, the Mach 30 community came to understand more fully just how challenging export control regulations are. For those unfamiliar with export controls, they are laws and regulations that prohibit the unauthorized exchange of information and technology that the U.S. government deems a threat to national security. Unfortunately, most things related to spaceflight fall into this category. What this means is that Mach 30 has some extra work to do on bridging the worlds of open source hardware and export controls. This is the reason for the Export Control Task Force. There are several dedicated volunteers who have elected to take on this not-so-glamorous work for the good of us all. Their research and the documents they create are published under a Creative Commons license, so you don’t have to start from scratch when working with export controls. You can find a more in-depth explanation of the task force here, and you can follow the oss-export-control Google group to keep up on the latest happenings.

Shepard Test Stand

Shepard Demo Sneak Peak

Shepard Demo Sneak Peak

Shepard is our model rocket motor test stand. It is designed to provide a safe first step into the world of rocket motor testing and analysis, with the goal of allowing students and makers to replicate the manufacturer thrust data for Estes motors. While Shepard was an active project before 2013, it saw tremendous progress in 2013. We are currently working on version 2.0, leading to a kit version that will hopefully be available sometime in the last half of 2014. Shepard has already been used for some educational and public outreach, with much more planned in 2014 as the kits become available.

Partnership with the Coca-Cola Space Science Center (CCSSC)

CCSSC's Own Shepard Test Stand

CCSSC’s Own Shepard Test Stand

We were very fortunate to connect with the team at the Coca-Cola Space Science Center in Columbus, Georgia. Our Shepard test stand project fits in very well with an educational rocket propulsion unit they are developing. The idea is Mach 30 will provide test stand hardware while CCSSC provides educational curriculum for the test stand. This will allow educators and students to get hands-on experience with real rocket motor testing in a low risk environment. We have a blog post that talks about CCSSC’s success in building their own copy of Shepard from the documentation on Open Design Engine. They will use this copy when developing the curriculum.

Ground Station

Ground Sphere v0.1 Prototype

Ground Sphere v0.1 Prototype

Ground stations that can communicate with satellites and spacecraft in orbit are a critical piece of the human spaceflight technology puzzle. With the ever increasing interest in CubeSats, low cost ground stations that makers can build are becoming even more sought after. Community member Aaron Harper has been working on a series of omni-directional ground stations that makers can build in their garage and operate with just a single laptop computer. The most recent one of these designs is Ground Sphere, which is designed to work with 915 MHz CubeSats.

Partnership with Southern Stars (SkyCube)

It’s certainly no accident that our Ground Sphere ground station design is compatible with 915 MHz CubeSats. Through a serendipitous meeting and impromptu demo at the New Space conference, Southern Stars became a more recent partner of Mach 30’s and has a very interesting use for Ground Sphere. They Kickstarted a CubeSat named SkyCube that is scheduled to launch in January. SkyCube has a very interesting feature that will transmit the tweets from orbit that SkyCube backers have written. Ground Sphere is designed to give backers the opportunity to receive those tweets directly in their homes, schools, or makerspaces.

Conference Attendance

J. Simmons at New Space 2013

J. Simmons at New Space 2013

As always, there were many great conferences to attend in 2013. The Open Hardware Summit, NewSpace, and the Open Source Hardware Documentation Jam, just to name a few. We have write-ups for a couple of these events on our blog.

  1. Open Hardware Summit
  2. New Space Conference

We find that nothing quite replaces face-to-face meetings with other space and open hardware enthusiasts. Conferences never fail to be worth the effort. Attending a space or open hardware related conference in 2014? Keep an eye on our social media channels to see if we’ll be there. We’d love to meet you!

Moving Forward

While we’re excited about what we were able to accomplish in 2013, there is so much more that can be done in 2014 with your involvement. If you have a passion for space, and want to see it become a deeper part of your everyday life, please consider becoming a member of the Mach 30 Catalyst Club. The Catalyst Club is our yearly membership program that allows you to contribute directly to Mach 30’s mission. There are multiple levels of donation, from $20 to $1000. Please consider giving at whatever level fits you the best, and partner with us in hastening the advancement of humanity into a spacefaring civilization.

Ad astra per civitatem – to the stars through community.

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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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Shepard Test Stand Update 06-17-13

From the beginning of our rocket motor test stand project, code named “Shepard”, our primary objective has been that the data we record with the test stand has to match the manufacturer’s data.  That seems like an obvious goal, but the temptation is always there to run on ahead to bigger and better things before you have a good foundation.  For our rocket motor/engine test stand program, Shepard is that foundation.  Once we know that we have the fundamentals down, we can progressively scale things up through sub-orbital, orbital, and even transorbital capable rocket engines.

Aaron Harper and I have recently been working overtime to get Shepard version 1.1 ready for one of our partners, the Coca-Cola Space Science Center (CCSSC), in Columbus, Georgia.  We’re quickly advancing toward version 2.0 which will be available as an open source hardware kit. Our hope is that the kit will be a tool that the CCSSC and others can use to safely teach hands-on rocket science.  Last week, for the first time Shepard satisfied it’s “vendor verification” requirement during an impromptu test firing.  I had just completed the build of some new hardware that was bound for CCSSC, and like a good little engineer, made sure that I tested it before shipping. The video below shows the actual test firing.

The data looked pretty good onscreen, but it wasn’t until I got back inside and took a closer look that I got excited.

Shepard 1.1 Sample Thrust Curve

The motor I test fired was a D12, and if you compare our curve to the D12’s curve in the official Estes documentation, you can see that they’re very similar.  Our curve has more noise in it, mainly because it’s raw data with no clean-up. The peak thrust, time to peak thrust, and the fall-off of the profile before propellant burnout all match up very well.  Keeping in mind that Shepard 1.1 is a retrofit of version 1.0 to test components for Shepard 2.0, and is not specifically designed for use with this hardware, that’s pretty remarkable.

By the time we tune and tighten things up on Shepard 2.0, we should have a very solid base to stand on when reaching towards our goal of hastening the advancement of humanity into a spacefaring civilization.

If you’re curious about exactly what it took to get to this point, have a look at our development logs on Open Design Engine.  We’d also be happy to answer questions that you have if you contact us through this blog, email, or any of our social media channels.  We look forward to hearing from you.

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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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