Tag Archives: Lessons Learned

Gravitas at Mach 30

Gravitas (n.) – An ancient Roman virtue that denotes seriousness and dignity. It encompasses the depth of knowledge and/or personality that comes with experience. A very old word, but a modern circumstance.

So, how do you decide who’s got it all together in a field of endeavour as broad as ‘Space’? In any situation, you look for the survivors. Those who’ve been in the ‘game’ the longest with the most success. In something as new as the Open Source Space Movement, it can be a little more difficult. This is because a good web presence or a flashy marketing video can imply credence, sometimes more than actual content can. You have to dig past the ‘vaporware’ to find the real foundations. Another telltale sign is the language. Not the difference between German or Swedish or English, but the language of the non-tech, the space enthusiast, and the astronautical engineer.

Open Source is a confusing maze for newcomers. It is a difficult paradigm to wrap the brain around when all of your existence has been cocooned in a proprietary existence. Add “Space” to that and life gets interesting. Out of the 754,000,000 hits on a search engine, where do you start? What values, what gravitas do you look for? How does this relate to Mach 30?


Here are some of the things that we have done to promote gravitas.

Organizational maturity:

  • Mach 30 is a 501(c)(3) public charity. We’ve built a solid foundational base on which we established the organization, with the IRS paperwork to prove it
  • Strong business processes including openly shared documentation, meeting minutes, strategic plans, etc.  These provide transparency.
  • We seek out like minded organization and work with other non-profits, makers spaces, government entities, and the broader aerospace industry.

Technological stepping stone approach

  • Being biased towards mature technology means we can build and test now.
  • Having learned from the misatkes of others, we avoid the “death spiral” of giant development projects that will cost large fortunes.
  • Pursuing a technology “Road Map” development plan instead of jumping-in to shiny and fun projects
  • Tackling the true barrier to safe, sustainable, routine, and reliable spaceflight:  Namely affordable and reusable spacelift.

Open hardware development and Open Design Engine

  • True open source hardware projects (space-related or otherwise) need to share their WHOLE project, from inception to disposal.  Mach 30 does this on ODE.
  • In fact, Mach 30 is responsible for the development and operations of the opendesignengine.net because we identified this as an unfulfilled need, then filled it.  
  • Mach 30 conducts its work using open systems engineering processes.  Open source hardware development with distributed collaboration is different, as we’ve learned from past projects.

Identified need to deal with Export Controls, ITAR and more

  • Working to understand Export Controls
  • Having an Export Control Task Force
  • Meeting regularly to expand our knowledge and compliance of Export Controls

Each of these works combine to build gravitas. We’ve been at this for four years. We ask ourselves these questions frequently, “Are we doing this right?” “Are we true to our vision?” “Is this right/correct/needed?”. We strive to complete our goals. We work to make our little corner of the Open Source Space Movement a little better each day. We don’t have all the answers, but we are willing to share what we know.

Mach 30 is gaining gravitas, little by little. Each conference we attend, every event we hold, and every failure we review and improve upon adds to that weight. We are by no means perfect, but well will continue to work towards bringing humanity into a spacefairing civilization.

~ ad astra per civitatem ~
to the stars through community

Related Articles:

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 http://plus.google.com and login with the username and password for the Google+ Page you are working with
    3. In Browser 2, go to http://gmail.com, 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 “plusmypagename@gmail.com” 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 http://drive.google.com
    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!

ad astra per civitatem

Test Early, Test Often, Test Everytime

Credit Rob Sayer

Not everyone knows this, but my first degree is in theatre, specifically theatre lighting design.  Before I ever learned about differential equations, stress analysis, or lift-to-drag ratios, I studied color theory, script analysis, and worked lights for dozens of shows ranging from “A Christmas Carol” to “Evita“.

One of the secrets to making sure a play comes off without a hitch every single night for weeks, months, or even years on end is something called a dimmer check.  Before each performance (even if there was one earlier in the day), the lighting crew chases everyone out of the theatre, and one by one turns on the 50-500 lights over the stage to make sure everything is still working.  The crew checks to make sure the lights come on, that the color filter in front of the light has not faded or burned through, that the light is still pointed at the correct location on the stage.  And, believe it or not, for medium to large shows, there is almost always something that needs to be fixed before each and every performance.  Yes, even when the last performance was just a couple of hours ago.

This attention to detail, and insistence that every time the equipment is turned back on it should be tested, is an essential element to getting live performances right every single time.  It’s even more important when you have just changed something, whether it is to make a repair or an improvement.

I pride myself on how my experience in theatre influences the way I approach live events at Mach 30 and elsewhere.  I always insist on rehearsals, especially when technology is involved (we had two separate technical rehearsals for this year’s Yuri’s Night Party), and I do my own version of the dimmer check for any gear I plan to use during an event.

hangout logo-g+_dk

Mach 30 Hangouts happen each Thursday

But this week, I got cocky, and I made a change (to improve our Google+ page) without running through any tests afterwards, and this change broke our ability to host On-Air Hangouts (on a week when we had an important one scheduled).  #Oops.  Apparently, linking one’s YouTube channel to a Google+ Page causes some squirrelly behavior with On-Air Hangouts.  Behavior we did not notice until during and after this week’s OSHW Documentation Jam Round Table Hangout, which not only led us to starting twenty minutes late, it also appears to have prevented the video from becoming sync’ed over to our YouTube Channel (which is too bad, I think our panelists and guests had some really great things to say, and I am sorry we won’t be able to share them with the Open Source Hardware Community).

So, that’s the bad news.  Of course, the good news is no one died or was injured from my failure to properly test things.  But, Mach 30’s work is building to a day when people’s lives will be on the line, so it is important to recognize small failures so we can learn from them.  In this case, the lessons are

  1. Remember to test everything associated with a system after making changes to the system (there is likely a balance of risk vs reward to be struck, but clearly the key features of a system should be checked when significant changes are made)
  2. Mach 30 needs to identify the core features we are using Google+ for (such as On-Air Hangouts) and create a test plan (or dimmer check) to be run when changes are made to our Google+ infrastructure, either because Google upgrades a feature or because we turn on an existing one we had not been using.

And, in the mean time, I will look into trying to recover our lost hangout video, and schedule the already discussed second round table hangout (after I have fixed our YouTube settings).

ad astra per civitatem