Tag Archives: New Space

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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New Space 2013 Wrap Up

J. Simmons at New Space 2013

J. Simmons at New Space 2013

As I mentioned in my last post, Mach 30 had a booth at the New Space 2013 Exhibit Hall.  This was our first time as an exhibitor at a major space conference, and it was time and money well spent.  We got to share our open source mission, demo two of our hardware projects, and meet some really great people.

The display materials in the booth, prepared by our graphic design ninja and board member Rebekah McGrady, covered our mission, open source hardware, Open Design Engine, the Export Control Task Force, and our current open source spaceflight projects.  One of the big surprises for me was just how well people responded to our mission.  Just a few years ago we would routinely be greeted with blank stares when we explained our mission is to develop open source spaceflight hardware.  This week I saw only one blank stare.  And everyone else was so excited by open source spaceflight that I got more than one high five.

I think part of the change in attitude was due to the fact that we had hardware to show.  Our booth included demos of two of our projects:  the Shepard Test Stand and our first ground station prototype.  More than a few people stopped mid stride when they saw the hardware on the table.  Those were always the best conversations.  The feedback we heard from the attendees about our hardware projects was extremely valuable.  For Shepard the big lessons were we should stick with the Arduino for our data acquisition system (teachers in STEM environments are already learning about Arduinos) and there is much more interest in Shepard at the collegiate level than I realized was out there.   For the ground station the big lesson is just how much demand there is from individuals and educators for this version of the ground station.  It is so high, I already have a number of emails already from people asking for a link to the project website.

As is always the case when we attend conferences, I met a number of great people at New Space. First is Liz from the Space Frontier Foundation’s Teachers in Space program. They are running teacher workshops about spaceflight and raising money to send teachers on sub-orbital flights. It’s a great program and we are talking about how the Shepard Test Stand and other Mach 30 open source projects could be used in their workshops. Next is Reuben who I met over drinks Friday night thanks to an introduction by Ethan, a Mach 30 volunteer. Reuben has experience in fundraising and has been sharing links with me for the Revenue Generation Committee.

Ground Station Demo

Ground Station Demo

Finally, last but far from least, is Tim from Southern Stars.  Southern Stars KickStarted a cubesat last year, the SkyCube, and he brought the engineering model to the conference.  It did not take the two of us long to realize he had a satellite and I had a ground station, and that clearly we should see if they could talk to each other. Within an hour we were sending messages from the SkyCube engineering model on one end of the exhibit hall to the Mach 30 ground station at the other end. And then, as if that was not cool enough, we decided to use the two projects to run an impromptu demo during a panel Tim was on later in the afternoon. Check out the very excited celebration of the demo over on Google+.

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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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