Portland State Aerospace Society (PSAS) is a student aerospace engineering project at Portland State University. We're building ultra-low-cost, open hardware and open source rockets that feature perhaps the most sophisticated amateur rocket avionics systems out there today.
With the new proposed NASA budget eliminating the US manned spaceflight program and a heap of small private space companies popping up, the way we think about getting to space is changing. Is there room for open source in this brave new (space) world? PSAS has been working on open source avionics and hardware for small rockets for several years. We present our experience with, and thoughts on the future of, open source rocketry.
From creating remote-sensing CubeSats to analyzing aerogel: how the public is hacking into open source space exploration.
As technology shifts from a means of passive consumption to active creation, people are collaborating on a massive scale. The endeavor of Spacehack.org is to transform that into more of a community, so that space hackers can easily connect and interact.
Amateurs were once considered to be at the crux of scientific discovery, but over time have been put on the sidelines. Despite this, citizen science is witnessing a renaissance. Agencies such as NASA no longer have a monopoly on the global space program and more participatory projects are coming to life to harness the power of open collaboration around exploring space on a faster schedule.
Instead of complaining about where our jetpack is, we can now demand to figure out how to take an elevator to space . And, while you still can’t own a CubeSat as easily as an iPod, you can join a SEDSAT-2 team and learn how to engineer one.
There’s also GalaxyZoo , which opened up a data set containing a million galaxies imaged by a robotic telescope. Why projects such as these are important is because robots are actually kind of dumb. Humans are able to make classifications that well-programmed machines can’t. Currently, 200,000 humans are identifying over 250,000 galaxies.
If tinkering with spacecrafts is more your speed, the Google Lunar X PRIZE is a competition to send robots to the moon. However, you don’t need to be a robotics engineer to participate. Team FREDNET , the first open source competitor, is open for anyone to join.
While the concept of open source has resonated around the world and beyond, there is still much education to be done. NASA and the ESA have made large quantities of their data open, but have yet to facilitate developer communities that allow for active contribution to the code rather than just feedback on finding bugs.
Spacehack.org , a directory of ways to participate in space exploration, was created for this reason, among others. Many of these projects are buried in old government websites or do not clearly communicate how someone can get involved. It is with great hope that it will not only encourage the creation of more participatory space projects, but also urge existing ones to embrace the social web.
1st–4th June 2010