Category Archives: DIY space

Open source space exploration

Lloyd Droppers of Project Earendel writes about various aspects of open source rocket and spacecraft development and about its benefits: Op-ed | Open Source Technology: A New Direction for Space – SpaceNews –

Open source software and hardware are rapidly decreasing the cost required to get systems up and running. A great example of this is NASA’s PhoneSat bus, which used commercial off-the-shelf parts and the Android operating system and reportedly cost only $3,500 to produce. With the use of open source software to design components and open source hardware to test components, the price of system development has the potential to be accessible to many hobbyists and small businesses.

The most important open source documentation in aerospace is probably the Defense Technical Information Center and the NASA Technical Reports Server. While not traditionally thought of as open source, many of the older technical reports (roughly pre-1980) have detailed documentation including drawings, test plans and results sufficient to duplicate the devices and test results, and are in the public domain. NASA also has released a variety of open source software packages on topics ranging from orbit determination to robot vision.


Video: Planetary Society Lightsail-A prepared for May launch

The video shows highlights of the preparation of the Planetary Society‘s LightSail – A for its launch to orbit in May on an Atlas V rocket:

In January 2015, the LightSail team had their last chance to touch the LightSail-A Spacecraft. They handed it over to Cal Poly where it was integrated into the P-POD (Poly-Picosatellite Orbital Deployer) for its May 2015 launch. Go LightSail!

‘Chicks in Space’ ISS experiment fundraising a success + Burt Rutan film project exceeds Kickstarter goal

Crowd-funding seems to be more than a fad. While many projects don’t meet their fund-raising goals, there continue to be some campaigns that meet or even greatly exceed their goals.

For example, I posted a few times about the Chicks in Space campaign by three high school students to fund an experiment on the Int. Space Station. They have now met their goal of $15,000. The Chicks Are Going To NASA’s International Space Station – NanoRacks –

Houston, TX- March 27, 2015—NanoRacks and DreamUp are happy to announce that the Chicks In Space, the Company’s first student crowd-sourced payload, has raised the required $15,000 to send their payload ‘The Garden of ETON’ to the International Space Station (ISS) via NanoRacks’ Dream-Up educational program.

The Chicks In Space are three sisters, MaryAnn, Lillith, and Adia Buwala, from Tennessee who have always dreamt of researching in space. The young women have completed many NASA challenges, created an after school club for space research, and recently converted their centrifuge plant growth chamber for ISS research. The Chicks’ experiment “The Garden of ETON (Extraterrestrial Organic Nutrition)” is a hydroponic garden developed to function under conditions of microgravity in hopes to learn the best way to grow a renewable food source for long-term space travel.


Here’s a new video from the young ladies:


Another crowd-funding campaign I posted about was to support the antennaFILMS documentary about Burt Rutan and his latest aircraft design: Looking Up, Way Up! The Burt Rutan Story by antennaFILMS – Scott B / Sandy Guthrie — Kickstarter

The goal was $80,000 and they raised  $106,689.

I expect that crowd-funding is here to stay. There will always be cool projects that people will want to help make happen.

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project – needs a boost to cross the finish line

The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, underway since 2008, is crowd-funding the completion of the processing of images of the Moon taken by five early unmanned lunar missions and recovered from magnetic tape: Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project Last Mile – Indiegogo

Between further NASA funding and $62k raised by crowd funding in 2013 we have completed the process of digitizing almost 1500 tapes, the entire tape library from lunar orbiter.    This has created tens of terabytes of data, and over 1700 images.  Each medium resolution image is broken into 28 strips or framelets.  Each high resolution image is made from 98 framelets.  Each framelet is a file. We have over 107,000 of these files.  

Our task is to complete the processing of these files and publish them to the NASA  website where they will be free for everyone to enjoy.  We are also doing the paperwork to get the raw data and images to the National Space Science Data Center.   We had estimated the cost to NASA to complete this at about $400,000 dollars, of which they provided $300k after we finished the work from the 2013 crowd funded effort.  We originally thought that we were only going to get Lunar Orbiter II and III, but because of our previous crowd funded effort, we were able to leverage the additional $300k.  That puts us at about $100k short of what we needed to finish, and that is what we are asking you, the crowd funding community to help us with.  This gets us our very last mile to finish everything.  To see what we have done so far, here is our gallery at NASA Ames Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute web site: