Propelled by community

By Drew Fustini. Posted

I spent some time in Copenhagen last year, where I got to see some really awesome spaces and projects. On a visit to illutron, an 800 m2 industrial barge that houses a floating artists’ collective and hackerspace, I turned the corner and found myself outside a warehouse belonging to the Copenhagen Suborbitals group.

Copenhagen Suborbitals is a crowdfunded amateur space programme who have successfully launched five rockets and two capsules, including the most powerful amateur rocket ever flown, and the first amateur rocket flown with a payload of a full-size crash test dummy. Happily, they agreed to show me around their warehouse, so I got to take a look inside this impressive community project. One of the highlights of my visit was getting a demo of their newest bit of kit: an Arduino-based reaction control system using compressed gas to manoeuvre the capsule.

Another DIY space propulsion project that has really excited me recently comes from Michael Bretti, who runs Applied Ion Systems (AIS). AIS is an open-source R&D program for electric propulsion. Their open-source thrusters and testing machines are comparatively low-cost (with costs starting at $500 plus, as opposed to $25,000 in academia and industry) and easy to manufacture, putting this technology within reach of nano-satellite groups, hobbyists, and educators. 

As well as designing, making, and sharing his own work, Bretti is providing resources for hobbyist nano-satellite groups and educators, including projects and experiments that explore a number of advanced science and engineering concepts from an accessible, maker-friendly point of view. Check some of them out in the DIY Science section of the AIS website and find Bretti on Twitter: @Applied_Ion.

The final project I wanted to talk about comes from regular HackSpace magazine contributor Jo Hinchliffe, also known as @concreted0g on Twitter. Hinchliffe runs Open Research Rocketry (ORR), who research, build, publish, and fly open-source rocket designs, many of which carry payloads for research projects. ORR is currently looking for people to get involved with their new open-source flight computer project: a logging altimeter with dual deployment that returns data to an open online database. This data would be used to drive real science and datasets in rocketry, something that would be incredibly useful for comparing performances of different rocket kits and equipment configurations.

If you’d like to get involved with the flight computer project or take a look at the files for the ORR’s high-power amateur rocket, you can find more details at Issue 12 of HackSpace magazine includes a number of rocket-themed articles, including one by Hinchliffe about using the software OpenRocket to design your own rockets.

From HackSpace magazine store


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