I’m writing this as I am heading to Madrid by train to attend the Open Source Cubesat Workshop at ESA’s European Space Astronomy Center. The purpose of this two day workshop is to identify, discuss and find opportunities for open source to play a relevant part in space and the -what many call- ‘new space’ sector.

If you are unfamiliar with it, new space is a term that is used to describe a growing shift in space exploration towards private space flight and a more rapid development in general. As a result, launch costs are at an all time low allowing companies, universities and even individuals or amateurs to hitch rides of launches for a relatively (still in the 10s and 100s of thousands) low price.

These companies, individuals and universities are creating incredible platforms (cubesats) and science experiments (onboard those cubesats) that benefit everybody on earth. Within this growing trend of new space however, we are seeing that most parties involved never openly (and more importantly under a open source license) share their designs, drawings, documentation and code.
The OSCW workshop has been created to try and address this issue to see how we can turn this mentality around and instead work together to enable a healthier ecosystem that is beneficial to everybody and will lower the costs of building, designing and operating your satellite in space.

At least, this is how I understand it, you see, I am relatively new to the Open Source community, that is to say, I’ve always been reaping the benefits from people putting in their hard work and giving it away for the benefit of others (Like gpredict and OBS) but have never contributed in a significant way. Myself with most things, I have always had a mentality of doing things with $$$ as the end goal in mind, rather than sharing my work freely. A mindset I am actively trying to change by contributing back to projects I use and by trying to see opportunities not as 'money making machines', but instead as ways to develop myself and benefit others.

Anyway, the past few days I have been wondering what I can expect of OSCW and I think it is the following;

  • Meet and hangout with like minded individuals.
  • Learn more about Open Source and its tools in relation to space.
  • Find out what is needed to produce a healthy Open Source eco-system for space. Both on earth and up in space.
  • See how I can contribute to OSCW or more specifically to SatNOGS.
  • Get inspired by stories and presentations on various open source projects such as librecube, SatNOGS and others.

We will see how I walk away from the workshop on Tuesday evening, but for now I am just incredibly excited and grateful for the opportunity to attend.

One more things, I found out about OSCW through SatNOGS, (Satellite Networked Open Ground Stations) a open source project ground station network (build by amateurs like myself) much like ESA’s Near Earth Network, NASA’s Deep Space Network and various Space Agency ground station networks. This is incredibly exciting for Cubesat projects as it provides a ground station network they can use freely to capture more data from their Cubesats in space. (Rather than only having their own ground station limiting data capture. I highly recommend checking out the project over at SatNOGS.org and maybe even build and add your own station to the network. :)