The past two days I have been attending the Open Source Cubesat Workshop and since I wrote a little about my expectations while on the way to Madrid I thought I’d write down my experience of the event in the train on the way back, mostly to see what I take away from attending. I've also included some random photos of the event.

As expected I can happily say that oscw18 was a great event. It is fantastic to see the organisers working so hard together (in their spare time) to organise a event like this which I’ve been told by many over the two days of the workshop is a workshop unlike any other in the space industry, which apparently are mainly about; "look how great my system, software or hardware is and no I’m not going to tell you how I build it, what is inside and I’m definitely not sharing it with you Rik", geez thanks so friendly!

Group picture of all attendees of oscw18.

OSCW18 on the other hand was an incredible open community of like-minded open source and space loving people with one shared goal. How can we, together, make sure open source has a healthy presents and relevance in the space industry. Whether through sharing tools, designs, diagrams, research, problems that have been encountered and subsequently solved, I could go on.

Massive radio antenna outside on ESAC grounds (Only S-Band we've been told)

Looking at the bullets I wrote down on the way to Madrid, here is what I wrote and if I think my expectations were met;

  • Meet and hangout with like minded individuals.

Well.. Duh! This one is almost a no-brainer, even as a newcomer in the scene, people are incredibly open, want to meet, chat and have a genuine interest in what you do. I have really enjoyed the faces when I told many that I work for a sailing race which doesn’t have much to do with space. (Happy to say we had one Volvo Ocean Race fan in the crowd!)

Meeting the LSF & SatNOGS guys, consisting of the ‘Greeks’, Patrick and Fabien from Germany and Alex from Denmark was very nice. These guys helped me get started a couple of weeks ago and are actively trying to help me build my SatNOGS rotator station in Spain. Or Joe, who is doing some incredible rocketry stuff, Pablo Ruiz who has some great ideas to work together and unify cube sat development and not reinvent the wheel every time, or Juan Luis Cano who’s name should really be Mr. Pythonpythonpython. I could go on and on, but I’m sure you catch my drift :).

SatNOGS controller board provided to me by LSF to continue rotator build (had some trouble sourcing parts). Beautiful PCB!

  • Learn more about Open Source and its tools in relation to space.

This one is a bit of a double edged sword, while I learned an incredible amount about Open Source as a philosophy and about licenses, I expected to learn more about the tools the various projects used and how they contributed back to the open source community (aside from the amazing presentations here at oscw18 ofcourse). I think Joe hit the nail on the head here when he mentioned in the feedback round at the end of the workshop that it is worth looking at the line of giving projects the presentation stage who 'use a few open source tools to do their project’ and projects which are inherently Open Source from the outset. I think it will benefit oscw to define this line to create more discussion on Open Source (the reason why we are here).

UPSat engineering model. Created by Libre Space Foundation.

  • Find out what is needed to produce a healthy Open Source eco-system for space. Both on earth and up in space.

I think from looking at all the people at oscw18, I already see a great starting point for a healthy Open Source eco-system. And while I think (abide, with limited Open Source knowledge myself) things can definitely improve, we are certainly on the right track. In large part I think thanks to events like oscw18 and the people who are more concerned with sharing the knowledge then they are about dollar signs (or euro’s in this case;)).

  • See how I can contribute to OSCW or more specifically to SatNOGS.

Through the various workgroups and presentations I think I’ve found a great way to meaningfully contribute to the SatNOGS project and open source. It became quite apparent to me and others that SatNOGS is at a point where a fundamental shift could be happening. With space getting more and more popular among the general public again, finally(!!!!) through guys like SpaceX or Copenhagen Suborbitals, who are live-streaming rocket launches and various STEM programs by NASA and ESA, I think there is a shift that will happen within the SatNOGS program from operators who have a heavy HAM radio interest/background to a more general public crowd who are coming to SatNOGS because; "I like space and want to get involved somehow".

LSF presenting about SatNOGS, my station is turnstile antenna in the large picture on the top right

This is something that I think will ultimately benefit SatNOGS as it could accelerate the growth of ground stations in the network. With this in mind, I think I can work on filling the gap between the non technical ‘general public’ who want to set up a station for SatNOGS. Whether this is by writing ‘explain it like I’m five’ documentation, creating how-to’s/tutorials, videos and support the community forums and riot chat, all while the core guys can stay concentrated on what they do best, building a incredible platform for a truly global ground station network.

Furthermore, I also think there is a real opportunity for me to help out on the education side of SatNOGS. I think SatNOGS is a great platform that can be used to get more classrooms interested in space and in turn should inspire the next generation of aerospace engineers and specialists.

To get SatNOGS into classrooms however I think it should approach space more broadly by creating classroom material teachers can easily obtain and use without having to create a ‘curriculum’, lessons or think of a theme around it. I’m thinking ‘ready for download’ worksheets for different ages, little projects to get them started with space, tracking their first satellite by hand and finally at the end of the classroom project they will deploy a SatNOGS station on top of the roof of the school. (Which in turn will help SatNOGS grow its network potentially exponentially if we can make it attractive enough and easy for teachers).

I plan on researching and writing a initial scope of what this could potentially entail. The SatNOGS guys who I shared the initial idea with really liked it, so I’m keen to see what the rest of the community thinks of it.

Michelle @abraxas3d posing for a picture after her GNU Radio update.

  • Get inspired by stories and presentations on various open source projects such as librecube, SatNOGS and others.

I think I got more inspired than I imagined I would be, whether it was the gnu radio update, how to automate testing your codebase. Or the fantastic keynote speech by Bruce Perens. Save to say I’m jumping on the Open Source bandwagon with a lot of new energy and fresh views on Open Source in the cube sat space as well as in my current profession.

Thanks all for a great oscw18 and I’m definitely back next year, Gran Canaria or Greece was it? ;)