Space

March 22, 2013

Silicon Valley Space Center to develop suborbital payloads

The Silicon Valley Space Center will develop four scientific payloads to fly on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft, which is currently under construction in Mojave, California.

The payloads will fly on missions sponsored by the United States Rocket Academy’s Citizens in Space program. The payloads are part of a cooperative agreement between the Silicon Valley Space Center and Citizens in Space, which was announced today.

“The Silicon Valley Space Center is proud to support the Citizens in Space program,” said Dr. Sean Casey, co-founder of the Silicon Valley Space Center. “This is a unique opportunity to leverage the technical expertise of the Silicon Valley community in support of citizen science and the emerging suborbital spaceflight industry.”

Citizens in Space has acquired an initial contract for 10 flights on the XCOR Lynx. This initial flight campaign will carry 100 citizen-science payloads and 10 citizen astronauts who will act as payload operators.

The experiments being developed by the Silicon Valley Space Center will serve as pathfinders for those citizen-science experiments. “When a developer is learning a new programming language or technology, he starts out by building a ‘Hello, world’ application,” Casey said. “These payloads serve as ‘Hello, world’ apps for space. They will provide a starting point for citizen scientists who are just getting started in space science.”

The Silicon Valley Space Center is currently reviewing candidate experiments in microgravity materials processing, fluid physics, life sciences, and other fields. Experiments built by the Silicon Valley Space Center will be featured at a series of “Space Hacker” workshops for citizen scientists, the first of which is scheduled for May 4-5 at the Hacker Dojo in Mountain View, California.

“We are pleased to welcome the Silicon Valley Space Center as a partner,” said Edward Wright, project manager for Citizens in Space. “The Center brings the scientific experience and knowledge of the Silicon Valley culture needed to make this program a success.”

“Payload designs will use open-source hardware wherever possible,” Casey said. To achieve this goal, the Silicon Valley Space Center is teaming up with Infinity Aerospace, a Silicon Valley startup that offers Nanorack-compliant and certified technologies for research experiments and commercial activities aboard suborbital and orbital facilities. ArduLab, an Arduino-based microgravity platform developed by Infinity Aerospace, will serve as the underlying hardware for experiments developed by the Silicon Valley Space Center.

“ArduLab enables the broad community to design and build space experiments easily and affordably on a platform that’s compatible with current and future microgravity programs,” said Manu Sharma, co-founder of Infinity Aerospace.

Citizens in Space will fly payloads based on the 1U and 2U CubeSat form factors, which are popular international standards for small payloads, Wright said.

The Silicon Valley Space Center is a not-for-profit business league that integrates the innovative and entrepreneurial practices of Silicon Valley into the emerging commercial space industry. The Center is a research-and-education affiliate of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. Services offered include business acceleration, incubation, and angel-level funding. The Center helps entrepreneurial start-up and early-stage companies identify market niches and commercialize space product and service concepts.

Citizens in Space is a project of the United States Rocket Academy, a non-profit organization that studies and encourages the use of human spaceflight for commercial, military, and scientific purposes.

 




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