Open Research Rocketry at OSCW 2019

As part of the 3rd excellent Open Source Cubesat Workshop we were lucky enough to host a “round table” discussion about Open Source Rocketry. I use quotes for round table as it was a popular discussion group and we had roughly 60 people who took part so it was more a facilitated discussion from the stage. I gave an overview of different types of rocketry teams and different types/levels of rocketry and overviewed the current state of play regarding those working on any form of rocketry using open source methodologies.

I then opened up the discussion around 4 questions which aimed to either explore potential use cases for open research rocketry platforms or to explore why currently people don’t work in an open way and explore potential to work in open source ways in the future.

I’m going to share key findings as I identified them from the long and varied discussions;

So for use cases for open research rocketry platforms numerous ideas were suggested and discussed;

    • Testing of embedded systems for pocketqube/cubesat other small satellite platforms.
    • Atmospheric sensing, air quality and particulate level sensing at specific altitudes
    • Exploration of stability, roll correction etc
    • Testing of communications and live telemetry systems at high speed and high g
    • As small research rockets are reasonably easy to optimise for trans-sonic operation using them to test miniaturised forms of other propulsive systems (ramjet etc)
    • Deployment and recovery system testing
    • Propulsive landing development

The more general discussion questions around open source rocketry yielded interesting thoughts and discussion these fell into the following areas;

    • Many academic rocketry teams are only engaged in rocketry on a competitive track (for example Spaceport America cup) and therefore don’t want to share technical details of designs (it was then discussed that this is tempered by the fact that often academic teams link with amateur High Power Rocketry (HPR) mentors who share their experience, skills and designs!) From this we take away some thoughts around how rocketry must not always only be explored competitively.
    • Many people felt that there “might be” legal reasons not to share rocket designs, however this is a perceived barrier in the most, perhaps if people are developing stabilisation systems that could be exploited for guidance, then perhaps yes, but the vast majority of rocket development does not have any restriction limiting sharing sources. It was discussed and noted that there are local variances in legal status of differing aspects of rocketry (for example in the UK it is illegal to make solid rocket motors unless heavily certified by the HSE, whereas this is not the case in the US. It was discussed that uncertainty of local laws elsewhere might preclude sharing information.
    • Many amateur HPR flyers are happy to share information first hand or on request but don’t proactively share using open source tools like repositories, do we need to make open source platforms more accessible to these community members?

We’d like to thank the Open Source Cubesat Workshop team for allowing us to host this round table and thank them for an excellent event. We hope ORR got some people interested in rocketry and, for those already involved, we hope they perhaps felt that they may explore sharing sources on some or all of their work. Many thanks to everyone who signed up for the session and joined in.