Tim: [00:00:00] [chime]. I'm Tim Phantom and
Vim: [00:00:02] I'm Vimla Appadoo
Tim: [00:00:04] and this s the distributed future podcast where we interview people who are doing new things and see what that might affect our Collective future and how that might change the way we look at things.
So this one's actually really fun for me. It's kind of. About little bits of my history work-wise because I did some work in the European Space Agency many many years ago and you know, then it was all space was like you had to be you couldn't even do it as a country. You had to be like a group of countries or you had to be like one of the big Powers China or Russia?
Before you could launch anything before you could do anything at all in space. And in this interview, we're basically finding out that like you if you put a bit of money into it, you can run your own satellite, which is just amazing like changes. Well nothing in the short term, but I think in the long term, it's hugely kind of exciting actually.
Vim: [00:01:05] Yeah, massively so space baffles me in terms of how little we know about compared to everything else.
Tim: [00:01:13] Right? I think it's fair to say though at the moment the focus of kind of particularly the open source and democratize space efforts are quite introspective in the sense that they are a lot of those satellites are either providing communication or looking down at observation of the Earth.
Some of them are doing like, you know observation of other planets or stars or magnetic fields or whatever so scientific payloads, but a lot of them are very much kind of looking at the Earth from the outside. But even that Viewpoint is just like astonishing.
Vim: [00:01:48] Yeah,
Tim: [00:01:48] but what kind of an issue this is a common theme that's kind of cropped up in a lot of a lot of our podcasts.
That is the fact that this. There's an organizational change that you have to do in order to do this. You know, there's a turns out there's a collective group effort to collect the data. So it's all very well throwing the satellite up there but you gotta listen to it somehow and then talking about how that's organized and how that's managed and.
And how likewise what are the rules for for firing Rockets? Like who decides whether I'm allowed to build a rocket in my backyard. All of this stuff is like totally was totally new to me and really interesting not only from a technical point, but actually the organizational point of like. What organizational structures have to evolve in order for you to do that stuff?
It's really free and it's relevant for other places as well. I think but ya know it's it's a it's an interesting
Vim: [00:02:42] and how do you think structure needs to change?
Tim: [00:02:46] Well, what's fascinating about this is that like so for example, there's a group who give advice on the safety of rockets and they have like some governmental buy-in but they're not an offshoot of government.
There are a group of experts. So kind of I can't remember what the formal structure is, but basically. What you're looking at here is non-governmental Charities, foundations that sort of thing setting up the rules and and various structures of Cooperative experts. And I think that's really really really exciting.
I think we need to be doing a lot more of that in Tech.
Vim: [00:03:27] Yeah, definitely.
Tim: [00:03:29] it's kind of funny that like we started talking about, you know, the nitty-gritty of how big the satellite is and whatever but actually it's still all comes down to getting the organizational structures in place that allow you to do this stuff.
Vim: [00:03:40] And I think when we look like understanding how we shift structure power all of that all of the Dynamics that were at play at the moment, so you helped democratize all the stuff.
Tim: [00:03:54] Yeah, I mean it's really genuine is democracy in terms of information as well. So like it's not now no longer possible to hide facts on the ground.
Like if you're a government and you don't want people to know that like your grain forecast your grain production this year was terrible like you can't do that anymore because there are satellites up there that could spot that and say well actually we didn't get a good grain Harvest. So like all of the sort of you know, last centuries lies about production or are we destroying this piece of environment or whatever you can't do it anymore because there are ten thousands of satellites up there that can can tell on your lie which is really I mean, it's a political thing as well.
It's not just technical.
Vim: [00:04:39] Yeah, yeah hundred percent
Tim: [00:04:40] you know, like I said, it's like you feel like it's a little bit introspective this this Earth observation and we should be reaching out to the planets and whatever but that's the even even looking inwards is quite radical in terms of like what its effects could be.
Um, so yeah, maybe we maybe we need to like fund the fund the distributed future satellite and throw it up there. What do you think? We should have it doing?
You know what this is? I don't know pop. So instinctively I want to do something around climate change if we had a if we have a satellite, but I don't actually know how useful that would be
ya know you well, maybe.
But I think the trick is and what's so fun about this is that you can instead of having to put up a huge expensive general-purpose thing. You could put up a really narrow thing that maybe only looks at particular Leaf color or you know looks for cloud patterns, or I don't know what but something so you can actually really narrowly focus this this thing's job.
And have it very narrow. Maybe we just like have it broadcasting our podcast all around all around the world.
Vim: [00:05:49] Now, that sounds interesting to me. So I
know you were just saying Leaf color as an example, but that's
that would really interest me or even would you be able to get a satellite in the air that detects changes in like plankton in the sea
Tim: [00:06:04] if it's a color change? Yes.
Vim: [00:06:06] Yes. Yes it is
there a there were loads of like
Plankton colonies that change color as the seasons change and I think that would be really interesting to monitor.
Tim: [00:06:14] Yeah, I mean, I think the thing you have to watch out for that for these cheaper satellites is their lifespans quite limited like they're they're up there for sort of 18 months or so.
So you have to be quite that you can't do it sort of ten years survey or if you do you've got to put multiple ones up. But yeah for sure something like that. Is doable and it's certainly within the region the reach of an academic group.
Vim: [00:06:38] Yeah
Tim: [00:06:39] you and I as individuals. It's probably not quite a like within our budget.
But but a research establishment or or kind of deeply concerned foundational group with a few group few members. You can actually do this stuff, which is just amazing.
Vim: [00:06:54] Yeah, I do. I wonder though if you've got this kind of shorter lifespan satellite, is that long enough for it to be considered evidence or it like is it a long enough research period
Tim: [00:07:08] I think a lot of these things that they put multiple ones up and and in fact and again part of the discussion is about how actually.
You know, it's still a risky business.
Vim: [00:07:19] Yeah,
Tim: [00:07:20] and to some extent these smaller ones have a like a higher failure rate. So you basically if you really need the data you put 10 up and maybe you put like five up this year five up next year or whatever and an aggregate. The the data over over time like that and get a longer life that way but yeah, it's interesting set of challenges and it's sort of like if you've done anything on space and you feel like oh, yeah, we put that satellite up for 20 years and it's still communicating.
Well, okay, that's true. But this is a different model. This is a much more short term low cost model.
So the other thing that's really funny about that how this cropped up is that. I was in Hebden Bridge which is like not where you would think of as the space capital of the UK, but there's this really good annual event called Wuthering Bytes and it's about citizen science open source science open source technology.
And it's hosted in the middle of you know, what's essentially a Mill Town in the pretty much slap in the middle of Great Britain England England, I guess probably and it's just great. It's like, you know, we people from all over turn up and. And that's that's how I found our interviewee for this this week.
So yeah, it's great. It's really nice and not nice that it wasn't in London really nice that it wasn't in London
Vim: [00:08:44] yeah.
Tim: [00:08:45] The other thing I realized that we don't do that. We really should do in these these intros has is remind people that we haven't done to date to remind people that the website distributed future that's distributedfutu.Re has
a bunch of links. So if you kind of if you something you've heard in this turned out to be interesting turned out to be something you want to kind of dig more into we've always put links on their people can like dig into more depth and find out more about the topic. So we're just like a little teaser and it's for you to go out and find out more if it if it's something that kind of excites you and you want to find out more about but with that I think I'll let you let you listen to this.
Jo: [00:09:29]
Hello. My name is Joe Hinchliffe and I'm a I'm involved with an organization called the Libra space foundation and I'm great big advocate of Open Source stuff in space
Tim: [00:09:41] in space open source in space. Is this Hardware or software? Because we know about like open source software, but I think Open Source Hardware is like less well known to some extent
Jo: [00:09:51] so it's a little bit of both really.
I'm a contributor to the Libra Space Foundation who have various projects that's spelled both Hardware stuff in space and software stuff are live. Also got a big project called sat nogs. That's a networks Global Network of Open Source ground stations. That are literally kind of all over the globe. So yeah bit of both really
Tim: [00:10:16] open source ground stations.
What like tell me what that means. Like if I wanted one, what would I do?
Jo: [00:10:22] Cool? So it's a start at the beginning I guess is there's thousands of thousands of satellites are orbiting this Earth and zipping around a lot of them in low earth orbit. So they go around the Earth in like every kind of every 90 minutes.
A lot of them puts out data, that's kind of completely legitimate for you to to kind of have a listen to to capture and to perhaps even decode so years ago Libra space foundation came up with this idea of a SAT Nogs ground station, which is built out of the most simple one is basically a Raspberry Pi.
A software-defined radio a little cheap USB dongle thing and then I'll tell her and it basically means you can schedule it so that it turns on and it'll record a satellite as it goes over your house or wherever you build it and the cool but the cool thing is is that they're all networks. So because it's local sources I what's happened is hundreds of people have built up around the world.
And it means that yep. I can capture something for 2 minutes as it goes over my house up in North Wales, but I can also schedule somebody else's station in. I don't know, you know in North Africa in in America really Greece in Australia. So it means that we can get this huge amount of coverage to listen to all these things.
Tim: [00:11:40] so that like the comparison there was always used to be that sort of in the in the in the big space days. Like like NASA would have a deal with like whoever it was who ran a big base station in Australia and they would like they would when the the satellite was around that side of the world.
They would do the listening and they would like all get put passed around but those are huge expensive things what you're talking about sounds like raspberry Pi and an antenna like what are we looking at? A few hundred quid or
Jo: [00:12:11] yeah, I mean the cheapest ones don't move. So we have a open Source Hardware design for one that will actually track and so it will you know, it has stepper Motors a little gearbox and mechanisms that can move antennas and the benefit of those is you could use.
Directional antennas which basically means you'll get a much better signal because it's pointing directly at the satellite, but the the sort of entry-level wall is just a static antenna. So it's it's sort of no bigger than a TV style of antenna if your if your listenership is old enough to remember analog TV
Tim: [00:12:48] We still have them on our houses even if they are not plugged in..
Jo: [00:12:51] Exactly.
So the thing is you had that the the. Basic kind of non-rotating version is I mean people really bring the price down by Parts either lot by gun seller building their own Cellar and stuff so it can definitely be done for less than a hundred UK parents which is whatever that is in kind of dollars or euros and stuff.
So, yeah pretty pretty damn affordable
Tim: [00:13:16] interesting. So like thinking about that tracking so your we're talking about. Satellites we're talking about listening to satellites that are in
fairly near-earth orbit not we're not talking about geostationary ones
Jo: [00:13:29] For SatNogs the majority are in low earth orbit, which is sort of, you know, a roundabout the kind of areas where the International Space Station is.
So that's a really popular thing that people listen to We can hear things like there are scheduled conversations that it's okay for us to record a list view on the ISS, but there's also things like sometimes we can. The communications from like are extrovert from spacewalks extra vehicle activities.
Yeah, but there's also like loads of kind of database stuff. So there's you know, we can get kind of weather images blah blah blah blah lots lots of different types of data. But yeah mainly from low-earth orbit so stuff that's kind of moving relative to our position,
Tim: [00:14:12] right and and. I got the impression the a lot more is being done in that space.
So to some extent this activity means that like it's cheaper to put a satellite up but also satellites are getting smaller with kind of, you know, the Advent of the technology in the mobile phone and stuff means that like that technology. You can basically launch it. And I get the right end of the stick with
Jo: [00:14:35] Absolutely. Yeah, the satellites are getting smaller as one of the certainly a huge amount of satellites on the database of stuff. That's SatNogs kind of listens to and tracks that that are cubesats which of these. Tell centimeter cubed form factor of satellite. So they're literally like the size of a sort of you know, a sort of a square tissue box or something.
They're really really tiny certainly could be could be held in the hand. So yeah, and we see smaller form factors emerging so that they flew a few years ago, but the first four are pocket cubes which were a 50 millimeter Cube form factor subtle. I have flown Al were heard by the satellites Network and and yeah, it's getting much much cheaper.
Certainly. It's getting cheaper in every Avenue commercial or non-commercial. But certainly I'm more involved in hearing about teams that are doing things for sort of research reasons or. Non commercial and the prices are getting you know sort of lower and lower to the points where we're quite small kind of groups of people can club together lot not huge amounts of money and actually launch a kilo of satellite into space
Tim: [00:15:50] launch a kilo satellite into space.
So what like, can you can you. Talk about some interesting projects that you can do in a kilo of satellite because I don't really have a sense of what you can do with a kilo of launched material. You know,
Jo: [00:16:05] I mean, yeah, this is huge about you can do these days a little a kilo of large. I mean it I mean you gave a great example yourself Tim if you think about a mobile phone and you think about the amount of Technology that's packed into a mobile phone which weighs less weigh less than a kilo if you've got one of the ways of kilo you.
You've shopped badly or you're in some really cool retro stuff. Yeah. So, you know, we see all kinds of payloads going into satellite to the kilo. It's fair to say that that some groups perhaps building their first cubesats. They'll doubt they'll kind of perhaps focus on just Kylie create a it's almost like a legendary exercise.
If you can build something that could get through all the kind of rigorous tests and all the color processes that you need to tick off to get something legitimately up into its orbit. And the then it's you know, those that all those teams have my respects but a lot of them end up. With Carla perhaps something that just has some simple communication to verify that it's alive and sell some Telemetry because that in itself is like a huge achievement for many teams.
But then we do see teams that fly gosh all kinds of sensors. I mean basically any any sensor that you've heard of. Could could theoretically be chucked up within a kilo payload. So we see stuff that measures, you know, all types of radiation. I've seen stuff that's a kilogram satellite that does some Imaging of Earth I've seen.
I've seen sort of early kind of the Thruster technology pulsed plasma Thruster technology to make tiny kind of movements on satellites as a proof of concept. I really it's a huge long list. I could go into of stuff that I've seen done.
Tim: [00:18:02] That's that's really kind of. Mind blowing. It seems to me that it's still I mean so part of I think what you're saying there is part of it is just about the journey just like the sort of shear democratization of the fact that you can you can launch a kilo and and it can talk back to you or
you know into the
Jo: [00:18:21] absolutely
Tim: [00:18:21] whatever
it is and and and it can talk back to you and tell you, you know something about I don't know the magnetic field or whatever is is in itself, you know you as a.
A relatively small group not as a nation-state can do that that's amazing in itself.
Jo: [00:18:39] Absolutely. I mean one of my for me one of the ones that personally inspired me was that it was just three or four people and they built a pocket Cube. So a 50 millimeter cube. So that's tidy 5 centimeters by 5 Centimeters satellite and it flew in 2014 and it was called $50 sat and they aim to build it for $50 and they actually missed and they ended up spending about about I believe three hundred dollars because they realize they needed to spend a little bit more money on the
solar panels on the outside of it or else it would be inoperable and this they cost $300 and it was part of a project so got it got a free journey to space and $50 sa was built with very much Carl of off-the-shelf components. It had a Kodak. camera battery from a you know, a cut like a sort of older point and shoot Kodak camera and you know, it was really kind of built out of things that anybody can get by three people, you know, who were kind of amateur radio kin of yeah.
Hired very clever Engineers, but but Kyle of you know, hobbyist in a certain sense and this thing flew on orbit selling back to the laboratory for like 18 months before it but finally the battery degraded and for me, that's just like such a huge sort of. I was like, you know, it's such an exciting thing in terms of like human endeavor that it's not NASA that this is not ESA that did
this is not even like a big decentralized kind of global movement that did this. It's three people and three hundred dollars. I think that's astonishing.
Tim: [00:20:22] Yeah. Yeah, except that to some extent. It is a global movement in the like in order to get any useful Telemetry back down from it. You've got to have that Global infrastructure of at least some other people listening otherwise
you only get to hear it when it goes over your house. I don't know what the maths of that is, but presumably that's like my satellite going over. My house is quite a rare event.
Jo: [00:20:46] Yeah. So happy that yeah you. We could do the best but I'm not sure your listeners would enjoy that but it certainly it certainly sort of appears with the movement of the Earth relative to your satellite and the maybe the sort of the Isle of kind of the viewing angle say from your house your perhaps talking, you know, a couple of minutes once a week or a couple of minutes every every three or four days.
So, of course if you could if you could increase that capacity. You get you know, you know, there's a huge benefit that in terms of the amount of data he get the brilliant thing is University sometimes build satellites and put them up there and then they contact SatNogs it. They're kind of used to dealing with, you know, maybe more kind of
commercial kind of services perhaps and all of a sudden there's this community that just go. Oh, yeah, they build like a dashboard and referral. Oh, yeah. I suddenly this universities. Like wow, this Global team of just very enthusiastic people have supplied as more data in a beautiful way that we could ever have wished for you know,
Tim: [00:21:48] right?
So all they had to do is kind of get the satellite up there. And I mean I was thinking about. You saying about the battery degrading it's a pretty still pretty hostile place out there for modern Electronics. What's the kind of is 18 months a typical life of one of these things and
Jo: [00:22:07] yeah, probably about sort of 18 months or two years if they're successful there is you know, there is a huge kind of
failure rate for these cubesats go it going into orbit. You know, it's such a such a hostile ride up for a start, you know, you know masses of g-forces and vibration that the the Rocket taking stuff up to space is under and that could cause issues and then you know, it's just just such a complex kind of environment and yeah bits of radiation zipping through your.
structure will flipping a bit in one of your micro processes is local to happen. It's up there in space. So it's a real trade-off of these kind of smaller satellites where people try and maybe build things if you if you sort of want to get into try to Shield your. Cubesat you're going to add mass. So sometimes people actually aim for just let's build it cheaply but with multiples kind of lots of redundancy in it so that if something goes wrong something else will kick in and Wiki we can carry on with hopefully getting our missions from run.
Tim: [00:23:12] Right right. That's interesting. So it's like it's a it again. It's a numbers game. There's a quite a lot of. Maths of this of saying well, you know, maybe if I put four of those sensors in and then it'll last longer than if I put 1 and shield it like
Jo: [00:23:28] absolutely. Yeah, I know baby and sort of stuff is counter-intuitive at the smaller scale of like perhaps if we add loads of loads of stuff to try to Shield it actually does that make it does that create more problems in terms of Hilo?
Other though capacitance in the object is the so there's all kinds of trade-offs. But I think that that's where it gets really interesting in terms of people coming up with kind of little innovative solutions that if you know, which you kind of in a way wouldn't do if you were working on her, you know, a billion-dollar satellite for
Tim: [00:24:02] yeah, a "must not fail".
Jo: [00:24:04] Yeah, exactly. Yeah,
Tim: [00:24:06] although they do of course his date ya know that that yet, but that's so so that again that's a sort of another angle of democratization that you were because you're keeping the cost down. You can take a set of risks that I say risks but failure risks that you wouldn't be acceptable in a kind of politically sensitive program.
Jo: [00:24:28] Absolutely.
Tim: [00:24:29] Yeah. So how do these things get up there?
Jo: [00:24:32] So does a few different routes they all tend to involve Rockets though. So, yeah, the the so for example libra Space Foundation the the organization that you know hosts SatNogs project the global networks project and they also built and launched a satellite which was a two-unit cubesat.
Um, it was called UP-sat and that that the way that that was deployed was it went up on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. So it went Upon an atlas V rocket iller cygnus resupply stuff. So when I when I do go out and do talks, I like to say it was lilo's it was wrapped up in the astronauts like, you know, fresh underpants for the next month and stuff, but
Tim: [00:25:25] and their bacon sandwiches.
Jo: [00:25:27] Yeah,
exactly. Yeah. It's actually apples pants. Satellite so that yeah, so but it literally went up on a resupply mission. Then it gets unpacked all gets unpacked by hand and then there's a service that operates off the International Space Station called Nano racks and which is essentially I'm doing it a great disservice.
But the simplest way to think of it is it's it's a jack-in-the-box on a robotic arm and the robotic arm can point the Jack-in-the-Box in a very accurate. I'm kind of positioning and they'll it pushed the series of three cubesats out of the Jack-in-the-Box and at a specific time so that they went on to you know the orbit at the time that they were scheduled to do so. So that's that's one of the ways that they could. Deployed other ways are is they'll go Upon A Rocket that's doing something and and the rocket will usually have a primary payload, you know, a multi-million something or other for somebody else and cubesat deployers can be built into these secondary payload reefs, which so they're literally kind of hitching a ride on a much more expensive vehicle.
And then the secondary payload re will separate from The Rock. A certain point it's light and will deploy the cubesats, you know on for the orbits that have been kinda pre-arranged and there's lots of companies from from you know, American companies through to people like rocket lab starting to launch Microsatellites theres ISRO.
India's space agency are starting to do this. So yeah, there's a lot of opportunities in terms of. Who you can launch with
Tim: [00:27:07] so I that's in that that's kind of just made me realize something. I hadn't twigged at all which I sort of imagined that these things went through the same sort of stresses as physical a stir as actual astronauts, but the answer is if it's almost Supply my unmanned Supply Mission like the g-forces man can be.
Much and the temperature variation and everything else who we much much higher that I yeah. Well, okay. So let's even like your engineering requirements are even worse God that's tricky
Jo: [00:27:37] the beautiful thing about all that stuff is that that even on the very commercial companies that that stuff is quite open so you can download and I suggest you don't click print on these but yeah that you can download like all the documentation from all the major launch providers.
Pretty pretty it's all pretty open that tells you the kind of vibration profiles of the g-forces that your your pay your little satellite will go through which obviously they they want you to kind of test against and Supply documentation that you've you've tested against their kind of vibration profiles because obviously if it's attached to a billion dollar project, they don't want your little thing that you've built your shed shaking to bits and throwing, you know bits of.
Bits of bits of nuts and bolts,
Tim: [00:28:27] so that's that and they must then be people who will test these things for you. They'll like simulate rocket flight for you.
Jo: [00:28:36] Yeah, so that that's that's a challenging area. So in the open source world, that's a big thing. I'm quite passionate about is that lots of people we tend to end up going back to University.
So you all can you help us with this? Can you help us, you know? Run this satellite in a vacuum whilst putting it through a range of temperatures as a sort of outgassing test and kill you by break this stuff a blah blah and look to be fair. There's lots of organizations that suit a willing to help.
People do that stuff, but I'd love to see all that stuff democratized. That's a particular passion of mine because it's sort of stuff that isn't sort of may be as accessible in your Makerspace or hack space or something, you know, the the we haven't all got high vacuum capabilities and things like that.
Tim: [00:29:26] Right, right. I mean I would yeah, I was just thinking there's a there's an interesting Niche there. But like how do you do that? Yeah, I mean those who are are they there's a there's a rocketry Park that I came across in that used to be an MOD research facility and it's now turned into a like a rocketryCenter for the UK called I want to say Wescott
Jo: [00:29:48] wescott's yeah.
Tim: [00:29:50] Yeah, do they have those sorts of facilities at
Jo: [00:29:53] this there's a lot of stuff around Oxford. There's a lot of kind of space stuff there. There's a company there are interests. So another area I'm quite involved will is a amature and research rocketry Italy UK, but there's yeah, so I rolled Oxford the Wescott Harwell in places like that.
This is quite a long history of kind of space of also around Glasgow. Actually Scotland's got a huge scene around satellites and cubesats Commercial development of cubesats. Small satellites in Glasgow is a real thriving business and but yeah some of those and there are certainly some initiatives.
I'm aware of this. This like a digital catapult scheme that's helped some organizations get testy on their microsatellite. There's a fully-fledged a rocket test stand by a great company called airborn engineering down there. So yeah, these these places exist and of course a lot of this stuff exists for other sectors, so universities quite often have.
Have have departments to do with perhaps. I don't know medical devices or something that they have to do some kind of environment testing with a therefor they'll they'll have stuff that that is capable of doing some of the tests, but maybe they don't think think about it in terms of space stuff maybe
Tim: [00:31:19] right.
Right, right. So, you know, your vacuum thing is is applicable for more than just what you would originally using it for.
Jo: [00:31:26] Yeah,
Tim: [00:31:27] yeah. Absolutely. You said something and I'm going to get the words wrong, but you said amateur rocketry just now like is that even legal?
Jo: [00:31:36] Yeah. Yeah. There's a huge this is again, like once you sort of start scratching at the surface of these communities you discovered these.
Like huge kind of well, established communities that exist all over the world really that that do this stuff. So yeah, I'm quite involved in amateur high power rocketry in the UK and I'm kind of aware of some of the kind of global stuff that goes on with this. So that's kind of a there are there are things like model rockets, which anybody can kind of do if you follow the instructions carefully, there are kits you can buy and you know stuff that you could maybe fly in a park or a large football field and stuff and I urge people to do that. That's a great if you're interested in rocketry, you'll find their loads about rocketry just just by doing that but if you want to move beyond that then high power rocketry is where certain about serve kind of accreditation and a bit of bureaucracy kind of creeping but mainly to kind of keep people say so there's licenses and certifications that people do that a label them, too.
Buy basically bigger lumps of more expensive explosives to stick into Rockets. They've made and send them up higher but it's all legal and insured and and in the UK, we have our own framework. That's run by the UK rocketry Association and it's all you know, pretty pretty robust and negotiated with all the various kind of government departments to like civil air Authority.
So yeah, it's a great fascinating hobby to get into and then.
Tim: [00:33:09] Paint a picture of a rocket. Like how big are they? How far do they go like a how loud are they I'm got no. No vision .
Jo: [00:33:17] They are loud.
That's the first thing is that loud. I've heard things that like, you know, a louder than concerts, you know that make you kind of sort of crush your lungs as they go up even though you're a good a good few hundred meters away perhaps and but this this bits of everything so I'm currently what they call a level one certified high power rocketry guy and I build my interest is scratch building. I like to make as much of it as I can of the things I design and I open source my designs as well and I suppose the biggest thing I've built is maybe just just under two meters tall and aims to go. I haven't flown that one yet but that will probably go up to about what could go up to about five or six thousand feet very quickly.
Tim: [00:34:05] And then then what happens to it? Does it release a payload payload or is it just the journey ?
Jo: [00:34:12] So some of it again is just a journey. There's a lot of kind of stuff to consider. So hopefully what happens is you you you will deploy some kind of system that will return it to Earth safely, which is quite a quite a challenge in itself.
So when things are going much higher than kind of model rockets, you have to do clever things where If you flew it up and you got it to the top of its flight or apogee if it blew apart there is a cell so a parachute it would come down quite slowly. But of course if there's a even slight side Breeze if it's up at sort of three or four thousand feet it could
disappear, it could be sort of 5 or 6 kilometers away by the time it came back down to earth. So there's all kinds of people fly build and fly avionics that perhaps at the top of the flight. You'll pop out a very very tiny parachutes so it comes down very very quickly, but stays close a little affected by kind of cross loading side wins, and then you'll trial deploy a quite high speed when it's perhaps.
I don't know two or three hundred meters above ground. You'll deploy a. big main parachute bring it back down to earth safely. And yeah people fly payloads actually, it's just Ali. I'm just in the process of setting up a project called open research rocketry, which is. Hoping to enable a lot of projects to fly small payloads to these kind of heights.
So, you know three four five thousand feet. So I've got some people are interested in flying little LORA our long-range Wireless sensors that are monetary air quality. So I'm hoping to fly one of those in November. Yeah, so it's a really really interesting area with lots of technical complexity but lots of interesting stuff and also its Rockets.
They're just
Tim: [00:36:04] Yes, it's rocket. No, I totally get that like, you know the thrill of it so you. How long for you LORA we haven't really talked about communication and that and to some extent that's the backbone of this but your LORA air quality Center. How long would it stay up? Like well, they're going to put a slow parachute on that or what?
Jo: [00:36:26] Yeah, so it would be a kind of couple of minutes flight and it's a little bit of a in some ways. It would be much easier to put it up on a high-altitude balloon, but we're interested to see with this particular device if we could basically use a barometric sensor to make it trigger and fire out a load of kind of Transmissions at apogee and we're interested to see then.
In terms of range how many gateways that that device could hit from say 3 or 4,000 feet. Yeah. We're all here the the person whose design of the payload is interesting because model rockets and High power Rockets quite often have we mentioned g-forces on you know, big commercial Rockets, right? But g-forces in model rocketry is insane.
It's so I. I was at an event in the Midlands in the UK a couple of weekends ago. For example a friend of mine Alex Ward launched the air frame that achieved over 40 G. It only was Under Fire for less than quarter of a second. I went up to about 2,000 feet, but it but it achieved over 40 G which is a little insane about of force on such a small object.
So we're interested to see how these kind of. Pretty standard surface mount design packages survive, those those real extremes of G.
Tim: [00:37:53] So, what's the strategy there? Did I mean it's like, you know dude reinforce it to the Hilton and make it as solid and inflexible as possible or do you do kind of go with the willowy process of like saying, hey, it's going to bend we just got to cope with it.
Jo: [00:38:07] So I feel I feel like I've kind of hooked you in because that's exactly the kind of tantalizing project and thoughts that kind of Rocket you give you because of course if you over build it, it's going to get heavier and it's not going to be able to achieve flight or it's not going to be able to achieve.
The same high altitude so it's a constant kind of trade-off of techniques. So of course yeah we reinforce things that we built child buildings to survive and certainly the stuff about building stuff accurately so that it flies straighter so that you can. Keep all the force in you know, really One Direction mainly through the air frame.
There's a huge amounts of consideration. So we it's the answer is you've kind of got a find your own way with it. Have you can you can really it's a whole kind of process of experimentation alliteration and and that's why it's important to have a very robust Safety Code because we do see. You know some quite spectacular failures in high power rocketry .
We don't see many injuries. So we don't see many problems created because the the safety code is kind of good and well, well it did too. But you know when you're at The Cutting Edge of that sort of. Those sort of arguments about you know, do we make it heavy and strong on light and fast and high you certainly can see some spectacular results.
Tim: [00:39:36] Yeah. Yeah, that's so one of the things one of the recurring themes in this podcast is is about the relationship of offline and online communities. And and to some extent how those communities then build their own governance structures. It's not like, you know, we kind of interested in hearing how people have how those communities get built.
Do you all meet up in a pub or do you meet online or is it a mix of both? And then how does the you said the British rocketry Association? Was it? What's its governance format? Is it a foundation? Is it a charity? Is it an arm of government? I think there's a bunch of interesting stuff around that.
There's not really technical but sort of important somehow.
Jo: [00:40:19] Yeah, it
is interesting. I think so UK rocketry Association is a sort of advisory Council. So it'll it's also a kind of membership organization it works with. Things like . It also enables people to be insured. So the UK Safety Code, which it keeps track of and up to date.
And you know, if God forbid there is some kind of incident that we haven't seen before it would respond to that. It would make kind of changes that then the rocket your community would would would adhear to that a labels their people to the the insurer to steak. I love. Reasonably, you know affordable for people travel to carry on with this hobby, but interestingly like recently I'm aware that there are you know, there's lots of conversations in the UK about commercial Spaceport activities for the stuff going on up in Scotland and Cornwall and some stuff happening around sites in Wales around you know, the UK try to build colored commercial space launch services, but it's interesting that because you know vertical launch is haven't really.
Ever happened for the UK? So I'm aware that members of like the UK rocketry Association are also talking to people in government and to people that the Civil Air Authority because you know, we've got some practice not certainly not all the answers, but but you know, we have some kind of practice in that field.
And so yeah and it liaises with with organizer with government departments. Public sector staff and so so for example it liaises with the police around because of course there's a point high-power rocketry. Where users would have to register to have like an explosive store if they're doing stuff that
Tim: [00:42:14] right,
Jo: [00:42:14] you know if there are the higher end, so they liaise with kinda police authorities and the health and safety executive. So make sure that our guidance that we give to two members but also guidance that that perhaps those organizations read Because rocketry is such a niche. They're not going to be thinking about it every day.
So it kind of sits in. Lots of different kinds of places and advises Lots.
Tim: [00:42:36] Yeah. I think I think that's really interesting to see that as a working model because there's a bunch of other places in Tech where we don't have what you might think of as like a well-established professional association.
That knows what it's doing. But isn't an arm of government but also isn't like in the pockets of the industry. I mean thinking of like there's a bunch of previous podcast where we talked about that sort of thing and it's really exciting to see one Niche where that works where it's been done and it works and I think there might be like, well, we'll see but I think there might be some common practice that could be extracted from that and used in other spaces because like, you know having that working is either it's more of a trick than it looks from.

Jo: [00:43:18] Oh it's huge. It's probably more complex than the Rockets. Definitely. Yeah, and
yeah, it's
and then on the other side, I guess the Libre space stuff that I'm involved in that that's quite interesting because it's so widely distributed that it you know, it can only really kind of pull its
contributors together online and virtually we do occasionally have we've got a big conference that we help run in partnership with the European Space Agency that's happening out in Athens next month and that's all around. It's called the Open cubesat workshop and it's all around open source space Tech stuff.
We'll all kind of meet up in real life there, but it's very rare for the sort of this globally decentralized sort of contribute bunch of contributors and seem to have that opportunity. So, yeah, it definitely throws up different kinds of. Of issues.
Tim: [00:44:20] So how did you what was your first contact with what we might call of democratize space like
Jo: [00:44:27] I
fell in with a bad crowd.
Tim: [00:44:30] So it was a physical meet up right
Jo: [00:44:33] Oh gosh no, so my very first so that. Okay. This is a really random slightly personal story, but I'll tell you how I fell into it. So I have nothing I am not an engineer. I'm if I'm anything by trade. I used to be a kind of Youth worker. I tend to do more kind of writing a bit of consultancy now.
But I it all started because I play guitar.
Tim: [00:44:52] Ok
Jo: [00:44:53] played electric guitar Fed Up of paid for cables taught myself to solder. Obviously the type of person who is kind of interesting stuff started to teach myself about repairing guitar effects pedals all this kind of stuff. Led me down the rabbit hole of kind of in some really kind of geeky Electronics areas.
Got to the point few years later where I was kind of Designing a Lego. Simple circuit boards blah blah blah blah blah and I built a modular synthesizer let the end of this project. I thought I'd kind of I'm kind of done with music for and technology for a bit. But I've got all this techy stuff.
I'll own a what's my next project. So I literally kind of looked around online. This is maybe six or seven or eight years ago. And I found this chap from this artist from South Korea a guy called hojin song. And he was a conceptual artist. He done like great big kind of, you know, crazy artworks in public places.
And at the time he decided to make a cube SATs a open source cubesat and as an art piece and it was going to go up into orbit and it was going to flash with very high intensity LEDs and it could kind of be turned on and off a list LED could be elevated and he did deploy. Is the end but he unfortunately failed to work a in orbit.
But at the time I just was like wow, this is amazing and I was just completely hooked by this fact that somebody who was from a completely non accademic non sort of engineering academic background could suddenly be doing all this kind of crazy stuff essentially a small color hack space and I just was.
Obsessed with the from that mobile Allah with with the whole kind of concepts of it really,
Tim: [00:46:42] right, right. And so that's kind of that answered of my question that in that it wasn't you didn't physically meet anybody you just happened on them online and
Jo: [00:46:51] happened online.
Tim: [00:46:52] Yeah, got that. It's kind of the meme the concept got you rather than right, that's fascinating like mentally thought of it as being a sort of conversation drunken conversation in the pub but like kind of turned into a rocket project, but absolutely not that's great.
That's really fantastic. So what I'm going to ask you to do is put send me any kind of relevant links. And I'll put them into the show notes and and hopefully people will read them and get hooked in the same way that you have
Jo: [00:47:23] that will be fantastic. Yeah, absolutely.
Tim: [00:47:27] Brilliant. Well listen thanks for that was that's actually kind of you almost hooked me.
Not quite. I'm still, but you know, maybe maybe.