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New CSTART collaboration tool: Chalkboard

We at CSTART now have a way to manage our product data and share information amongst each other. Chalkboard is our implementation of Feng Office (OpenGoo). Feng Office is an open source solution, which fits well with our organizations needs.

A screenshot of the application is here.

We are now capable of splitting the organization amongst the various programs that we have. Each program can control access rights to their documents. This means, for example, Program Chimera members have access to modify files in the Program Chimera workspace, but they are not allowed to modify data in the Program Cosmos workspace, however, by default, everyone can download and view data anywhere in Chalkboard.

Chalkboard also allows us to version control our information. If someone destroys a CAD model, we can go back in the history and restore the model to a previous working state.

We now have the ability to “check out” and “check in” documents. This is great for collaboration. This prevents one file being modified by two separate people at once.

Another useful feature is the use of comments. Users can comment on documents, notes and web links to form a discussion around an item. One user can create a document, where other users can provide feedback on how to improve that document.

At the moment, accounts need to be created manually by an admin. We do have a guest account that is capable of viewing, but not modifying. You can sign in with the username “guest” and password “guest”.

If you want a personal account, send an email to [email protected] and one will be created. If you are working in a specific program, mention which one, and you will be granted rights to add data to this program’s workspace (Chimera=hybrid rocket, Cosmos=cubesat, Cloudlab=high altitude weather balloons).

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CSTART has endorsed the OSHW Draft Definition 1.0, furthering our commitment to Open Source Hardware and our ideals.  For more information about Open Source Hardware and the OSHW Draft Definition 1.0 see

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CSTART picking up steam again

There is an effort being made to get CSTART back on its feet, and we need volunteers. Whether you are new to CSTART or have been involved since its founding on Ask Reddit, your assistance is needed. CSTART needs you whether you’re a professional or hobbyist. With the Strategy team and projects Chimera, Cloudlab, and Cosmos, you’re sure to find your niche whether you are an engineer, lawyer, student, or otherwise. Keep an eye out for updates.

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3 out of 4 project names decided

Voting has now closed on the 2nd phase of the new project naming competition.  For 3 of our 4 new projects there were clear winners.  Henceforth:

  • “PROJECT BALLOON” shall be known as Cloudlab
  • “PROJECT ROCKET” shall be known as Chimera
  • “PROJECT CUBESAT” shall be known as COSMoS

The votes for “PROJECT MANNEDFLIGHT” resulted in a draw, with “Artemis” and “Daedalus” equally popular amongst the community.  Since almost all of the votes for that project were for one of these two options anyway, an immediate revote seems unlikely to break the tie.  Because work on this more advanced project is not likely to start for some time anyway, a revote will be held in the future.

Thanks to everybody who suggested names and who voted.  In the coming weeks, CSTART will work on updating our website to reflect the new system.  As part of the changes we will be seeking community input on such things as project logos, definitions of the stage structures of the various projects, and the assignment of people to particular positions within each project to ensure things run smoothly.  Stay tuned to this blog to see how you can get involved in these decisions.

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Project naming competition, phase 2

The candidate selection phase of the project naming competition is over!  Thanks to everybody who provided candidate names, and to everybody who voted to help determine the favourites.

The polls below contain the most upvoted non-joke and non-troll submissions for each project, up to a maximum of 5 candidates per project.  For the next week, you can vote for one name for each project.  The names with the most votes will become the official project names.  Polls will close at roughly midnight on the 12th of October 2010.

Note that some names have potential intellectual proprety problems attached (namely Bespin, Rubiks and Tetris).  If one of these names should win the relevant poll, investigations will be made to see if we can use these names safely.  In the event that a name cannot be used for IP reasons, the second most voted for name in the relevant poll will be used.

What do you think PROJECT BALLOON should be named?

  • Cloudlab (35%, 6 Votes)
  • HALP (High Altitude Launch Platform) (29%, 5 Votes)
  • Odysseus (18%, 3 Votes)
  • BLIMP (Buoyant Laboratory and Imaging Mobile Platform) (12%, 2 Votes)
  • Bespin (6%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 17

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What do you think PROJECT ROCKET should be named?

  • Chimera (53%, 8 Votes)
  • Black Powder (27%, 4 Votes)
  • Phoenix (20%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 15

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What do you think PROJECT CUBESAT should be named?

  • COSMoS (CSTART's Open Source Modular Satellite) (53%, 8 Votes)
  • Tetris (20%, 3 Votes)
  • AllSpark (13%, 2 Votes)
  • Picosso (7%, 1 Votes)
  • Rubik (7%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 15

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What do you think PROJECT MANNEDFLIGHT should be named?

  • Artemis (33%, 5 Votes)
  • Daedalus (33%, 5 Votes)
  • Gagarin (20%, 3 Votes)
  • Unbound (14%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 15

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Volunteers wanted for IRC meeting secretary position(s)

In an attempt to keep both active involvement and general community awareness up, CSTART wants to try to experimenting with regular IRC meetings.  We have used the #cstart channel on the FreeNode IRC server before to great effect, but our meetings have been irregular and ad hoc.  It would be great if we could decide upon a specific day and time, maybe weekly, maybe monthly, where everybody interested in the project could come to #cstart and talk about the organization – where it is, where it’s heading and how to best get us there.

In order to make sure these meetings keep happening and are effective, we are seeking volunteers for a IRC meeting secretary positions.  The positions basically entail the following responsibilities:

  • Using the Reddit community, Twitter account etc. to provide 24 hour reminders to the community when a meeting is scheduled to happen.
  • Attending all scheduled meetings.
  • Saving complete logs of all scheduled meetings and publishing these on the website somewhere (probably in the Wiki for now).
  • Posting links to meeting logs on the Reddit community, Twitter account etc.

We are looking for dedicated volunteers who can take this position seriously and make a genuine effort to fulfil the above duties.  We realise that nobody can be available for CSTART 24/7, so we are happy to appoint 2 or 3 people to this position so that if one secretary is unable to attend a meeting due to issues IRL they can let the others know so that their spot can be covered.  So you don’t necessarily need to be able to make every meeting to act as a secretary, but the more available you are, the better.  You don’t need any special skills to take on this role – someone from CSTART will provide you with all of the information you need to do your job.

If you are interested in this position, please register at our forums and post in this thread introducing yourself and expressing your interest.  Tell us a little bit about yourself – it won’t affect your eligibility for the positions, but it’s nice if everyone involved in CSTART knows a little about each other.  Also, mention if you have any previous experience doing something like this – maybe you’ve helped run IRC meetings for an open source software project, or maybe you’ve spent a lot of time moderating a busy forum, or helping fight vandalism on Wikipedia: anything at all which demonstrates that you can be reliable and helpful member of an online community.  Don’t worry if you don’t have any such experience – we’ll only rely on that information if we get an unexpectedly large number of interested people and it really isn’t feasible to appoint everybody to a position.

If we get enough interested people that it looks like we will be able to make these meetings work, then we will set up some polls to figure out how often people want these meetings and which days and times work the best for the majority of interested people.  If nobody steps forward to fill the IRC meeting secretary positions, then we will not attempt to run regularly scheduled meetings, and the organization will suffer whatever the consequences may be of not having those meetings.  CSTART is what you make it!

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New project naming competition

CSTART recently announced its new line of up 4 projects, designed to shift some focus away from isolated, highly ambitious goals, such as mooned landings, and place it on comparatively small and simple projects which will provide the technological building blocks to facilitate a wide range of more ambitious goals in the future.  The four projects were introduced with the codenames PROJECT BALLOON, PROJECT ROCKET, PROJECT CUBESAT and PROJECT MANNEDFLIGHT.  We’d like to replace this boring and unimaginative names with new ones – names which are memorable and inspirational.  To achieve this, we’ll be having a competition so that the community can decide.

The naming competition for our new projects will proceed in much the same way as the competition for our motto did.  There will be two phases.

The candidate selection phase, which begins as soon as this blog entry is posted and lasts until roughly midnight on the 5th of October 2010. During this week-long phase, anybody and everybody can suggest names for each of our projects by posting a comment on the appropriate thread in our community at Reddit.  There are no restrictions on the mottos you can suggest: we will let upvotes and downvotes by the community weed out trolls and submissions which are considered undesirable or inappropriate by the majority.

The project naming competition threads at Reddit are:

The name selection phase, which will begin immediately after the announcement of the end of the candidate selection phase and last until roughly midnight on the 12th of January 2010.  During this week-long phase, the 5 most upvoted submissions to the Reddit threads will be made the choices for poll entries in this blog.  Each member of the CSTART community will be able to vote once on one name for each project from the list of finalists.  The names which receives the most votes before the closing date will be adopted as the official names of the new projects!

Start brainstorming!

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New project structure

As promised in the previous CSTART blog entry, this entry will introduce our new set of 4 projects focused on technological foundations or building blocks for CSTART.  At the moment, these 4 programs have very unimaginative code names, but in the very near future we will hold naming competitions to give them more imaginative and inspiring names and logos.

The first project is “PROJECT BALLOON”.  The goal of this project is the design and construction of a family of high altitude balloon systems with reliable payload recovery capabilities – basically slightly more high tech versions of the very popular “camera on a weatherballoon” projects which many of you may have seen around the blogosphere.  There are several motivations for PROJECT BALLOON.  Firstly, it is cheap and safe relative to other projects, which increases our chances of seeing real progress on physical building of hardware in the near future.  Secondly, it will allow us to perform testing of hardware for other projects in a near-space environment.  We can test communication, navigation and other electronic equipment in high-altitude, low-pressure, low-temperature, higher radiation conditions which approximate the space environment at relatively low cost.  Thirdly, it opens a potential source of revenue in the form of “space advertising”, as demonstrated by JP Aerospace.

The second project is “PROJECT ROCKET”.  This is essentially an extension of the existing project OHKLA.  Its goal is the design and construction of a family of safe and reliable hybrid rocket vehicles of increasingly capability, ranging from suborbital all the way up to orbital.  The first stage of PROJECT ROCKET will be the construction of a hybrid rocket with the ability to reach 100 km of altitude, precisely as per OHKLA.  Later stages will scale the technology up as far as we can manage.  Wherever it makes sense, later stages of this project will reuse the work of earlier stages in the form of clustering and staging smaller rockets to make larger ones.  All the engineering decisions and other work on OHKLA will be carried over to PROJECT ROCKET, e.g. the PROJECT ROCKET rockets will burn polyethylene and nitrous oxide.  People with backgrounds in aerospace, chemical and mechanical engineering may find this project interesting.

The third project is “PROJECT CUBESAT”.  This is essentially a ressurection of our earlier aborted attempt to “adopt” the now defunct Reddit Cubesat project.  Its goal is the design and construction of a family of miniature satellites, based on the CubeSat specification.  The ultimate goal of this project would be a family of modular CubeSat units which can be combined into 2U and 3U sized CubeSats to perform arbitrary goals in Low Earth Orbit.  The subsystems of these satellites will provide starting points for the corresponding subsystems in later more ambitious projects, like lunar or planetary probes or manned spacecraft.  Satellites designed under PROJECT CUBESAT People with backgrounds in communications and electronic engineering may find this project interesting.

The fourth project is “PROJECT MANNEDFLIGHT”.  This project will subsume much of the work which was done on the existing project CLLARE.  Its goal is the design and construction of a highly modular, minimalist manned spacecraft which is scalable via the use of modules through a range of flight profiles, from suborbital to circumlunar.  The basic idea is to allow CSTART to expand into manned spaceflight in minimal steps, similar to the US progression through the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo projects, or the Soviet progression through the Vostok, Voskhod and Soyuz projects, but without wastefully creating entirely new spacecraft for each step.

These four projects do not, in and of themselves, have particularly significant or exciting results in terms of particular scientific or explorative goals they will allow CSTART to achieve, but if each project is carried out to completion we will have all of the individual building blocks – propulsion, navigation, communication, data processing, life support and reentry capabilities – needed to embark on a wide range of projects.  The fruits of PROJECT CUBESAT will allow us to do real Earth and space science from LEO.  The fruits of that project combined with those of PROJECT ROCKET will allow us to propell minimalist space probes out of Earth orbit, allowing us to gather data from other sites in the solar system.  The fruits of PROJECT MANNEDFLIGHT will allow us to achieve CLLARE’s goal of landing people on the moon.  Thus, these 4 foundational projects represent our efforts to pave the way for better things to come.

Stay tuned to this blog for updates on our competitions to name and design logos for these projects, as well as establishing more details and appointing people to positions on each project!

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Project restructuring, and collaboration with Mach30

After a relatively long period of silence, CSTART is pleased to be able to announce some changes to the structure of our project set and also a new front for close collaboration with the Mach30 Foundation, one of the Friends of CSTART.  These new ideas and directions will hopefully help us to work better toward our goals.

The two current projects, OHKLA and CLLARE, are now schedule to be replaced by a set of 4 new projects.  Although some aspects of the two older projects will still be recognizable in the new projects, there will also be some new elements.  Rather than focusing on specific goals, such as breaking the Karman line or putting people on the moon, these 4 new projects will have a “technological foundations” focus.  Once complete, the 4 foundational projects will result in CSTART having all the necessary technical “building blocks” and frameworks that will be needed for future projects to tackle specific goals.  The 4 foundational projects will also be divided into “stages” of increasing complexity, allowing us to begin by tackling the simplest possible problems within each project’s scope.  Although replacing 2 projects with 4 may actually seem like creating more work for ourselves, we hope that because the 4 projects are more focused on specific technologies than on particular goals, and because the staging system will allow us to start work on comparatively simple systems, the new 4 project system will actually enable us to get more work done, sooner.

The particular details and stage structure of the 4 new projects will be announced on this blog in the near future.  At this point, we will be using our presence on Reddit to hold competitions to name each of the projects and to design logos for each.  These competitions will function in much the same way as our motto selection competition did.  Stay tuned!

In addition to establishing a set of newer, more practical projects, CSTART is also excited to announce that it will be collaborating with the Mach30 Foundation, and other interested parties on the development of a web application designed to support the design of hardware in an open and collaborative manner – somewhat similar to the applications used by projects like SourceForge and Google Code to support the open development of software.  We hope that this new application will allow us to work in a much more organized and transparent manner than our current ad hoc combination of the forums and wiki.  We hope to begin work on building this application in the near future.

Although the new projects will be announced and named soon, we anticipate that actual design and construction work for those new projects will not begin until the web application is ready to support this work.  Some of the new 4 projects are definitely simpler than others.  We hope to bring each of the projects “on line” as soon as the web application is considered ready to support that particular project.  This means that the simplest project could come on quite soon, whereas the most complex project may not see work begin for some time as we gradually expand and test (on simpler projects) the web application.  This approach may hold us back in the short term, but it increases the chances that our projects will work out in the long run.  More announcements about the web application will be made as work takes place.  Those who are especially interested can read the discussion between CSTART and Mach30 about this application in our forums, and can make posts to offer their advice or assistance.

CSTART thanks all of its supporters for their continued interest in and assistance with our work.  We know that at times it seems like the organization is constantly changing its mind or temporarily losing momentum.  The truth of the matter is that open source style design and construction of complicated hardware is a relatively new phenomenon, without much in the way of software or accepted best practice to guide new projects.  There are lots of pitfalls and unexpected complications, and it is taking us time to find our feet.  The fact that our goals are as ambitious as they are does not make things easier!  Please bear with us as we continue to find ways to make things easier.  We hope that with the continued interest, support and work of our community and our fellow open source space teams, we will eventually hit upon a combination of projects, procedures and tools which will let us begin bringing our goals to fruition.

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OHKLA propellants decided: to space with polyethylene and nitrous oxide!

The polls for collecting community opinion on propellants for the OHKLA project have closed, with polyethylene (PE) as the fuel and nitrous oxide (N2O) as the oxidizer taking clear majorities of the votes.  This result is entirely in keeping with the opinions expressed in our forum discussions.  The relatively small number of votes cast (although the numbers exceeded the number of people expressing their opinions on the forum, meaning the polls were still worthwhile) combined with the lack of votes for the least popular propellants on the forum suggest that the poll was taken seriously and neither subject to ballot-stuffing nor degenerated into an uninformed popularity contest.  Thus, the choice of PE and N2O can now be considered official (although obviously the choice may be reviewed later in the project if strong community opinion suggests this is necessary).  With this decision made, we are now able to progress to working on design tasks which are dependent upon propellant choice, bringing us closer to a state where we can begin construction on small-scale prototype rocket engines for the OHKLA project.

Since the approach of using a focused forum thread, a community poll and a hard one-week deadline worked so well for determining the OHKLA propellants, it is expected that this same process will be repeated many times in the near future for other design tasks, in an attempt to keep up momentum on the project.  Each time this happens, a blog post will be made, so subscribe to our RSS feed and keep your eyes open!  The coming weeks will be a great time for new people to get involved in the OHKLA project, so if you’ve been lurking but would like to do more, introduce yourself in the forums!

Thanks to everybody who voted in the propellants poll!

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