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Achieving a Libre (Open-Source) Space | ft. Nikoletta Triantafyllopoulou, Libre Space Foundation
Nikoletta Triantafyllopoulou, Social Media, Communications and Content Manager of Libre Space Foundation shares their companies principles, various projects and upcoming goals.
Today, we are getting ever closer to improve the accessibility to space. With private players like Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, Space Tourism will soon be a reality. Reusability, standardisation and modularity are at the heart of many systems trying to reduce the cost of spaceflight and increasing access to space for humans and satellites alike. Libre Space Foundation is an organisation working towards applying these principles to achieve an Open and Accessible Outer Space for all. I interviewed their Social Media, Communications and Content Manager, Nikoletta Triantafyllopoulou for this week’s space talks.
About Libre Space Foundation
What is Libre Space Foundation?
Libre Space Foundation is a non-profit organisation dedicated to designing, developing and promoting open-source space technologies. It is an organisation that was founded in 2015 in Greece, formed by the creators of the SatNOGS project. Libre Space Foundation focuses on supporting knowledge, space exploration and the promotion of scientific research. All our projects, activities and operations are governed by the Principles of the Libre Space Manifesto. We follow the values and the principles of open-source development methodology, open governance and transparency, working towards making space available to everyone.
Being an open-source company in space technologies, how do you manage to stay in business?
If you have a look at our projects' page, you will understand that we have invested in exploring knowledge, supporting scientific research and building collaborations with great partners thanks to our expertise and willingness to share knowledge freely. Unlike the proprietary models with which most of us are familiar, the open-source model allows for flexibility, creativity, inclusion and creates a buzzing community of knowledge, synergy and ideas. We create high-end Space technology available to everyone, and this has granted us the skill to offer our expertise and to be consulted for that. Our expertise and knowledge have made us a sought-after partner in many of our established collaborations. What is more, we are working hard on developing and expanding open-source business models. In fact, we have created a detailed report as part of one of the projects that we are running. The initiative is called OpenSatCom, and we have released a thorough report on "Open Source Development Models in Satellite Communications". The report provides an overview of open-source development and business models in general, how these models are adopted/implemented/integrated into specific industries. It focuses on the applicability and existing usage of open-source models in the satellite communications domain.
What is the motivation towards making Space Accessible to All?
The Principles and Values clearly stated in the Libre Space Manifesto are the rules by which we abide. The motivation stems from a deeply humanistic philosophy that we follow. This also abides by the rules of the Outer Space Treaty and sets the tone for the way space and space exploration should be used. We believe that space is the future of humanity, and as such, it should be explored to the fullest by humanity as a whole. Seeing that not all countries and communities have access to it, we have decided to work hard towards that, to promote space technology and knowledge. The only way to achieve this effectively and inclusively is by following the open-source way. The democratisation of space is the only way for humanity to enjoy access to space, knowledge and to be able to explore it for peaceful purposes.
Can you briefly explain the three dimensions of your work, i.e. Infrastructure, Satellites, and Rockets?
Sure. Here is a concise summary, overview and categorisation of our projects:
UPSat: Designing and developing the first-ever open-source CubeSat for the University of Patras, Greece
PocketQubes: Creating an electrical standard and a collection of open-source circuit boards.
QUBIK: Designing, developing, integrating and delivering 2 PocketQube satellites (QUBIK-1 & QUBIK-2) as well as a PocketQube deployer PICOBUS to be flown as part of the DREAM payloads program on the inaugural Firefly Alpha launch of Firefly Aerospace.
SatNOGS: Maintaining and expanding the most extensive open-source ground station network worldwide, optimised for modularity, built from readily available and affordable tools and resources. The network boasts over 400 operational ground stations, tracking 590+ satellites, 1140+ transmitters, collecting over 4.1 million observations and 106+million data frames.
Research & Development
SDR MakerSpace: Facilitating open-source projects using software-defined radio technologies for Space Communications.
SatNOGS-COMMS: A versatile Communications solution, suitable for nano-satellites and CubeSats, tightly integrated with the SatNOGS network.
Polaris ML: An open-source tool used for the exploration and analysis of satellite telemetry data by building machine-learning models. Deep Learning for SpaceOps.
MetaSat: An open Metadata Schema to link the data, software and hardware of small satellite missions and LSTN to bring space-based knowledge closer to communities.
Looking specifically at satellites, can you elaborate on the PocketQube standard?
Before delving into this question, I would like to point out that CubeSats come at 1U, which translates into 10x10x10cm, and they are larger than PocketQubes that are 1P=5x5x5cm. This constitutes PocketCubes, a format that is particularly versatile, low cost, and thus, affordable by university teams and educational projects, especially since they can be used for experiments and testing. For these reasons, PocketQubes are becoming all the more popular, and an impressive technological stack has been developed around the PocketQubes; for instance, we have created SatNOGS-COMMS as part of this and, of course, the PICOBUS PocketQube Deployer as vital components of this standard.
What is Qubik, and when are you planning to launch it?
The QUBIK Mission is a project we take great pride in. It consists of two equally significant components. The first component is the two open-source PocketCubes QUBIK-1 and QUBIK-2. The second component is PICOBUS, a PocketQube Deployer. It is the first-ever open-source PocketQube Deployer. The entire Qubik Mission was designed and developed at LSF in a collaborative open-source way. The QUBIK PocketQubes along with AMSAT-EA's GENESIS-L and GENESIS-N and Fossa Systems' FOSSASAT-1 and FOSSAT-2 were integrated into the deployer and are part of the Firefly Aerospace's Alpha Launch DREAM payloads program. The mission is to be launched in the next months.
Both QUBIK-1 and QUBIK-2 are tasked to perform a series of satellite identification and tracking experiments during the Launch and Early Orbit Phase of a mission.
Finally, what are your upcoming or future goals?
We are always looking for new projects to develop and ideas to put into action. We are looking forward to the QUBIK mission launching and conducting the experiments we have in mind. Experiments that are focused on satellite tracking and identification which is an area we are very interested in. At the same time, we are working towards expanding the current projects. For instance, making SatNOGS even bigger, helping even more satellite operations, optimising SatNOGS-COMMS so that it is available for use. Further developing Polaris ML to help Space Operators diagnose satellite behaviour and detect satellite anomalies. Mentoring and overseeing university projects such as the Cronos sounding rocket and the GSoC programme, bringing in great collaborations that will enhance data-sharing and aiming at bringing the public closer to space exploration and technology by expanding the LSTN project in collaboration with the Wolbach Library of the Harvard-Smithsonian School of Astrophysics.
I would like to thank Nikoletta for taking the time for the interview.
All images are credited to Libre Space Foundation.