The space industry is booming with the introduction of private space companies. SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Planetary Resources, Bigelow Aerospace, Armadillo Aerospace, and so many more are working on privatized space flight. At one time, space belonged to governments alone, but that has changed. With the privatization of space, it is now in the hands of enthusiasts to make the future of space travel a bright one. We really need something that will bring our massive amount of technical power together.
This is where open space hardware begins. Companies have recently started working on open space hardware projects, but are still held back by government regulation. The ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) have space technologies listed on the USML (United States Munitions List). The technologies and physical objects listed on the USML are regulated by the ITAR, and, not permitted to be exported (transferred) to non-citizens of the United States. Other countries of the world have similar treaties and regulations. (See: http://www.unoosa.org/pdf/spacelaw/intlagree.pdf for more documentation on U.N. countries.)
So, how are we going to bring space into the open hardware community? Good questions take time to answer, so bear with me. The first thing we need to do as a community is rally around the idea that we can accomplish more as a group than as an individual. By creating organizations like Exosphere – the open hardware space shuttle design project – we can collaborate on a voluntary basis within our own countries. Over time, we can focus on regulation reform which opens up the possibilities of working across borders with each other. In the meantime, sharing non-regulated information, and collaborating on a basic level can help each organization grow.
The Exosphere project has gained incredible backing from people all over the world. From third world countries to first world nations, people want to get involved in the space movement. By setting up these organizations in each country everyone can get involved in the process. Regulations will have to be followed, by country, and are likely to be different from one location to the next. It is highly advised to find out what the regulations are in your country. The goal of each organization should be open hardware space design. Once regulations are changed, we can begin to collaborate on a whole new level.
Please see the infographic below:
So, we can help each other by directing people to the organization in their country, and we can share any information that is not regulated. Well, there are a few other hiccups… Some laws might not allow any collaboration with other countries. Economic or military sanctions might stop people in two countries from being able to collaborate. In time, these problems can be sorted. The moon landing took ten years. Sounds like a good timeline to me.
Exosphere will be a model for organizations in other countries seeking to help advance space development for the good of all. The plan for Exosphere is to start an open hardware shuttle project in the United States. There are rules and regulations involved that require certain thing be in order. Those involved will have to be a citizen of the United States meeting any requirements made by the government. The requirements are likely to include a lack of criminal history and no ties with enemies of the United States. The extra paperwork will be more than worth the benefits of collaboration.
The project will be broken down into teams led by the lead design staff. Teams will be responsible for design of different segments of the craft. They will work closely with the lead team member to ensure project goals are met. The lead design team will be responsible for following all government regulations and ensuring the safety and compatibility of parts. The end goal is a modular design that can be updated by individuals as their expertise and passions permit.
Everyone wishing to construct a craft from the plans will have to sign a non-disclosure agreement and copy of the ITAR (or a shortened version) before getting access. Well, before working on the technical side of the project at least. Regulations restrict where information is disseminated. The information is covered by Federal Law. One of these laws requires going through the proper channels for every phase of construction and testing. This is another one of the tasks of the lead team – keep up with all required licensing and government regulation. (A fulltime job in itself)
Sorry for all that boring stuff. The great thing about the Exosphere project is (aside from regulations) anyone can join. By working together as a team we can speed up time and bring the future closer to the present. Imagine a giant neural network of scientists and engineers that rivals the Apollo project; the more specialized the participants, the better. We will create a basic design and have specialized engineering teams from all across the country work together in online work-groups. When there are problems, we can call in a specialist to help solve them. Eventually, the project team will begin testing the different pieces for assembly.
All that sounds great, but how is Exosphere going to get the money to do this? Before anything we are launching an indiegogo.com campaign. It is scheduled for early July, 2013. The goal will be set at an all or nothing $100,000 which will provide enough to carry the project on a nearly all voluntary workforce for two years. The secondary goal is set at $1,000.000. This money will help hire three to four scientists and engineers to work full time on the lead team. It will also help bring University interns in to work on the project. The third goal is $10,000,000. This money is to go toward complete design and testing of the craft, plus legal fees. Perks will be announced on the day of the launch.
Why this project? This project can help humanity come together for a better future. It can solve some of the major problems of the world. Space technologies oftentimes change the world for the better, whether you know or not. Many things used in our daily lives are products of the space program. No other program on earth has the ability to provide so much promise to the future of our civilization.
Why now? There is no better time than the present to advance on our goals. Every moment we wait is compounded in the future suffering of our children. Humanity has worked for hundreds of thousands of years to build the technologies and culture we have today. It is our duty to take the honor we have been given – to live in this most important time to humanity – and build a society that will venture into the stars for millennia to come. The future should hold no disease, famine, war, or unnecessary suffering. We can make it happen. This is the post-internet space age. Let’s build the future, together.
I end with a quote by the late Carl Sagan:
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known”
Tell me what you think, either in the comments, or contact me directly:
@zblanchard, or search for me on facebook, linkedin, google+, klout, and more.
The Author – Zechariah Blanchard – is an Entrepreneur and the Founder of Exosphere.