Top Three Takeaways from OSCW 2019

We left last week’s Open Source Cubesat Workshop, 14th-16th October 2019, with a sense of excitement and anticipation about the future of the Open Source space industry.

The location of OSCW2019 was well-signposted
The location of OSCW was well-signposted

The Athens Conservatoire was an ideal venue for the third OSCW; individuals and groups were expressing their artistic creativity in adjacent rooms in the form of music, voice and dance, creating a fascinating backdrop for an international group of engineers to deliver their own performances in the form of live demos, simulations and presentations. The full timetable of events is available here.

OSCW 2019 group photo
OSCW 2019 Group Photo

In keeping with the ethos of sharing, participation and inclusivity, many attendees took the opportunity to contribute in several different ways: organising, presenting, running workshops, chairing sessions and running sessions. Despite this being the first OSCW event that the Open Source Satellite Programme team attended, we were welcomed into the community and enjoyed presenting, hosting a round table, running a workshop and chairing one of the sessions.

John Paffett presentation
John Paffett, presenting an overview of the Open Source Satellite Programme

There are so many interesting topics from OSCW that we want to discuss and share with the Open Source Satellite Programme community; and to get the conversation started here are our top-three takeaways from the event:

The Open Source space ecosystem is vibrant and is growing and developing rapidly

Teams are working on Open Source projects across the value chain:

  • Mission design and analysis
  • Software
  • Flight hardware – subsystems and spacecraft
  • Communications protocols
  • Ground segment
  • Testing
  • Rocketry

We ran a two-part roundtable session to identify the different Open Source groups and projects across the space mission value chain and to capture the challenges that need to be addressed to enable further stimulation and growth of open source space activities. We will be making this information accessible soon.

John Paffett Roundtable
John Paffett, running a Roundtable session

Teams are developing some useful tools and resources – but not enough people know they exist

There were 48 different contributions over the three days, and most of these contributions included URLs where their information can be accessed.

Many of these contributions are available on GitHub, GitLab or SourceForge – but it is difficult for people to access these sources of information unless they are already aware that the information exists. A key driver for the Open Source philosophy is sharing information to avoid multiple teams reinventing the wheel; however, the lack of sufficient visibility of prior work means that many teams are likely developing solutions to the same problem.

We participated in a stimulating workshop about how to structure the repository for the Open Source Satellite Programme repository and discussed our intention to create a list of resources that we can maintain and grow with contributions from the community, to ensure that open source materials can be easily found.

Artur Scholz workshop
Artur Scholz's hands-on workshop, "SpaceCAN - A reliable and robust monitor and control bus for CubeSats"

There are different flavours and different approaches to Open Source projects

Even within the relatively small group of people at the conference there were wide differences between the different ways that people are implementing open source.

Some groups advocate for making everything available, right from the point of inception, so that the community can contribute to the development from the outset. Other groups have the opinion that information needs to achieve a baseline level of maturity before releasing it for use by others.

Milenko Starcik
Milenko Starcik’s workshop , “Setup your station ready for Telemetry with SLE”

Another common constraint emerged – when open source tools and solutions are based on - or use - commercial or proprietary tools. There were many interesting discussions about the question: “Does Open Source have to be free of charge?” and we anticipate many more conversations about this topic at future OSCW events and as we progress through the Open Source Satellite Programme milestones.

Thank you to the Libre Space Foundation and all of our fellow participants for a stimulating and thought-provoking conference; we look forward to continuing the conversations and to contributing to future activities to promote Open Source in the space industry.

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What are your thoughts on our Top Three takeaways? Let us know in the comments section below. exists to create an environment that supports and enables
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