DIY Rocket Science

Open Source Hardware is ushering in a new era of personal & DIY space exploration. Starting your own space program has never been easier. Only a few years ago you needed millions (or billions) of dollars and a huge manufacturing facility. Not anymore. Thanks to low cost software and manufacturing tools – you can build satellites in your garage.

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Open Source Hardware

Also referred to as Open Hardware and is related to Open Source Software but refers to designs of physical goods instead of “bytes”. Open Source Hardware designs are freely shared (usually online) so that anyone can build, adapt and modify them. Any improvements made by the community are also shared under this license and can result in huge improvements with limited resources. Open Source Hardware can also lead to successful businesses such as Makerbot. While the designs for each Makerbot 3D printer are available to anyone, the company is the #1 consumer 3D printer thanks to their high quality manufacturing, customer support and community development.

Copenhagen Suborbitals

Copenhagen Suborbitals is one of the biggest proponents of the Open Source Hardware concept. This all volunteer organization is building a suborbital rocket and making the plans freely available to anyone.


Cubesats were first designed in 1999 by CalPoly and Stanford as a low cost Open Source Hardware alternative to building a microsatellite from scratch. The blueprints have been freely shared and anyone can adapt and modify the designs to suit their space mission. Because Cubesats are easy to build and relatively cheap to launch, they have become quite popular with schools and governments that can’t afford traditional space exploration.

Cubesat Design Specifications

High Data Rate Radio Transmitter for Cubesats (by Peter Henderson)

Crowdfunding & Kickstarter

Traditional space exploration costs millions of dollars (or even billions) but that is changing. You can build your own satellite for around $50,000 thanks to Open Source Hardware and affordable tools . But space exploration is still expensive and this is where Kickstarter comes in. Kickstarter is a crowdfunding site that has become popular for startups, artists and ambitious makers around the world. Several space entrepreneurs have even funded part or all of their projects using Kickstarter. Many of these projects are based on Open Source Hardware technology, and some are even releasing their designs as Open Source Hardware for the rest of us.

  1. Skycube
  2. Ardusat
  3. 3G Space Suit
  4. KickSat
  5. Plasma Jet Electric Thruster
  6. ISS Notify
  7. Hermes Spacecraft 
  8. Copenhagen Suborbitals

Open Space Projects

Not satisfied building a Cubesat or funding a Kickstarter campaign? Get your hands “dirty” by joining one of these Open Space Projects that are actively looking for volunteers. You don’t even need to be a rocket scientist, skills of all kinds are needed.

  1. Copenhagen Suborbitals
  2. Far Horizons
  3. Open Luna