Decentralised Open Source Rocketry, a roadmap?


So first of all, happy new year to everyone! I’m excited to see what this brilliant community at LSF get up to in 2019!

So, I was playing with the idea of a large decentralised open source rocketry program towards the end of last year. I started trying to map out a poster roadmap with a sequence of projects and a collection of teams that would need to be perhaps defined to develop and interact to make it all possible. Its at the point where I think there is enough in it to show people what I was aiming for but I’d like to try and get others contributing as it shouldn’t really be one persons vision… but rather that of a community. As such I’ve chucked it in a repo here. Really hope to see some discussion and development!


Perhaps once you get to the Level 3 hybrid stage the electronics and deployment events should start moving towards systems that you would fly in a sounding rocket, to start building experience with a rocket that costs less to fly.

Electronics: building/developing a custom altimeter/computer that works at greater than 40-60K feet (where typical barometric altimeters stop working)

Deployment Events: Looking into Deployment methods that don’t rely on charges to create volumes of gas. So Explosive bolts and sprung pushers, CO2 nematic systems ect.

I think it is a big jump from a duel deploy systems you would run in a level 1 or 2 rocket to something you would run in a sounding rocket i think the earlier you can start developing and testing those systems in an affordable to fly way the more robust they will be.


Absolutely agree on those comments Alex, thanks. I am aware some people are looking at and have developed bolt cutting systems and spring pushers, cold gas for vectoring and also deployment I see some teams looking at. All deffo on the agenda. An open source altimeter or flight computer for really high altitude/sounding rockets would be an excellent project for a community like this.

I also think there are some easier smaller avionics projects that could be useful all through the stages of development, small gps trackers for example that can be chucked into various parts of an airframe or individually into a smaller airframes for testing.


Yes a GPS, system could be useful. I sometimes wonder if it would be possible to combine a GPS tracker/telemetry system with data downlink through the Iridium satellite network. It wouldn’t be as instant as a radio downlink but would negate the need for telemetry ground stations. Probably not applicable for an orbital rocket but might be interesting for a sounding rocket.

Another interesting system to develop would be a robust live video downlink, done right the camera setup could stay the same right from small model rockets right the way up, with the only thing changing being the video transmitter. Would be useful from an engineering standpoint as well as getting outside people interested. For example being able to do a Level 3 cert flight with a webcast including live onboard footage would be awesome.


GPS it that speeds and altitudes is is a bit trick because of regulations. You need expensive receiver and also to sign papers that you are not building weapons etc. By the way, Jo, couldnt agree more with your road map!


I suspect accurate high altitude tracking will be tricky whichever way you look at it.


Happy new year !

Jo, that’s awesome start of a year.
I am not a rocketist (rocketer ?, hmm rocketerist ?) but I think this is a great initiative for which I am looking forward to helping achieve it in a decentralized way, in any way possible.

I don’t have any comment on the roadmap. I am sure it will live and evolve through interactions. I am pretty convince one day we’ll add the Star-Trek intergalactic rocket, together with the open source warp drive.

Machine Learning and AI

On a more nowadays-note, together with @crespum and @saintaardvark, we are working-in-progress on telemetry data analysis using machine learning (Polaris). Dependencies and non-linear correlations can be quite complex and machine learning can support the ground team to interpret what’s happening and backtrack anomalies. (ultimate goal is the assistant AI like Jarvis).

@crespum has been testing different hardware for live machine learning, and I think rocketery is a good field of application where we could push this further (edge-ai).

All the best to all.


Some interesting thoughts. I’d like to be involved with this in some way.

Most electronics for amateur rocketry are monolithic. Some units do one thing, such as dual deployment, or tracking, or staging, and some units combine several of those functions into one unit. I would like to experiment with a more distributed system where you have several modules each doing some job, but with communication and coordination between them (sort of like the CAN bus in automotive applications). I assume this kind of an architecture is common in the sounding rocket and higher levels, but it would be interesting to start looking at that at the amateur level too.

I sort of question the utility of vectoring for stability purposes on anything less than perhaps the sounding rocket level. Most amateur rocketry up to and including HPR Level3 generally has a flight profile where a small percentage of the flight is under thrust and most of the flight is in a “coast” phase. So if you are relying on vectoring for stabilization, you only have that available for a small portion of the flight. Unless you expect to have thrust to an altitude at which point the atmosphere has little affect on stability, I don’t really see the point. There are now some low thrust, long burn motors that possibly do change the equation somewhat, but I’m still not convinced.


Some great discussion here everyone, thank you!
@ssaner Your first paragraph on monolithic electronics is spot on and yes would love to see some exploration of more distributed systems you describe. On vectoring I also agree about its useage but I was keen to included it earlier in the roadmap just as it builds some foundation stuff whilst in the largely more globally accessible amateur high power, I’d love to see cold gas and active canards and jet vanes and everything explored on the long road to beyond simpler stabilisation and up towards the (unnaceptable at most amateur levels) guidance systems that would be needed for high sounding and ultimately orbital insertion stuff.

@wardy89 re the video downlink, we are tremendously lucky we have the magnificent @csete in this community who has done stacks of work developing the Copenhagen Suborbitals video systems.

@redb Thanks for your comments (and for the RT over on twitter) Machine learning telemetry systems are another thing that I would have very little to offer anything towards but am excited that this excites you and hopefully @crespum and @saintaardvark ! One thing I would be very happy to offer is to fly anything you develop in any HPR flights I do. I always have payload space and am always looking for extra reasons to travel to UK rocketry sites and fly! I don’t currently know the state of play with LSF rocket launches but I am sure @drid and @manthos would be happy to fly experiments for the LSF community if needed and possible.