Until now, access to outer space was provided to us by a chosen few through scientific studies designed to help us understand the cosmos around us. The advent of cubesats potentially changed all that. Bob Twiggs’ inspired vision of a satellite constrained within a 4 inch cube offered the promise of delivering into space a much more affordable unit from which students could gain direct experience with designing and deploying a spacecraft. But still, the cost even for these missions is great enough to prevent most ordinary people from testing the limits of those capacities, or to learn how to overcome significant challenges space forces us to confront.
Something was missing. Something for the rest of us.
At a Smallsat conference in Logan, Utah, I had a chance to chat with Dr. (“Please call me Bob”) Twigs. I explained I wanted to create something even less expensive for potentially all students in schools and the general public to be able to connect to space. I had with me my cube prototype and Bob thought I should speak with Dr. Fitz-Coy of The University of Florida. He in turn graciously invited me to interact with his students. I presented them with the Cosmoneer concept, and asked them what THEY would like to see in a space learning tool. One said he would love to have something he could “take home for the summer” and program. Dr. Fitz-Coy added “Don’t make it square”.
I found myself remembering those words while perusing a hobby shop shelf with beanie baby display cases that had inspired Bob Twigs’ vision. Next to them were 100mm clear acrylic spherical Christmas ornaments. And there was the shape I had been looking for.
Continuing to refine the Cosmoneer, I drew inspiration from my childhood dreams of going to space which were quelled by the reality that I was not going to be “Astronaut Material”. My body was staying put on earth. Sadly, even students participating in satellite projects may not ever see their mission completed because of launch delays, limited launch opportunities, or launch failures. Percy Luney of spaceflorida.gov, whom I spoke to at that same small sat conference had told me “You have to solve the launch problem”. True; and it seemed no one had solved that problem. Launching a craft into space is expensive PERIOD. You can cut the cost per satellite down by including more satellites per launch and dividing the cost by project. That still leaves most people out of the equation.
The Cosmoneer Proto provides what was missing: a way to mimic everything in spacecraft development in all its complexities, from inception to launch without the risk and cost of failure. The user is exposed every step along the way to real world challenges such as mission planning, communications, navigation, power management, data management, risk mitigation, etc.