Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Definitive Guide to Open Source Hardware - 2008

Again this year MAKE Magazine blog has publishes the annual Open Source Hardware Guide listing no less than 60 open source hardware projects, ranging from simple microcontroller boards to a fully functional cell phone. Open source hardware are projects where the designers have decided to publish all the source, schematics, firmware, software, bill of materials, parts list, drawings and "board" files necessary to recreate the hardware. The open source licensing allows any use, including commercial.

In many cases you really wouldn't care about the schematics for your cell phone; however, when designing and building complex systems it is a priceless advantage to have the design and the schematics of the individual components at your disposal. You can avoid many surprises during integration since you have a chance to find out exactly what you are buying instead of just getting a black box which may or may not live up to your expectations (lets face it, there always a huge gap between what a sales department advertises and what the technical department delivers). Moreover, you have the freedom to use the hardware you bought the way you want to and not the way the manufacturer wants you to. And you don't risk being sued just because you opened up the box to look at what's under the hood.

Hopefully, it will not take many years before we will see complete space systems on the list :-)

Daisy MP3 player
Daisy MP3 player - An open source MP3 player

Neo FreeRunner
The Neo FreeRunner open source cell phone.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Jaluro's First Test Drive

Tobi promised that Jaluro will drive before Christmas '08 and so here it is.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Season's Greetings from Team FREDNET

After one year of hard work it was now time to have some fun :-)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Jaluro v0.1 ready to rock and roll

If you happen to live in Vienna, Austria, you better watch out on the streets because Jaluro v0.1 is ready to rock and roll. Here are some fresh photos and stay tuned for a video of Jaluro v0.1 in action!

Jaluro prototype chassis and wheel support.

Tobi and son cutting out the wheels for Jaluro.
When we say anybody can help us we really mean it :-)

Jaluro v0.1 ready to rock and roll!

Side view of the mock-up.

Jaluro v0.1 in action.

Drive by wire :-)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Article about Team FREDNET and Elphel Inc

A very nice article about the open source and open minded partnership between Team FREDNET and Elphel Inc has just appeared on The article was written by Anders Feder who is a very active member of Team FREDNET and also maintains his own blog called Open Space Exploration Journal.

As the article points out, it is an interesting coincidence (?) that Elphel cameras were also used for the virtual Google Books library and the Google Street View service - and now also in the Google Lunar X PRIZE :-)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

WRV1 Wheel Prototype Assembled

Sitting in my apartment in Denmark on a cold winter evening, I can only wish I was in sunny California for the Google Lunar X PRIZE Team Summit. Fortunately, I can listen to the discussions via Fred's VOIP and talk to him via Google chat despite the fact that I am more than 7000 km away.

At the same time, exciting news keep coming in reporting progress on the rover side: Jörg from Switzerland has now assembled the first wheel prototype for his WRV1 rover. The current weight of the wheel is 96 grams but the wheel support will have to be cut out so it will come down to about 60 grams (for the prototype).

From WRV1: Wheeled Rover Vehicle 1

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lunar Landing Concepts

An overview of some lunar landing concepts that are being worked on in Team FREDNET has been posted on our forum recently.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Sky on the Moon

We had some discussions on our public forum recently about using the stars and the planets for guidance and navigation on the lunar surface. Of course, it raises the question of how the sky looks like on the Moon? To find out, I took a virtual trip to the Apollo 11, 15 and Surveyor 7 landing sites using the free open source Stellarium software. Stellarium is a complete planetarium software for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope. It even allows you to look at the sky from surface of other planets and moons.

Other free software used in producing this video was the Gimp for image manipulations and Kdenlive for non-linear video editing. Thus, the video was created using only free open source software including the OS, which was Ubuntu linux.

You can also watch the video in higher resolution on the YouTube page.

PS: I have hidden a small error in the first 20 seconds of the video, and I am not thinking about the lunar landscape. The first person to identify this error will receive a free Team FREDNET mission patch :-)

Friday, December 5, 2008

WRV1 Progress

Jörg from Switzerland has made some exciting progress with his WRV1 rover prototype. The CAD design for the wheel and gearbox was posted earlier and here are the first pictures of the manufactured parts for the wheel.

First Jörg had to create some tools for being able the produce the cut metal sheet parts (thickness 0.8mm), so on this picture you see some tools and the parts in the order of the production. In front the cutout sheet metal (AL), the outside bended, the fixture bended and finally the holes reinforced:

A closer look to the tool allowing to reinforce the holes by beading the borders:

And here is the result of about 15 hours of preparation and 4 hours of production (some steps are to be optimized!!). The whole wheel weighs about 23 grams (with brass pins instead of Teflon pins):

WRV1 References:
  - WRV1 idea and concept
  - WRV1 Wiki portal

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Motors and gears for Jaluro

Maxon motors and gears for Jaluro. Maxon motors and gears were also used by NASA during the Phoenix mission on Mars.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

First Thruster Tests

Team FREDNET members in Australia have been very busy building the first prototype of the Ground Hovering Test Vehicle. This video shows the first closed loop tests of one of the three thrusters mounted on the prototype, using compressed air, a single axis gyro, and a PID controller. Apparently, the PID controller software will need some tuning, but it's nice to see it moving :-)

You can follow the progress of the Team FREDNET Ground Hovering Test Vehicle in our public forum.

Team FREDNET partnership with Elphel, Inc.

Team FREDNET is happy to announce to have established a longterm partnership with Elphel Inc. Elphel, Inc. was started in 2001 and is today a major provider and developer of flexible high-end imaging solutions providing high performance cameras and turn-key solutions based on free, open source software and hardware designs.

Freedom of the users is top priority to Elphel. Elphel values and protects this freedom with the GNU General Public License that covers all the Elphel software and hardware designs. This freedom extends from the convenience of the out-of-the-box usage of the cameras with the intuitive GUI to the possibility to modify any parts of them. It protects the user rights to create and distribute derivative products based on Elphel designs. Elphel's philosophy fits perfectly with Team FREDNET, since both work and live by the open source principles.

Elphel will provide camera systems to Team FREDNET who will modify and integrate them into the lunar rover prototypes that are currently under development.

Elphel CameraElphel Camera


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

From Rocket Fuel Tanks to Zero-G Coffee Cups

It appears that STS-126 astronaut Don Pettit had some spare time Sunday to resume his Saturday Morning Science experiments, which he conducted during his previous stay on the ISS back in 2002/2003. This time he demonstrated an improved version of the Zero-G Coffee Cup inspired by techniques used in liquid fuel tank designs.

Video credit: collectSPACE.

You can find a video compilation of the very interesting Saturday Morning Science experiments here. By the way, did YouTube switch to HD during the weekend?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Team FREDNET Lunar Babies Club

The average age in the Team FREDNET community is still getting younger with the recent arrival of Alexander Greyson Boyd, born 7 Nov 2008. The proud father, Kevin Boyd, is one of the earliest members of Team FREDNET. You have probably seen him in CNBC's coverage of the Google Lunar X PRIZE, which aired back in December 2007.

Rumours say that we can expect a few more new members in the Team FREDNET Lunar Babies Club within the next few months, this time from the European side. Is this the sign of a new baby boom coming? Or a simple indication that we have many young team members around the world? In either case we congratulate on the arrival of the first Team FREDNET Lunar Baby!

Kevin Boyd and Alex

Saturday, November 15, 2008

NASA Image of the Day

NASA Image of the day this morning is a beautiful photo of space shuttle Endeavour lifting off from Kennedy Space Center into the night sky with the full moon in the background (click on the picture to get a higher resolution).

Space shuttle Endeavour lift off
Image Credit: NASA/Troy Cryder

The ovjectives of the STS-126 mission is to prepare the space station to house six crew members for long-duration missions. More info on the mission including live transmissions and blogs on the NASA Sapce Shuttle site.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Jaluro: Just Another Lunar Rover

One of the great things about having an open source community like ours is that members are free to work on their own ideas and concepts. They can form groups to study and explore the various ideas and concepts. At the same time the lessons learned are shared with the rest of the community.

Jaluro - Just Another Lunar Rover - is a two-wheeled rover concept by Tobias Krieger from Team FREDNET. Within a few weeks Jaluro evolved from an idea into a conceptual design and now there is very active development on the prototype for this rover. Thanks to the community, there are always good ideas and discussions on our forum. Everybody is welcome to join the Jaluro development!

Jaluro wiki portal:
Jaluro discussions:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wheel and Gearbox Design for WRV1

Now that Jörg's rover concept has been demonstrated in the field the design goes on focusing on critical mechanical parts. These pictures show the design of the wheel and the gearbox. There are no ball bearings and no plastic parts on it!
Jörg's rover is called WRV1: Wheeled Rover Vehicle 1. You can follow and contribute to the development of WRV1 at

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rover Concept Prototyping

This prototype rover was cobbled together by Joerg Schnyder as a proof of concept for Team FREDNET's lunar rover. Even though it is built completely out of reused parts, it performs quite impressively!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Slow Scan TV Transmission from the International Space Station

Saturday at 10:05 UTC we successfully received a Slow Scan Television transmission from the International Space Station. The receiver chain consisted of the USRP+TVRX, GNU Radio software for demodulating the FM signal into audio, and the freely available Digital Master 780 for decoding the SSTV data.

The transmitted picture was taken with a camera onboard the space station looking out through one of the windows. NA1SS is the amateur radio callsign used by US astronauts while they are on the space station.

SSTV picture from the International Space Station

Richard Garriott has been very active on amateur radio ever since he arrived at the space station. Besides the SSTV activities he has been having voice contacts with schools and radio amateurs around the world. You can listen to Richard making voice contacts with radio amateurs in Europe in this recording.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

VHF/UHF Receiver

The picture below show a VHF/UHF receiver assembly based on the Universal Software Radio Peripheral and a standard TV-tuner. The board on the left is the S-band transceiver module described earlier.

VHF/UHF receiver

The TV-tuner based VHF/UHF receiver can receive a 6MHz wide RF spectrum anywhere in the range 50-800MHz. It has a noise figure around 8dB, which is not good enough for Lunar comms; however, it is a good cheap starting point for breadboarding and experimentation. Using a modest yagi antenna and a low noise preamplifier, we have been able to receive signals from low Earth orbiting satellites.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Expedition 18 lift off

Early this morning, Expedition 18 successfully lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft, carrying U.S. astronaut E. Michael Fincke, Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov and spaceflight participant Richard Garriott towards the International Space Station, is scheduled for docking to the Zarya module on 14 Oct 2008 around 9:30 UTC. NASA TV will provide live coverage of the docking event.

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Richard Garriott - son of former NASA astronaut Owen Garriott - has a tight schedule carrying out scientifc research and educational projects. Amongst his plans is to have live amateur radio contacts with various schools around the world using his amateur radio callsign W5KWQ. His stay on the space station also coincides with the annual Jamboree on the Air (JOTA) event giving scouts around the world an opportunity to talk with astronauts onboard the station. Something that makes Garriott's trip particularly interesting for us is his plan to turn on the on-board slow scan television equipment that will perform automatic image transmissions in Robot-36 mode.

While slow scan television is not a technically feasible option for a Lunar mission nowadays (despite the fact that it was used by many of the early Lunar missions) this event will provide an excellent opportunity to test some of our early prototypes for ground equipment using real signals from space. The International Space Station is a very fast moving object and successful reception of the images will require proper tracking with directional antennas and active compensation for the Doppler shift, caused by the high relative velocity between the space station and the receiver on Earth.

There are many external factors that might prevent this experiment from being successful. The most significant is whether the slow scan television equipment will be turned on while the space station passes over our ground station and this is, of course, out of our control. In either case, we are very excited and are looking forward to this event.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Transceiver modules for the L and S bands

The RFX1200 and RFX2400 daughterboards provide complete radio frequency transceiver interfaces for the Universal Software Radio Peripheral in the L and S bands. The receivers have an AGC range of 70dB. The transmitter output is around 200mW for the RFX1200 and 50mW for the RFX2400. The transmitter and receiver frequencies can be controlled separately (split mode) and the boards are also capable of full duplex operation.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Universal Software Radio Peripheral

The Universal Software Radio Peripheral (USRP) is an open source hardware device from Ettus Research and it is designed to allow general purpose computers to function as high bandwidth software radios. Its primary function is to serve as a digital baseband and IF section of a radio communication system. The basic design philosophy behind the USRP has been to do all of the waveform-specific processing, like modulation and demodulation, on the host CPU. All of the high-speed general purpose operations like digital up and down conversion, decimation and interpolation are done on the FPGA.

The USRP has four 64 MS/s 12-bit ADCs, four 128 MS/s 14-bit DACs, four digital downconverters with programmable decimation rates, and two digital upconverters with programmable interpolation rates. It uses a USB 2.0 interface (480 Mb/s) and is capable of processing signals up to 16 MHz wide. The modular architecture supports a wide variety of RF daughterboards as well as auxiliary analog and digital I/O.

Currently, Team FREDNET uses the USRP together with GNU Radio as an open source platform for prototyping and testing communication subsystems.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

ESA’s View on Private Suborbital Spaceflights

The latest issue of the ESA Bulletin has a very interesting article about the European Space Agency's view on privately funded space exploration. Although the scope of the article appears to be limited to space tourism and in particular suborbital flights, it is good to know that the agency has recognized the value and the potential in private space activities and seeks an active role in supporting it both on the technological and on the political levels. The article can be read online here:

Hopefully the other space agencies around the world have similar positive attitude towards private space exploration. Their moral support and encouragement of our activities will indeed be a prerequisite for successfully establishing global policies that will help us achieving our goals.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

EAA AirVenture 2008

I attended the Oshkosh Air Show this year. I was invited to make a Team FREDNET presentation for a GLXP Session on 2 different days. Our sessions were lightly attended, but it was an enthusiastic audience asking good questions.
The show is officially known as EAA AirVenture 2008. It was my first time, so I do not have a comparison. But I was impressed! Over 500,000 attending, 10,000 aircraft, 37,000 on site campers, a 2 hr professional air show every day,
special demonstration flights every day, 7 official days, all on 300 acres. and all accessible by attendees. Too many things to tell in one blog attempt. Certainly a highlight was the Rocket Racing League's first public flight of a racer.
There were many of my favorite planes on display. It IS a fly-in, so all the planes were operational. A U-2, the P-38 "Glacier Girl", the F-22, Sky King's plane (or a look-alike) doing aerobatics just like the TV show I remember as a kid, lots of WWII Warbirds, 2 electric! planes, and on and on. As I waited late Sunday evening in Manitowoc for the SS Badger, I reflected on the wide variance of energy for propulsion I encountered in 4 days... the F-22 ,most advanced plane in the world; the RRL Rocket Plane with a propulsion unit developed in the Lunar Lander Challenge; I drove by Wisconsin's largest Wind Farm and many fields of corn to be possibly turned into ethanol; and rode across Lake Michigan on a 50+ year old coal fueled, steam powered car ferry.

Check out some selected pics from the over 500 I took...
signup @

Sunday, July 20, 2008

1st Moon Landing 39th Anniversary

Today, July 20 1969, a man from Earth stepped onto the surface of the Moon.

- - -
The first manned spacecraft landing on the Moon was at 3:17 p.m. EST on July 20, 1969, when the Apollo 11 Lunar Module, the Eagle, landed in Mare Tranquillitatis, located at 0°4'5"N latitude, 23°42'28"E longitude. The Eagle landed approximately 50 kilometers from the closest highland material and approximately 400 meters west of a sharp-rimmed blocky crater about 180 meters in diameter.
- - -

Friday, June 20, 2008

Team Frednet at CNN.COM

This is a bit of a re-hash by CNN, but hey...
it is more media coverage

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Phoenix Mars Mission lands this Sunday

UPDATE: Success! Phoenix has landed.
PBS TV has an hour long special on the Phoenix Mars Mission tonite Thur May 22 10PM EDT. It lands on Mars this coming Sunday, May 25, 7:53PM EDT (23:53:GMT).

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Official Team FREDNET

It is finally official: Team FREDNET is an Officially Registered Competitor for the Google Lunar X PRIZE. We participated in the Google/X PRIZE Foundation Announcement Event on Thursday, February 21, 2008, along with several other newly announced teams. I'll post some more about this event soon, right now I must get back to answering several hundred emails I've received from our Team Members, the press, friends, family, and well-wishers. For those who don't already know (in the press and otherwise) I am located near Silicon Valley in California, Rich Core is in Northern Michigan, and Dan Smith is somewhere in Colorado, near mountains. We have major working Group Leaders in Denmark (Alexandru Csete), US-Georgia (Robert Starr), Michigan (Kevin Boyd), California (Chris Clabaugh), and Australia (Andrew Burns, Ryan Weed).

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Team FREDNET at Control Engineering Magazine

We have a friend blogger at Control Engineering magazine...
see it here...