Silicon Valley Marathon Meetup Debrief, final: Space (big data and liquid fuel)

Mountain

Goddard’s daughters and shoebox satellites
We went from virtual reality to spending remains of the day in meetings related to Space.

Pioneer in private satellite imagery, Denver based Digital Globe has been on our horizon since our time in Colorado. Before Google maps, for 5 Ks we could order our own satellite image and latest, these are the guys behind the cool before-and-after feature from Nepal’s earthquake. Private satellites have since taken off with new players either brokering images from various providers or piggybacking miniature satellites on bigger launches. Latest Skybox, backed by a huge Google wallet.

Shoebox satellites and cheap space rides now saturating the market, companies are scrambling to find new customers and attract developers, hoping the image data will find uses beyond monitoring agriculture and Black Friday parking lots.

Meanwhile, there remains problems with delivery – pictures are either old or not of the area you need.

It’s said in the valley that Google got Skybox mainly to add satellite know-how to their portfolio before, in a race with Facebook, expanding internet all over the world.

Google plan to use balloons, Facebook to use drones – and while still a bit far into the future – it’s clear that our old friends Iridium, Inmarsat and Thuraya are no longer alone.

Although geared toward hackers many of the attendees on this data-mining satellite event, hosted by Mozilla in downtown SF, expressed a general interest in Space.

Thus we closed the intense day in a late-night meetup back in the valley, with a group of volunteers brought together by a desire to refire a simple rocket from 2002, using liquid fuel.

#Goddard’s sons and daughters

From the sheer appearance of it you would not think much about the project. In a modest hacker space met a Goth lady administrator, a transgender inventor, a couple of Indian coders, a young Russian who just spent downtime in Belgium creating a tedious Astro-map, a swanky Italian know-it-all rocketeer version of Simone Moro, and a good handful of sleepy industry engineers from the days of Apollo.

It was hard to think we were a mere 10 self-driving minutes from the polished locales of Google and Stanford.

The intrepid movement was plagued by busted deadlines and diminishing budget. There was a problem with contributions; the former club treassurer apparently lost his job, became homeless, threw the books after his furniture into a storage unit, forgot to pay after which the contents of the unit was sold, along with all the paperwork for the non-profit organization.

Now Paypal required more information to put the donation button back up on the team’s home page and that was just the start of the trouble.

And yet, to help with their drones Facebook paid$20 million for a five-member team from Boeing, Honeywell and NASA, citing their combined decades of experience from aerospace.

Well, there must have been 100 years of combined aerospace knowledge in this room, which became evident when people started to haggle over the rocket. These human Wikipedias – joined by freedom, renewed hope and 40 gallons of peroxide stored in someone’s tool shed – meant business and knew their stuff.

Private companies may be disrupting governments but individuals are already disrupting the disruptors. A test launch is planned around Reno in January. We’ll be there.

(Part 1 in source link below.)

Digital Globe and Esri were behind the swiping images from Nepal showing the areas before and after the quake. Source:Digital Globe

American rocket pioneer Goddard holding the launching frame of the first liquid-fueled rocket in 1926. Fast forward 100 years: the tech (or the people) haven't changed all that much. Source:courtesy Wikipedia/NASA

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