The Kickstarter Space Cannon

cannon

As far as space travel and Kickstarter is concerned, we’ve seen crowdfunding projects for satellites in low earth orbit, impacting the moon, and even a project for a suborbital rocket. This one, though, takes the cake.  It’s a gun designed to send very small payloads into space on a suborbital trajectory.

The gun itself is an 8-inch bore, 45-foot long monster of an artillery piece. While the simplest way of shooting something down the length of a barrel would be exploding something in the breech, [Richard] is doing something a little more interesting. He’s broken down the propellent charges so instead of one giant propelling a bullet down a barrel, the projectile is constantly accelerated with a number of smaller charges.

The goal of the Kickstarter is to send a small payload into a suborbital trajectory. Later developments will include putting a small rocket motor in the dart-shaped bullet to insert the payload into an orbit.

This isn’t the first time anyone has attempted to build a gun capable of shooting something into space. The US and Canada DOD built a gun that shot a 180 kg projectile to 180 km altitude. The lead engineer of this project, [Gerald Bull] then went on to work with [Saddam Hussein] to design a supergun that could launch satellites into orbit or shells into downtown Tel Aviv or Tehran. [Bull] was then assassinated by either the US, Israeli, Iranian, British, or Iraqi governments before the gun could be completed.

Two videos from the Kickstarter are below, with a few more details on the project’s webpage

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Help Save Nullspace Labs

Nullspace Labs

A few days ago, the folks at Nullspace Labs in downtown LA got a surprising memo: their building is going to be gutted in a month. With thirty days left, they need money to cover first and last months rent, and help with moving. We can imagine that moving a Hackerspace is no small feat, since they tend to accumulate tons of awesome stuff.

The Hackerspace has started a crowd funding campaign, and has posted a call for help. They are looking for money, new members, or help with moving. If you’ve never been, you can check out our tour of Nullspace Labs.

It’s tough deciding what Hackerspace news to cover. We can’t run individual features on every tip we get promoting Hackerspace events, developments, crowd funding campaigns, and calls for help. We’re featuring this one because we just visited them, they’re awesome, and they’ve also been the source for many great stories over the years, like craning in a laser cutter or developing a modular LED orb. So here’s a question for you: Should we be presenting more Hackerspace news that is perhaps only relevant at the local level? If you think we should, how would we present it? There’s the option of doing occasional links-post-like roundups. But if you have a better idea we’re all ears.

LIDAR With LEDs For Under $100

LIDAR

If you need some sort of distance sensor for your robot, drone, or other project, you have two options: a cheap ultrasonic sensor with limited range, or an expensive laser-based system that’s top of the line. LIDAR-Lite fills that gap by stuffing an entire LIDAR module onto a small board.

In traditional LIDAR systems, a laser is used to measure the time of flight for a light beam between the sensor and an object. The very accurate clock and laser module required for this system means LIDAR modules cost at least a few hundred dollars. LIDAR-Lite gets around these problems by blinking a LED with a ‘signature’ and looking for that signature’s return. This tech is packaged inside a SoC that reduces both the cost and size of a traditional laser-based LIDAR system.

As for the LIDAR-Lite specs, it can sense objects out to 40 meters with 5% 95% accuracy, communicates to any microcontroller over an I2C bus, and is small enough to fit inside any project.

Considering the existing solutions for distance measurement for robots and quadcopters, this sensor will certainly make for some very awesome projects.

Edit: One of the guys behind this posted a link to their spec sheet and a patent in the comments

$20 GPS/GLONASS/Beidou Receiver

navspark

Sticking a GPS module in a project has been a common occurrence for a while now, whether it be for a reverse geocache or for a drone telemetry system. These GPS modules are expensive, though, and they only listen in on GPS satellites – not the Russian GLONASS satellites or the Chinese Beidou satellites. NavSpark has the capability to listen to all these positioning systems, all while being an Arduino-compatible board that costs about $20.

Inside the NavSpark is a 32-bit microcontroller core (no, not ARM. LEON) with 1 MB of Flash 212kB of RAM, and a whole lot of horsepower. Tacked onto this core is a GPS unit that’s capable of listening in on GPS, GPS and GLONASS, or GPS and Beidou signals.

On paper, it’s an extremely impressive board for any application that needs any sort of global positioning and a powerful microcontroller. There’s also the option of using two of these boards and active antennas to capture carrier phase information, bringing the accuracy of this setup down to a few centimeters. Very cool, indeed.

Thanks [Steve] for sending this in.

Creating PCBs with 3D Resin Printers

PCB

The folks over at Full Spectrum Laser are Kickstarting their own 3D printer – a stereolithography machine like the Form 1 and B9 Creator printers. During their testing, they discovered a new application for these SLA printers that should prove to be very useful for the makers and builders using machines – manufacturing PCBs with UV-sensitized copper clad boards.

Full Spectrum Laser’s printer – the Pegasus Touch – uses a near UV laser and a galvo system to build objects in UV-curing resin layer by layer. In retrospect it seems pretty obvious a UV laser would expose UV sensitive boards, but this discovery simply reeks of cleverness and is a nice ‘value added’ feature for the Pegasus printer.

The Pegasus printer has a laser spot size of 0.25mm, meaning the separation between traces on Pegasus-produced PCBs will be just under 10 mils. That’s a bit larger than the limits of laser printer-based PCB fabrication but far, far less complicated. Making a PCB on an SLA printer is as easy as removing the resin tank and putting a sensitized board on the build platform. Draw some traces with the printer, and in a few minutes you have an exposed board.

We’d really like to see if this technique can also be used with other SLA printers. if anyone out there would like to experiment, be sure to send the results into the tip line.

Video from Full Spectrum Laser below.

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Rex, the ARM-Powered Robot board

REX

There are a million tutorials out there for building a robot with an Arduino or Raspberry Pi, but they all suffer from the same problem: neither the ‘duino nor the Raspi are fully integrated solutions that put all the hardware – battery connectors, I/O ports, and everything else on the same board. That’s the problem Rex, an ARM-powered robot controller, solves.

The specs for Rex include a 1GHz ARM Cortex-A8 with a Video SoC and DSP core, 512 MB of RAM, USB host port, support for a camera module, and 3.5mm jacks for stereo in and out. On top of that, there’s I2C expansion ports for a servo adapter and an input and output for a 6-12 V battery. Basically, the Rex is something akin to the Beaglebone Black with the hardware optimized for a robotic control system.

Because shipping an ARM board without any software would be rather dull, the guys behind Rex came up with Alphalem OS, a Linux distro that includes scripts, sample programs, and an API for interaction with I2C devices. Of course Rex will also run other robotics operating systems and the usual Debian/Ubuntu/Whathaveu distros.

It’s an impressive bit of hardware, capable of speech recognition, and machine vision tasks with OpenCV. Combine this with a whole bunch of servos, and Rex can easily become the brains of a nightmarish hexapod robot that responds to your voice and follows you around the room.

You can pick up a Rex over on the Kickstarter with delivery due sometime this summer.

Mooshimeter: The ‘Why Didn’t I Think Of That’ Multimeter

Mooshi

Despite how useful multimeters are, there are a lot of limitations you just don’t think about because they’re the way electronic measurement has always been done. Want to measure voltage and current simultaneously? Better get two meters. Measuring something in a dangerous, inaccessible, or mobile place? You could rig up a camera system to show the meter’s display on a monitor, you know.

Mooshimeter is the better way of doing things. It’s a multichannel multimeter that communicates with your cell phone over a Bluetooth connection. With two channels. the Mooshimeter makes it easy to graph voltage against current to plot a beautiful IV curve on your smart phone. Being a wireless multimeter means you can stick the Mooshi inside a robot and get instantaneous feedback of how hard you’re driving your motors.

Far from being a two-trick pony, the Mooshimeter is actually a pretty good multimeter by itself. It can handle 600V and 10A with 24 bits of resolution. Here are the complete specs. The Mooshimeter is available for preorder here for $100 USD.