While putting 3D printers and other localized manufacturing platforms in gravity-bound homes has presented its own challenges, ongoing efforts to put a full-fledged fabrication lab on the International Space Station has come a lot sooner than most would probably expect. Most recently, the Zero-G 3D printer launched in late September of 2014 and it was announced just last week that the popular Raspberry Pi development board will soon be joining it.
Spearheaded by British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake, the Astro Pi competition invites students to test their development prowess and code their own apps or experiment to run in a zero gravity environment aboard the International Space Station.
Two of the Raspberry Pi computers will be launched as a part of Peake’s 6-month mission aboard the station and he plans to deploy the Astro Pi computers in a number of different locations aboard the ISS. The winners of the Astro Pi competition will be distributed the data that is generated from the Pis that are in orbit.
As a part of their effort to help push the project, Dr David Parker, CEO of the UK Space Agency, revealed that the UK Space Agency will provide £2 million to help support the activities surrounding the competition, particularly in the realm of inspiring interest in various STEM applications.
To help springboard idea generation, the competition has been divided into five inspirational themes that applicants are encouraged to use to help drive their application designs. They include Spacecraft Sensors, Satellite Imaging, Space Measurements, Data Fusion and Space Radiation.
As for the HAT-modified and space-ready Astro Pi board itself, it includes:
- Gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer sensor
- Temperature sensor
- Barometric pressure sensor
- Humidity sensor
- Real time clock with backup battery
- 8×8 RGB LED display
- Several push buttons
- a camera module attached
- an infra-red camera
The winning submissions from both the primary and secondary school age groups will each get the opportunity to work directly with Tim and the Astro Pi team to better-interpret their ideas for execution on Tim’s mission. The team of professional developers at the Raspberry Pi Foundation will then fine-tune the code so that it is ready to rock aboard the flight on the ISS. After Tim’s official launch, the winners will then participate in their own private event during Tim’s flight.
If you live in the UK and happen to know a young coder that wants to launch their app into space, here are some additional competition details:
Astro Pi Competition:
21-24 January 2015: Competition officially opened at the BETT conference
3 April 2015: Primary school age competition closes
3 April 2015: Deadline for secondary school age teams to submit their concepts and have the chance to receive an Astro Pi board and Raspberry Pi computer
29 June 2015: Final deadline for secondary school ages teams to submit their code and full entries.
Check out more over at the official Astro Pi Competition page.