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Jeremy Straub, Dr. Ronald Marsh, Monday, 8-18-14 August 19, 2014

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Jeremy Straub, Dr. Ronald Marsh, Monday, 8-18-14


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Guests:  Jeremy Straub, Dr. Ronald Marsh.  Topics:  NSF Grant to UND Computer Science for undergraduate satellite mission critical development software.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See http://www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.  For those listening to archives using live365.com and rating the programs, please email me as to why you assign a specific rating to the show. This will help me bring better programming to the audience.

We welcomed Jeremy Straub and Dr. Ronald Marsh to the program to discuss the NSF Grant awarded the University of North Dakota (UND) computer science department for undergraduate summer work to design and develop mission critical software for cubesats.  During the first segment of our 90 minute program, Jeremy Straub introduced us to the UND programs and Open Orbiter.  You can read more about these programs by visiting http://webapp.und.edu/dept/our/uletter/?p=48008.  Also, take note of the computer science dept. website where program registration will soon be announced, http://cs.und.edu.  Jeremy described the programs, Open Orbiter, the undergraduate student participation and expectations, transfer credits, and more. Dr. Marsh, the Computer Science Dept. Head, talked about the role of the computer science department, & why this program was in this department and not Space Studies or the School of Engineering.  Listeners asked questions about the program & the possibility of mission critical software development for BLEO cubesats as well as possible commercial applications.  We learned that this was an academic program and it might not lead to the actual launch of a functioning cubesat.  Jeremy described the additional key activities associated with the grant including a visit to missile system complex, JPL, and a high altitude balloon launch.

In the second segment, Charles Pooley called in to promote Microlaunchers and to again talk about the problem with secondary payloads which cubesats rely upon for their launches.  Jeremy talked about government sponsored cubesat launch programs including the NASA ELaNA program, ESA programs, the U.S. CubeSat Program, and the University Nanosat Program.  In response to the comments by Charles, I talked about the complex benefits students get from working with these secondary payload launch programs and opportunities.  One listener asked if computer wise high school students could participate in the program. To do so, students must be enrolled in a college or university.  Jeremy also said all the rules would be published when the application process opens up in the near future.  We talked about open source work, the program starting in the summer of 2015, that it would be an on campus 10 week program with no upper limit to the number of students that would be accepted into the program.  We talked about gender issues and shortages in computer science with Dr. Marsh and we learned that employers do not accept distance learning students as they want the students they hire to have attended on campus classes. Near the end of the program I inquired about the various UND cubesat programs that have appeared over the past few years.  In talking to Dr. Marsh about his department, we learned that it was not impacted & all classes are available.  As many of you know, this is not the case with many larger schools across the country.

Please post comments/questions on TSS blog above.  You can reach either guest through me.



1. Rick Kwan - August 21, 2014

Well, this was a fascinating discussion, and hits close to home for me in many areas. I want to add a comment about whether a high school student should consider computer science (and particularly, computer science and aerospace).

I am a computer scientist, and have looked into how to teach programming to non-programmers from other technical fields. I see a lot of engineers codify their calculations into Excel, and in a perverse way, I understand why they do it. Adding formulas to cells is easy to do, but if you are taking over spreadsheets from someone else, it is a nightmare to maintain.

For current non-programmers who want to see if computer science might be for them, I would recommend the Python programming language. It is now widely adopted in introductory computing curricula, but has extensive industrial use. (Go to http://www.python.org, and start with the Beginners Guide.) If you like what you experience, then there is a good chance you will succeed at computer science.

Python has also become a workhorse language in scientific computing (see http://scipy.org), as well as a foundation for frameworks in multi-disciplinary design analysis and optimization (MDAO) in aerospace (e.g., http://openmdao.org). It is not what you would primarily use to program a power-constrained environment like a CubeSat; for that, you would still use C/C++. (The rationale has to do with “compiled” vs “interpreted” languages.) But as small satellites get more power and require greater autonomy, it is possible that even Python or a close variant would find it’s way into satellites.

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