How to send a fully operational Death Star into Space for less than $10K

And why open source hardware makes it doable

Blaze Sanders
Mar 12 · 4 min read
  • Source three 350 Farad supercapacitors
  • Integrate 8 Watt LASER into a 3D printed sphere
  • Purchase a suborbital rocket payload slot

Those are the easy parts, but I bet you are wondering what the challenging bits are? In this story I will walk through three major road blocks I ran into and how I solved each one. Every single product or project (there is a difference) that I have worked on since college at Johns Hopkins University has had at least one open source element. That includes my Lunar Wormbot at NASA Marshal Space Flight Center (MSFC), the Gravity Development Board at Sol-X, Unity3D scenes for Augment Reality glasses at Meta Company, the Overview 1 CubeSat at SpaceVR, and the BARISTO robotic coffee kiosk at Robotic Beverage Technologies.

Use a free, cloud based, and high quality PCB layout tool like Upverter, which has an amazing support forum. They where just recently bought by Altium in 2017 so you know they are good 👌The red, white, and blue PCB’s above were made in Upverter as a way for you to join Star Wars’ castmembers on a hero’s adventure to outer space (details below).

All the schematics used in our Death Star are based on the open source Parallax, Arduino, and Adafruit schematics & software and are available at: www.deathstarinspace.com/engineering

Why do these companies give away their hardware schematics? The answer is simple; if you give people things they can tweak to fit their project they will use it (Android style). The super nerds (top 1%) that use Parallax, Arduino, and Adafruit products test and improve them (free R&D for these companies) and give it back new and improved. The other 99% pay these companies full price (Apple style) and have a quick solution to their needs. Open source products can thus appeal to both Android and Apple type people and allow you to truly dominate the market. So are you going to make your next product open source?

To run a successful Kickstarter you need community support and a style / brand that people enjoy. That is pretty obvious. But how do you create a new and interesting style? Open sourcing your project makes people a part of it. That ownership turns into word-of-mouth marketing (the best type of marketing) and style grows organically as people have fun. The obvious energy of a person having fun is contagious and impossible to buy. You can try and keep your ideas a secret, but 100 other people have probably had the same thought. Product and project success is ALL about the implementation and getting feedback.

I live by a quote from Elon Musk, Solicit negative feedback, especially from [Medium] friends. Elon is a master of both good and bad press. He open sourced all of Tesla’s patents in good faith and shows off cool SpaceX stuff every week (including FAILED rocket landings). Elon is NOT a good public speaker…like at all; however, people like myself respect him for his honest open heart and down to Earth MEME love.

Make your mistakes out in public and don’t take them personal. It’s the fastest way to improve and gather respect from your peers and fans. So are you going to make your next product open source?

Since 2008 (when SpaceX launched their first Falcon 1 rocket to orbit) this has been a lot easier then most people think. Prices range from $125 (not a typo) to $9,000 to go suborbital for 5 mins. However if you really want to go into orbit for a few months that is around $70K, but there are companies working on lowering that to around $24K. New regulations around missile adjacent technology have also been relaxed via the EAR-99 classification, which helps a little.

For the Death Star in Space Kickstarter I have fully paid for one rocket launch to space (100 km), put a deposit down on another, and received quotes for three other rockets. In no particular order you should check out Vector Launch, United Frontiers, Black Sky Aerospace, Gilmour Space Systems, Eclipse Orbital Systems, Rocket Labs, Spaceflight Services, and Copenhagen Suborbital.

Luke Skywalker will be riding on one of these rockets (as a LEGO figure) and he might blow it up using the force 🤪🤪🤪 But at these low / Kickstarterable prices our project doesn’t have much to lose and the excitement of a Death Star blowing up on a real rocket might be the better outcome 😁 So are you going to make your next product open source?

If you are interested in learning more check out www.deathstarinspace.com and join our email list for information on the Kickstarter launching April 11, 2019 to honour Yuri’s Night and Star Wars Celebration in Chicago.