Open Space Agency Develops Powerful 3D Printable Telescope

Citizen scientists and serious amateur astronomers can now 3D print a powerful telescope, Make reports. Dubbed Ultrascope, the kit-set telescope could reduce the cost of pro-level astronomy by an order of magnitude.

The Ultrascope will allow amateur astronomers to contribute to citizen science projects for a radically reduced cost. The first Explorer Series Ultrascope has a 3.5 inch mirror and is able to conduct celestial photography and photometry.

The Ultrascope is the brainchild of a very interesting group called Open Space Agency (OSA), dedicated to unlocking the talent, insight and creativity of citizen space explorers around the world. “If you’re a maker, DIY Engineer, citizen scientist or just a long-time aspiring astronaut with stars in your eyes, then we’d love to hear from you,” says the OSA.

These words show that the OSA, which won NASA’s International Space Apps Hackathon 2012 in the “Most innovative” category, wants to attract hackers, makers and 3D printing enthusiasts interested in space. OSA founder James Parr says:

Our vision is to enable a new era of citizen aerospace exploration through enabling consumer space technologies.

Amateur Astronomers and Citizen Scientists Wanted

UltrascopeThe first OSA project, the Ultrascope, is very ambitious. The entry-level 3.5 inch Explorer Series Ultrascope will be followed by the more powerful 8 inch Odyssey Series.

“This dream would have been almost impossible just 24 months ago,” notes the Open Space Agency. “The levels of precision required for a maker-made scientific quality scope would have resulted in compounding errors conspiring to make observations frustrating for aspiring citizen scientists. However the emergence of low-cost 3D printers and Laser-cutting, paired with microcontroller platforms such as Arduino and Lumia 1020- with its 41 Megapixel CCD – mean that a project such as this is now eminently possible.”

The Ultrascope is about to enter a beta test phase open to 3D printing enthusiasts worldwide. The beta testers, who can apply on the OSA site, will be the first to purchase a construction kit with needed parts, 3D print the rest according to the specs, and assemble a powerful pro-level telescope. The 3D files and software for Ultrascope will be available under an open license.

In the video, Parr says that the cost of building the Ultrascope will be around £200 (about $300) in parts (with access to a 3D printer and laser cutter, of course), but he doesn’t specify for which scope, the 3.5 inch Explorer of the 8 inch Odyssey. An interesting feature is that the on-board software will allow users to share what their Ultrascope is viewing.

To become familiar with the OSA, citizen scientists can attend the OSA event “We Are Astronauts,” on Saturday, August 15, in London. The event will explore the current state of the art in democratizing space exploration and promote Space VR’s Kickstarter fundraiser to deploy a 3D, 360 degree Virtual Reality (VR) camera to the International Space Station.

Images from Open Space Agency.

Giulio Prisco is a freelance writer specialized in science, technology, business and future studies.