"It’s not like it’s rocket science" has always been a stock put-down to dismiss something—say, driving or Tweeting or making instant Ramen—as not very difficult. The assumption is that rocket science is only for the brainiest of the brainiest. But according to Darlene Damm, "Rocket technology is hard, but it’s not as complex as it was 30 years ago."
So it’s not like rocket science is rocket science? Maybe.
Damm’s startup DIYRockets aims to "democratize" the field and lower the startup costs to allow more people to get involved—by using crowd-sourced and open-sourced part designs—at a moment when the for-profit space sector is starting to flourish. She’s partnering with collaborative 3-D design platform Sunglass in a contest encouraging teams around the world to design workable, cost-effective 3-D printed rocket engines, that will be added to DIYRockets’ digital library of parts and could be used to send "nano-satellites" into space.
Damm says that DIYRockets is focused on 3-D printed designs for rocket engines as a way to lower the cost of space travel. The partnership with Sunglass—a 3-D design app for web browsers that lets remote collaborators manage version control and provide feedback on designs—was a no-brainer, since the platform is inexpensive (as opposed to CAD software) and easy to use. The contest is envisioned as the first of many that will work toward a collection of low-cost rocket parts and let designers and students, as opposed to just well-funded companies, get involved in space travel.
The competition intends to recruit participants at South by Southwest this week and will be judged by Segway inventor Dean Kamen, artist Angelo Vermeulen, and nuclear scientist Taylor Wilson. Get the full contest details here.