Flight Code Project

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Masten Space Systems of Mojave, CA (company website, Wikipedia article) has launched the Prometheus Project to provide a public opportunity to fly code on their vertical takeoff and landing rockets. One of them is the Xombie Rocket (video).

There is a Raspberry Pi on board that is connected to a sensor suite that will be provided by Masten. Send Masten some code you want to run during a flight that processes inputs from the sensors during the flight. The project is for the rapid, streamlined development of tools relating to visual navigation, landing detection, mass estimation and position/attitude estimation.

You can reach them at prometheus@masten.aero with input and questions about the program.

  • At this point in time as of July 2014, Masten is accepting public inputs as to what sensors to have on board (please send suggestions to prometheus@masten.aero).
  • No transmitters of any kind to avoid EMI issues with the vehicle.
  • Project is open to educational institutions, they get to fly for free. A connection to an educational institution will be required as the program is meant to encourage high school and college students to get involved in engineering. Involve students in designing, building, and programming the flight experiments.
  • Skills Needed:
    • C or Python code experience.
    • Embedded systems experience such as Raspberry Pi or Arduino.
    • Electronic sensor experience.

Quote from Prometheus Project Blog:

"The Masten Team has also been thinking about ways we could engage the broader community and increase accessibility to our VTVL vehicles. One of the largest barriers to entry for any technology developer seeking to conduct aerospace flight testing is access to a vehicle. Limited access to an integrated GPS/IMU navigation system, flight-rated computing platforms, and sensors present additional challenges to innovators. In the spirit of broadening access to aerospace resources, we have had a project cooking in the background called Prometheus.
Project Prometheus is a Masten program designed to foster the development of flight-test ready technologies by innovators in academic and research settings. By implementing a standardized interface between Masten vehicles and experimental software and hardware tools, Prometheus will provide a streamlined, efficient path for technology maturation throughout the course of tool conception, development and flight test. Access to uniform, flight-tested hardware and software development framework for innovators will ultimately reduce integration, development and other flight test costs."

Current Proposed Flight Projects

Rocket-Powered HSIS

The HSIS Project took in-flight photography off a weather balloon. This time, let's try it off a rocket! Of interest would be to overlay some data on each photo like GPS coords, altitude, temperature, air pressure, CO2, speed, and time from launch (T+).

Code Work Needed

  • Code to control camera and store pictures.
  • Code to read in-flight sensor data and overlay it on photographs either in-flight or as post-processing (encode flight data as exif, add overlay in post).
  • Code to upload photographs and flight data post-flight to a server for viewing.

Sensors Needed

  • Video/Photo Camera
  • GPS (speed & altitude can be derived from GPS data.)
  • Altimeter
  • Thermometer (setup for ambient and skin temperature readings)
  • Barometer
  • CO2 Gas Sensor
  • Clock (can be done by the Raspberry Pi.)

Post-Flight Modelling & Visualization

One can do post-flight modelling from recording 6-dof, acceleration and skin temperature data. Calculating the ballistic coefficient from CAD would open up other fun visualization opportunities.

Code Work Needed

  • Code for post-flight modelling from 6-dof data.
  • Calculating ballistic coefficient of Masten vehicles from CAD.

Sensors Needed

  • 6-dof Sensing
  • Accelerometers

Notes For Projects

Summarized notes from various discussions:

  • 7/16/14
    • There are 9+ (so-called) DOF sensors on the market now in a single package (some under $40), obviating the need for a separate accelerometer. It would definitely be interesting to see the G-forces as applied all along the track.
    • Unless someone in the project is married to the RPi, the BeagleBone Black (BBB) has a lot more compute power and functionality.
    • GPS Cautions:
      • Don't count on the accuracy of GPS altitude unless you have a confirmed WAAS (or equivalent) signal all during the flight. GPS antenna is a major concern in this type of environment. Some GPS modules can use signals besides just the ones from the US, but WAAS-equivalents may not be reliable. The MTK3339 GPS (like used in Adafruit's Ultimate GPS products) seems to be robust. Very low power and can be had for under $16 in small quantities, or with circuit board and glue for about $40 from Adafruit.
      • Unless you are using a very, very high end GPS module (which most likely would have an internal IMU at this point), do not rely on its data for altitude unless you have to. There are sensors out there with better resolution, update rate, and are nice and cheap that would work just as well. GPS can be very finicky. Redundant data sources is a very good thing to have.
    • For recording video and metadata, the BeagleBone Black is a good choice as he has confirmed it works with a 32 Gb SD card.
    • If the sensor package can be built cheap enough, it may not be a bad idea to have two. It would be worth spending some time to make sure all the sensor data timing is well understood and synchronized. You never know what you might be able to learn from a successful (or failed) flight if you have accurate time data attached to the sensor measurements.
    • It might be worth investigating having a redundant memory storage device, maybe back it up on a 'rugged' usb drive that might have a chance of surviving a flight failure.


  • As Masten has opened the program to educational institutions, an educational connection is required. The program is meant to encourage high school and college students to get involved in engineering. We will need to build a connection to an education team and involve students in designing, building, and programming the flight experiments.
    • Possible Ways Of Doing This
      • Makers Local 256 run the project as a class and teaches UAH and/or other Huntsville high school students for the class.
      • Makers Local 256 academically advises a student team to design, build and fly the project.


  • Flight videos on Masten Space Systems YouTube Channel - [1]