The Center for Astrophysics and the Libre Space Foundation team up on open metadata for small satellite missions

Image: NASA. 2016. ELaNa IX STMSat ISS Deployment. 2016.

The Center for Astrophysics and the Libre Space Foundation have been awarded funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to develop and prototype an open metadata schema to link data, software, and hardware from small satellite missions. The project will help new communities participate in satellite missions, engender public engagement in space science, and fuel new research by improving access to scientific research artifacts and support their reuse.

The schema will be designed and piloted using SatNOGS, Libre Space’s open source network of satellite ground stations, which the project partners will expand by installing five ground stations at public libraries, including the CfA’s John G.Wolbach Library. These library communities will then provide feedback on both the metadata schema and their SatNOGS ground stations to ensure that novices are capable of using this digital and physical infrastructure. Feedback gathered from the library communities, along with input from scientists and engineers, will be used to improve these tools and scale up the project following a successful pilot.

Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian ( The Center for Astrophysics is a research institute which carries out a broad program of research in astronomy, astrophysics, earth and space sciences, and science education. The CfA’s mission is to advance our knowledge and understanding of the universe through research and education in astronomy and astrophysics. The CfA was founded in 1973 as a joint venture between the Smithsonian Institution ( and Harvard University ( The CfA’s main facility is located in Cambridge Massachusetts, with several other facilities around the globe.


John G. Wolbach Library ( The John G. Wolbach Library combines the collections of the Harvard College Observatory (HCO) and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), forming one of the world’s preeminent astronomical collections.


Libre Space Foundation ( Libre Space is a non-profit organization and its mission is to promote, advance, and develop libre (free and open source) technologies and knowledge for space exploration. To do so the Libre Space Foundation designs, develops, and delivers space related projects ranging from ground station equipment to global monitoring networks and satellite missions.

The Libre Space Foundation is based in Athens, Greece, collaborating with organizations and individuals globally.


Alfred P. Sloan Foundation ( Founded in 1934 by industrialist Alfred P. Sloan Jr., the Foundation is a not-for-profit grantmaking institution that supports high quality, impartial scientific research; fosters a robust, diverse scientific workforce; strengthens public understanding and engagement with science; and promotes the health of the institutions of scientific endeavor.


In order to facilitate this open metadata project the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has provided researchers at the Center for Astrophysics and Libre Space Foundation a grant of USD $390,634.00.