Eleftherios Kosmas

Vice-Chairperson of the board of directors of the Libre Space Foundation

March 2021

Eleftherios makes FOSS and takes our Twitter mic from March 17th to 24th. Thank you, Eleftherios!

Please tell us about yourself

My name is Eleftherios Kosmas (aka elkos). I’m the vice-chairperson of the board of directors of Libre Space Foundation, a non-profit foundation working on open-source software, hardware and data in space.

I’m based in Athens, Greece, and I am actively involved in F/OSS since 2006. I used to contribute to Greek-speaking Linux magazines since 2007 and was always fascinated by the catalytic potential of open-source and the collaborative forces open-source development methodologies unleash.

Together with several local open-source contributors in Athens, Greece, we started hackerspace.gr, a physical space devoted to creative hacking of open-source software, hardware and data. Providing a physical infrastructure to work together on open-source, learn from our peers, and share common tools and equipment to build open-source solutions.

What are you working on right now?

At Libre Space Foundation, we are working on several open-source space technologies projects, from work on expanding the features of SatNOGS, the largest satellite ground-station network with more than +400 stations globally. Or the Polaris a tool to apply machine learning technics to satellite telemetry. Our continuation of work with the Center for Astrophysics Harvard | Smithsonian’s Wolbach Library on MetaSat (a metadata schema and vocabulary for satellite missions) and LSTN (a project bringing SatNOGS stations and educational resources to public libraries to actively engage with the space community) or Cronos our open-hardware experimental sounding rocket project.

But I have to admit that I’m very excited about the upcoming (hopefully next month?) launch of our twin-satellite Qubik1-2 mission on the Firefly Alpha rocket’s inaugural launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

What is most interesting about that?

Rocket launches are always exciting. A rocket carrying your own work in orbit is thrilling (as it was when our first satellite UPSat was launched). But this upcoming launch is significant for us since we designed the mission to cater to the Libre Space community’s needs. Qubik1 and Qubik2 are small 5x5x5cm satellites that will perform experiments on the prompt identification and tracking of satellites during the crucial launch and early operations phase (LEOP). At the same time, they will be deployed in orbit by PicoBus (an open-hardware transport and deployment system for 8 such small satellites).

This will assist in our work, alleviating the barriers to space technologies for many smaller organizations and allowing more people to do awesome stuff in space the libre/FOSS way!

How did you first discover FOSS?

My open-source involvement started 20 years ago when a friend of mine came over to my place with a SuSE 6.3 retail box if I recall correctly. When he proclaimed that we should make copies of the CDs and be totally legal since it is open-source, it picked my interest. The more I learned, the more interested I was in open-source.

What prompted you to start contributing to FOSS?

At first, to some extent, my initial contributions were mostly a way to say thank you to awesome open-source projects I used daily and to alleviate some of the challenges I encountered on my initial use of some projects. I have to admit that my initial contributions were not technical at all. I was lucky enough to receive guidance and constructive input from awesome contributors that encouraged me to learn new things.

Why should others get involved with FOSS?

I believe that being involved in FOSS projects can be a gratifying task. Several open-source communities are really great in assisting newcomers in understanding the challenges at hand and the best practices of solving them, from the most mundane to the most complex. Having said so, nowadays, as FOSS becomes the de-facto standard in many industry verticals, we see whole organizations and companies actively contributing to open-source projects, and many new developers work on open-source projects to showcase their work and their skills in working together with several people in a meaningful way and maybe even land an open-source job.

How should they get started?

I believe that contributing to open-source isn’t only limited to coding. There are several ways to get involved in open-source projects, from spreading the word about a project that inspires you and you feel aligns with your views.

Providing support and documentation for other new users. Trying to tackle small coding tasks and issues. Taking a jab at open-source development programs specially designed for newcomers like Google Summer of Code might also be an effective way to get started, especially if you already have some familiarity with the community and the challenges at hand.

What difficulties and limitations do you see with FOSS?

I believe that there are several misconceptions about FOSS, even nowadays. Although we see open-source gaining ground in several industries and applications, a lack of understanding of how catalytic FOSS can be isn’t uncommon. One cannot and should not underestimate the fact that FOSS adoption can be a risk factor that needs organizational changes to be mitigated in several cases. That can be intimidating for several organizations, companies and individuals, especially if we underestimate the fact and don’t work together to alleviate such misconceptions.

A major issue that we have to take into account are challenges in funding. Business and funding sustainability models in open-source are still evolving, and these challenges are affecting open-source projects. Sometimes they may even be catalysts to licence changes. One cannot overlook that while several corporations develop FOSS projects like RedHat or WordPress these companies, there are intrinsic limitations to their financial gains compared to their technological impact or their adoption.

How can they be solved?

Open-source adoption and, to a greater extent, active development imply new management methods adapted to the greater autonomy of individuals inside an organization. To some extent, several organizations and companies are reluctant to introduce open-source to their source-code, and it can be even more complex when several third party libraries must be used in a licence-compliant way. Projects like OpenChain are working on ways to assist organizations facing these issues.

Proper sustainability and funding is a complex challenge. While at Libre Space Foundation as a non-profit, we recognize that the generated value of FOSS in terms of its impact on innovation, economy, society and education is much greater than its direct financial value, and work together with our global partner to create sustainable development opportunities for participating developer we recognize that sustainable funding of open-source projects is crucial and might require out-of-the-box thinking to be guaranteed in the long-term.

Where do you see difficulties in contributing?

I see that it’s not uncommon to see people intimidated by unknown concepts, especially in niche industries like space. A friendly and welcoming community could do wonders in introducing newcomers to new concepts from simple to complex.

What does a perfect day off look like?

Enjoying a great day with my wife, our friends and family.

Do you want to tell us something else we didn’t ask?

Nope! :)