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Launch Tower Comm

Launch Tower Comm and friends

Launch Tower Comm is the Portland State Aerospace Society's launch tower control.

It is run by Kivy, a multi-touch GUI framework, and Phidgets, "Unique and Easy to Use USB Interfaces."

Portland State Aerospace Society

How to use it if you don't have a launch tower

If you have a remote Beagleboard or Raspberry Pi or similar connected to Phidget Interface Kit boards, and want to control and observe them remotely, this app could work for you.

We use it to control relays connected to a Beagleboard on our launch tower computer, and to display voltages and temperatures on the tower.


The following list is not complete, in other words, each of the three items may require dependencies not listed here.

Installation of Kivy and Twisted

OS X 10.9 (Mavericks)

  • Valid as of Jan 25th 2014

Install Homebrew and get it setup properly, follow the suggestions it might make.

brew install python
brew install virtualenvwrapper # might require additional setup
brew install sdl sd_image sdl_mixer sdl_ttf portmidi
brew install mercurial

mkvirtualenv kivy
pip install cython
# pil might need a symlink to freetype, try it first
pip install pil 
pip install hg+
pip install kivy

At this point, grab a copy of the Kivy source that matches your installed version. Copy the examples somewhere and try to run one of them. If things don't work, get to googling. If successful, you now need Twisted.

pip install Twisted

Preparing A Debian GNU/Linux "Unstable" System

The following procedure installs any software not available from regular Debian sources to the user's home directory ($HOME/local/), as opposed to regular system directories (/usr/lib, etc.). System directories should only be installed to by dpkg, using .deb packages.

  1. Install Debian's Kivy package (python-kivy), Python Imaging Library package (python-pil), and Twisted package (python-twisted) with apt-get. Any dependencies (including the Python runtime, PyGame, etc.) will be automagically resolved and installed:

     # apt-get install python-kivy python-pil python-twisted
  2. Install Debian's libusb development support package (libusb-dev):

     # apt-get install libusb-dev
  3. Download the Phidgets libraries and web service tarballs from

  4. Configure and install the libraries and web service.

     $ tar xzf libphidget_2.1.8.20140319.tar.gz
     $ tar xzf phidgetwebservice_2.1.8.20140319.tar.gz
     $ cd libphidget-
     $ ./configure --prefix=$HOME/local/
     [ ... time passes ... ]
     $ make install
     [ ... more time passes ... ]
     $ cd ../phidgetwebservice-
     $ export C_INCLUDE_PATH=$HOME/local/include
     $ export LIBRARY_PATH=$HOME/local/lib
     $ ./configure --prefix=$HOME/local/
     [ ... sit still ... ]
     $ make install
     [ ... hold fast ... ]
     $ export PATH=$HOME/local/bin:$PATH
     $ export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=$HOME/local/lib
  5. Download the Phidgets Python library from

  6. Install the Phidgets Python library:

     $ unzip
     $ cd PhidgetsPython
     $ python install --prefix=$HOME/local
     $ export PYTHONPATH=$HOME/local/lib/python2.7/site-packages
  7. Add the environment variables defined above to your .bashrc:

     export C_INCLUDE_PATH=$HOME/local/include
     export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=$HOME/local/lib
     export LIBRARY_PATH=$HOME/local/lib
     export PATH=$HOME/local/bin:$PATH
     export PYTHONPATH=$HOME/local/lib/python2.7/site-packages


App to communicate with the launch tower computer, including launch commands


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