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RLV News Special Edition: Reports on the
Nation Space Society's
International Space Development Conference

May 19-22, 2005, Washington D.C.
Space at the Crossroads, May 18, 2005, Washington DC.


The Focus on Space Tourism panel was moderated by Mark Jannot
(standing, far left), Editor-in-Chief of Popular Science Magazine. Peter Diamandis is at the podium. Seated (L-R) is Eric Anderson (Space Adventures), Michael Gold (Bigelow Aerospace), Will Whitehorn (President of Virgin Galactic), and Stephen Attenborough (VP Astronaut Relations at Virgin Galactic).

RLV News Archive Directory

Here is a collection of my postings on RLV News and the Space Log about the NSS ISDC 2005 and the Space at the Crossroads meetings.

Other reports and articles on the meetings:

May 25, 2005

2:05 am: ISDC summary... I've finally posted some comments here on the presentations I attended on the 21st and I end with my general impression of the meeting. After 3 days of the ISDC plus the Crossroads meeting I was burned out on space talks and skipped the final sessions on the 22nd:

... I went to several excellent panel discussions on Saturday. The first one dealt with space prizes and included Peter Diamandis, Brant Sponberg, who, along with Ken Davidian, runs NASA's Centennial Challenge, and Ben Shelef of the Spaceward Foundation. The first Centennial Challenge contest is in cooperation with Spaceward and involves competitions aimed at improving the technology for space elevators.

Peter first talked about the X PRIZE and then about the XP Cup. The X PRIZE Foundation has some recent additions to the board of trustees that include Craig Venter, who ran the company Celera during the human genome project, and Larry Page, a founder of Google.

Sponberg gave a brief history of the Centennial Challenge program and noted the announcement of the second challenge at the meeting. He was asked during the Q&A about whether the top prizes could be raised above the current $250K limit and he said they would be asking Congress to allow awards up to $50M.

Shelef reported on the status of the two space elevator competitions, one involving tether climbers and the other a contest for the strongest tether material. Spaceward set up a crane outside of the hotel with a prototype climber. ...

... Speaking of space elevators, Brad Edwards, who led the revival of the idea a few years ago, spoke on the Breakthrough Space Technology panel. This panel also included Scott Mize of the Foresight Nanotech Institute, which has been pushing nanotechnology since the 1980s, and Jordin Kare, who spoke about laser launch.

Edwards gave a quick review of space elevators and showed a terrific animation that illustrated the climbers and other basic elements of the scheme. He noted that the meter wide ribbon needed for the elevator needs to be made of a material that is 30x stronger than steel. Very short lengths of nanotubes already display strengths on the order of 70x and so the trick now is to make very long lengths of them while retaining their strength. He talked about a $10B program to build the elevator.

Mize continued along these lines with regard to the promise of nanotechnology and described how this technology will support space development.

Jordin gave a description of laser launch similar to that given in his talk at the SA'05 meeting last month. Essentially all the technological elements are now available and it's just a question of raising the money. It would take about $2B to build a system that could launch 100Kg payloads to orbit at high rates. A prototype system with a small array of lasers could be started soon for much less. ...

... The Focus on Space Tourism panel was described by George Whitesides as a high point of the conference and it was certainly quite impressive. Mark Jannot
Editor-in-Chief of Popular Science Magazine moderated the event and asked a number of interesting questions. Panelists include Peter Diamandis, Eric Anderson (Space Adventures), Michael Gold (counsel for Bigelow Aerospace), Will Whitehorn (President of Virgin Galactic), and Stephen Attenborough (VP Astronaut Relations at Virgin Galactic).

Peter focused on the ZERO-G parabolic flight service, which is apparently doing quite well. Anderson reviewed the eight years that SA has been doing space related experiences.

Gold said that Bigelow plans to launch two of the small Genesis inflatable prototypes in 2006, two of the mid-sized Guardian modules in the 2007-2008 period, and the full-scale module in 2009-2010. He then talked at length about the problem of ITAR restrictions on dealings with friendly countries. He said ITAR had significantly affected Bigelow's progress.

Whitehorn gave a brief review of VG and emphasized how important safety is in making the industry viable and sustainable. Attenborough, whose job is to interact with the customers, reported on the 30K people who indicated via the website an interest in purchasing tickets and he also discussed the special arrangements in the works for first 100 who have now made deposits.

The Q&A was very lively with lots of discussion on safety, ITAR, coping with disasters, and liability risks. Peter made an impassioned plea for society to let people take risks. Anderson noted that after the Columbia tragedy, none of the people in preparation for Soyuz flights or the people who had placed deposits for suborbital flights had shown any interest in pulling out of the programs. In fact, they were typically even more serious and enthusiastic about proceeding.

There was talk about the conditions for the passengers during the flights, e.g. how many g's they could take.

Whitehorn thought tickets could drop to $25K within 6 to 7 years from the start of passenger flights. He thought they would probably plateau at that level for a long time....

... In the afternoon I attended the session Spotlight on Virgin Galactic. Jeff Foust has already posted a fine review of it: Virgin Galactic and the future of commercial spaceflight - Space Review - May.23.05....

... The final session that I attended was a panel on The Future of Space Advocacy. It was moderated by Lori Garver, former head of the NSS, and included George Whitesides, who is the current head of the NSS, Rick Tumlinson of the Space Frontier Foundation, Bruce Betts from the Planetary Society, and Joshua Neubert who heads the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS). Greg Allison of HAL5 also spoke.

There was a lot of talk about the different approaches to advocacy, projects to pursue, political actions needed, and how to reach out to young people and get them involved. There was a plea for more interaction with other groups involved in some way with space related activities like the Young Astronauts program and the Civil Air Patrol. ...

... Congratulations to George Whiteside and to DC-L5, the NSS Chapter that organized and ran the conference. It was a great meeting and very encouraging. Michael Mealling reports that 400-500 people were expected but over 800 showed up.

I last attended a NSS conference in 1990 and much of that meeting dealt either with NASA or with theoretical proposals for grand futuristic projects of all sorts. This time most of the focus was on projects in the private sector that are actually doable. The discussions dealt extensively with real hardware that has flown, like the SS1, or is under development, like the SS2.

This time there were representatives from well financed companies with believable business plans such as those that are getting ready to offer spaceflight services to a space tourism market that looks increasingly viable and sizable. Companies like ZERO-G are offering spaceflight related services today and seemed to be doing it profitably.

NASA and its exploration initiative certainly had a place at the conference but I didn't detect any great excitement with the agency's long term plans. Skepticism towards NASA and its ability to carry out its plans has been well earned. Most activists have learned that nothing great is going to happen in space until the costs come down significantly. So there seemed to be much greater interest in the t/Space consortium and its plan for an Earth-to-LEO transport system with a price tag a factor of ten below the expected price.

Space activism has had many ups and downs over the past 30 years or so since the end of Apollo era. There will certainly be many more disappointments. However, there is a substance and vitality to what is happening now that I've never seen before. I think this conference definitely is an sign that things have changed fundamentally. The old "NASA is space, space is NASA" paradigm is fading fast and a new age of independent space pioneering is upon us.

May 24, 2005

10:35 am: News briefs ... If there was more arguing than before, maybe it's because there is now the possibility of real money to be made in human spaceflight: Conflict at Space Confab - Wired - May.24.05

May 23, 2005

1:45 pm: News briefs ... Leonard David reports on Elon Musk's talk on Friday at the ISDC: Private Rocketeer Looks To August Flight - ad Astra/Space.com - May.23.05 ...

... Leonard reports here on a talk by Peter Diamandis at the ISDC: Private Moon Trips Forecast - ad Astra/Space.com - May.23.05.

“I predict that within about three years of private human orbital flights…you’ll have the first private teams of people stockpiling fuel on orbit and making a bee-line for the Moon,” Diamandis said.

“They’ll not ask for permission…maybe cryptically hiding what they are doing…but there will be somebody making a bee-line to the Moon,” Diamandis said. The first private team to reach the lunar landscape will stake out the ground. “They’ll say this is ours. Stay away. I claim this for my company…my new nation,” he said.

... Jeff Foust reviews the talk given by Will Whitehorn, president of Virgin Galactic, at the ISDC: Virgin Galactic and the future of commercial spaceflight - Space Review - May.23.05

May 22, 2005

8:50 pm: More ISDC ... I'll eventually do a summary of Saturday's ISDC sessions but in the meantime you can check out the comments from other people who blogged the conference. Elliot Kulakow posted this ISDC 2k5: Day 1 - Space Race News! - May.21.05 and Michael Mealling had several postings at RocketForge...

... I skipped today sessions (four days of conferencing is enough for me) and unfortunately missed Michael's talk on Space Value Networks. He gave me a preview of it the other day and it seems like a cool project that could inspire a lot of interesting term papers and theses for students. I've posted a description in the Space Log, where I deal more with space business topics. ...

... Be sure to check out the many ISDC papers and slides. Here is a sampling from a quick scan:

2:05 pm: Space value networking ... If you are a business student looking for a great space related subject for a term paper project, Michael Mealling has a suggestion for you. In his NSS ISDC presentation, he talked about developing Value Networks. ISDC Presentation: Value Networks in a Space Economy - Masten Space Systems - May.10.05 and Value Networks in a Space Economy (pdf) by Michael Mealling - ISDC - May.05.

I missed his presentation but he gave me a condensed version the other day. As I understand it, the basic idea is that no company stands alone but is embedded in a network of supporting companies that provide it with goods, services, markets, and other necessary resources. One way to model such an economy is as a set of interconnected nodes, where a node represents a particular company or type of company.

Michael believes one could model a space economy this way and learn from it. Each company node would require the development of a business plan showing the necessary resource inputs and market outputs, i.e. the connections to the other nodes. The models of all of the nodes would need to match up their inputs and outputs with each other.

A company using lunar regolith to produce oxygen, for example, would need equipment and energy as inputs and it would need customers, e.g. Moon base occupants and in space rocket transport services.

May 21, 2005

11:15 pm: News briefs ... Tomorrow I'll post a summary of my Saturday at the ISDC. For now I'll catch up on some miscellaneous news items ...

... Leonard David reports on the presentation at ISDC of AST chief Patricia Grace Smith: Space Tourism: An 'Adventure Sport' In the Making - ad Astra / Space.com - May.20.05 ...

... Here are some more t/Space postings: t/Space CXV sighted at ISDC - Space Race News! - May.19.05 * tSpace Model at ISDC - NASA Watch - May.20.05 (includes pictures of the CXV mockup. ...

... Burt Rutan was heard on the radio: Space Travel Pioneer Rutan Honored - NPR - May.20.05 ...

... And here is another review of his press club speech: Space pioneer finds NASA dull -UPI/WashTimes - May.20.05

Eli Kintisch (right) accepts the first annual Space Journalism Prize.
Sam Dinkin (left), founder of the prize, presented the prize during
the National Space Society's conference in Washington D.C.

[From the Space Log] 10:45 pm: Space Journalism Prize Winner ... The newly-formed Space Journalism Association announced Friday that it awarded its first annual Space Journalism Prize to Eli Kintisch. The $1,000 award goes to Kintisch for a three-part series about the Ansari X Prize and SpaceShipOne published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in September 2004:

  1. A new space race - Sept.21.05
  2. Dreams-turned-schemes launch one spaceworthy rocket ship - Sept.22.05
  3. SpaceShipOne aims to claim $10 million - Sept.23.05

The press release goes on to say:

"Eli's series best described the challenges and prospects of personal spaceflight and the new commercial frontier that SpaceShipOne opened last year," said prize founder Sam Dinkin. "He was able to communicate the promise of a new commercial era in space to a broad, general audience, giving him the winning edge in a very competitive field of entries."

The Space Journalism Prize was founded earlier this year as a way to promote outstanding journalism on spaceflight topics in print and online media. Journalists ranging from established reporters in print media to new voices online submitted several dozen articles for consideration.

The prize is the first major activity of the Space Journalism Association, a new organization dedicated to supporting high-quality journalism on space topics. More details about the association will be announced at a later date. Additional information about the prize can be found at the association's web site, www.spacejournalism.com.

I served as one of the judges for the contest along with Sam Dinkin and Jeff Foust. There were over thirty entries and I was very impressed that so many of them were of very high quality and depth.

1:50 am: t/Space making a bid for the vision ... Before I get started on the review of my Friday at the ISDC, I will point you to the new t/Space website. They've added a lot more info on their projects and describe some hardware tests, which were carried out using only their $6M study contract money.

Some highlights include:

  • A pamphlet describes the company's proposal to build the CXV and fly it with a crew by the end of 2008 for a fixed price contract of $400M. Interim payments would be made only as they meet each of a series of milestones.

  • Once in operation, a crew mission to the ISS would cost only $20M.

  • Note the table at the bottom of the pamphlet that compares the features and costs of their vehicle vs. what is offered by the "primes".

  • "A 23% scale version of the CXV and its booster has been dropped by Scaled Composites from its Proteus aircraft, testing a new air launch release approach with significant safety improvements over the methods used in the X-15 and Pegasus systems."

  • Here are pictures of the reversible seat that I mentioned yesterday.

  • They show some preliminary artwork of the VLA (Very Large Airplane) that would carry a larger version of the QuickReach rocket. The actual VLA design has not been released by Scaled Composites but this gives an idea of the sizes involved.

It will be interesting to see how NASA and Griffin respond to this. I hope the response doesn't duplicate what happened with the Industrial Space Facility.

1:50 am: More ISDC ... As on the first day of the conference, I could only sample from the many excellent presentations available in the various parallel sessions on Friday.

In the morning I went to the panel discussion entitled "Successful Space Entrepreneuring". It was moderated by the satellite industry analyst Armand Musey and included Eric Anderson of Space Adventures, Lon Levin from Mobile Satellite Ventures (and a co-founder of XM Radio), Jim Maser (President of Sea Launch), and David Gump of t/Space.

The panel certainly showed the growing diversity of space businesses. However, they all have problems with ITAR restrictions and with insurance. They all need to work with government in some way, e.g. regulation of spectrum or indemnification from third party liability, but also need to avoid getting crushed by it.

Maser said that Sea Launch has ten people working full-time on ITAR issues and he and several other employees spend a good portion of their time on them.

Maser also made the interesting point that Sea Launch now offers half the price per pound to GEO as compared to the average price when they first started the project. However, they have seen demand drop rather than grow. This confirms what I've heard predicted: demand, and profits, will actually drop as launch prices fall and will only start to grow when prices are reduced by a factor of ten or so. ...

... I dropped in on a review by Anne Collins Goodyear of NASA's commissioning of art during its early days. Thor Hagan reported on the Space Exploration Initiative in 1989 and compared it to the current vision for space exploration (VSE) from another President Bush. ...

... I managed to get a ticket to the luncheon in which Elon Musk gave a talk about SpaceX. Some highlights included:

  • They expect to do the Falcon I pad fire on Saturday 21st, around 1pm PST
  • They expect the first flight of the Falcon I to take place in the July/August time frame.
  • The Vandenberg flight depends on when a Titan 4 rocket launches
  • It's possible the first launch may occur from their site in the Marshall Islands. The last of the concrete pours for their launch pad at Kwajalein will take place in the coming week. There may be an overlap period when they have rocket on the pad at Vandenberg and one at Kwajalein.
  • Their goal of $500/lb to LEO remains their goal and he believes it is possible by the end of the decade.
  • They do much of their development in house because of high prices of subcontractors.
  • Some aerospace subcontractors have done well, but generally they find that non-aerospace firms offer far better prices, delivery times, and quality.
  • Though the quoted prices don't depend on the reusability of the first stage booster, he has become increasingly confident that it will do fine because of its durability during tests on the outdoor firing pads.
  • After the Falcon V they will work on a heavy booster that could put 60k lbs in LEO.

... In the afternoon I mostly attended talks in the Space Tourism and Experiences session. It began with Alan Ladwig giving a vigorous recounting of the history of space tourism promotions and the public's response going back as far as Goddard's days...

... J. Moltzen (sp?), substituting for Eric Anderson, described the programs and experiences available from Space Adventures. One item of particular interest: he said Greg Olsen will probably fly to the ISS within a year or so. Apparently, the medical problem that scrubbed his original flight has been cleared up ...

... Chris Jones described the Red Planet Expeditions project that he is working on with John Spencer. This involves a simulated Mars base located in the Mojave area in which people will pay to experience what life would be like on the Red Planet...

... I missed most of it but there was a presentation by Manuel Pimenta on the Lunar-Explorer virtual reality space exploration project....

... Ed Wright gave an update on X-Rocket and the Rocket Academy. Unlike the other "space van" type of space tourism ride with 5 or 6 passengers, the emphasis at the Academy will be on a training mission experience in which the trainee flies with an instructor while wearing a space suit and interacting with the controls. Ed described the Archangel, in which the turbojet of a MiG-21UM is replaced with rocket engines made by XCOR....

... Tim Baily gave an entertaining report on ZERO-G. So far the parabolic flight company has been very busy. They have carried out flights for 3 reality TV shows, 1 TV commercial, 10 research projects, and over 1000 individuals....

... The session ended with a talk by the Tom Rogers, who has been pushing space tourism for decades.

May 20, 2005

Burt Rutan speaking to the ISDC audience. Buzz Aldrin can be
seen in profile in the bottom left and Conrad Dannenberg is seated
on the right. The silver NSS Von Braun trophy is on the table.

1:25 am: Back from the ISDC ... Not having much luck with my conference blogging. The NSS ISDC began today [Thursday May 19th] but the wi-fi at the hotel was down until the afternoon. After I finally got connected, I could download but could not ftp through the firewall. The conference has so many talks and parallel sessions, I don't have much time to go online anyway.

Note that many of the papers and or slides can be found online.

The meeting got off to a bang with a dynamite talk by Burt Rutan, who spoke after receiving the NSS Von Braun Trophy in a presentation with Conrad Dannenberg.

Burt recounted the many failures and disappointments of the US space program since Apollo and said it need not have been that way. He repeated the point several times that a development program must take risks to reduce risk.

The feathering of the SS1, for example, was a very risky technology, but it worked and greatly reduced the risks of disaster on reentry. NASA, on the other hand, spent tens of billions trying to make a fundamentally flawed Shuttle safe, when it should have taken risks in developing new vehicles with new technologies that would make flying to space both a lot safer and a lot cheaper.

When NASA did finally start building some test vehicles, it did things like canceling the X-34, despite spending a several hundred million dollars on the project. Even if a vehicle had crashed on the first flight, something would have been learned. Instead, NASA decided a failure would make the agency look bad, especially in the aftermath of two Mars mission failures during the same time period.

Despite all this, Burt is very impressed with Mike Griffin and optimistic that he can refocus the agency on doing frontier research and will leave boring stuff like launch services to commercial services.

Burt did not reveal any new details on his projects. As in previous talks, he stated his belief that the SS2 can be made as safe as the early airliners. If they can achieve this level of safety, he thinks it is reasonable to expect as many as 100,000 people to fly SS2 vehicles in the first 12 years of operations. (The modeling for this assumes about 40 vehicles flying by the end of that time span.)

After suborbital, he sees going on to orbit and beyond. Now over 60, Burt thinks he will not only fly in space before he dies, but has a good chance of going to the Moon. (Note that his father is still alive and his grandfather lived to 104.)

Here's another view of his talk: Burt Rutan Chides NASA for Dullness, Says Space should be Fun - ad Astra/Space.com - May.19.05.

Burt Rutan spoke later in the day at the National Press Club. A video of his talk will be available at CSPAN.org for a couple of weeks. Here's the AP's take on his speech: Private Spacecraft Builder Gives U.S. Tips - Guardian - May.19.05

... In the following session, Brant Sponberg of the Centennial Challenge announced a new prize contest in which teams will compete to extract oxygen from simulated lunar regolith. They must extract at least 5kg of oxygen within eight hours using equipment that weighs in total no more than 25kg. The contest deadline is June 1, 2008. The program will be carried out in collaboration with the Florida Space Research Institute (FSRI).

... In the afternoon the parallel sessions began and it became a toss of the coin(s) to decide which presentation to attend. During the lunch break I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Tim Pickens of Orion Propulsion for the first time and later attended his talk in the Power and Propulsion session. He has been and continues to be involved in an amazingly big number of propulsion projects. These include the SS1, t/Space, AirLaunch, and several others.

He also described his work with the Huntsville Alabama L5 (HAL5) group that has carried out a number of sophisticated rocket projects, including some high altitude rockoon projects. The hybrid engine designs for these projects heavily influenced the design work he did on the SS1. (Shows again the influence of activist groups on space development.) ...

... Later in the same session I heard Dae-Sung Ju of C&Space in South Korea talk about their suborbital VTHL vehicle that will be powered by a LOX/Methane engine. He said they expect first flight in 2008 and they will soon test a demo version of the engine. They have already tested a turbopump. However, they still need a partner who can build the actual vehicle. He said they will be fully funded from Korean sources and it should take about $30M to build it. ...

... Bruce Betts described the various activities of the Planetary Society and then focused on the Comos 1 solar sail project. He said they expect to fly it in June....

... I dropped in on the "Polling and Space" session to catch the talk of Geoffrey Crouch who described a sophisticated analysis of data from polling over 700 people on the appeal of space tourism. (ISDC - Marketing Research Imperatives for Space Tourism) The poll participants were given descriptions of four types of space related experiences that ranged "from high altitude jet fighter flights to zero-g flights to sub-orbital space tourism and orbital space tourism." From their responses to questions, the researchers could get some idea of the degree to which risk, price, hardships, etc. affected interest in such adventures.

The bottom line is that they see results in the 15% range for those who would be interested in suborbital flights. This is similar to the Futron/Zogby study (Janice Starzyk also talked about this study but I only caught the end of her presentation). I'll note that If 15-20% of wealthy people buy suborbital tickets, that will provide billions of dollars for the industry. ...

... Esther Dyson moderated an interesting panel discussion called "The New Entrepreneurs". The panel included David Anderman of CSI, Rich Pournelle of XCOR, Charles Lauer of Rocketplane, Jim Benson of SpaceDev, and Pat Bahn of TGV Rockets. They each described their backgrounds and their companies and then Esther and the audience asked various questions about building a business on spaceflight.

Ms. Dyson pressed them, for example, on the issue of how soon they expect to move to profitable, commercial markets that don't rely on government contracts and/or angel investors. Space tourism was held as the best chance for a large market that can bring profits and drive a cycle of better products and greater profits. Jim Benson, however, noted that his company has already achieved a profit with a diverse range of customers. Pat said its not unusual for a particular company to build a long lasting and profitable business model around a government customer. ...

... Between sessions there were exhibits to see and t/Space brought an impressive full scale model of their CXV capsule:


I'm told that some of the writeups about the CXV project that were displayed at their booth will soon be posted on their website. ...

... Gee, it's late and I gotta get up early and drive back downtown for another day packed with more reports about space topics of every sort.

1:25 am: News briefs ... More about the SA'05 meeting can be found from the Trip Report: Space Access '05 just posted by Richard Treitel...

... Robert Zimmerman finds that the 'traditional" aerospace companies want to avoid competition but may get it anyway as "nontraditional" companies try to crash their cozy cost-plus party: Space Watch: A shrinking, timid industry - UPI/WashPost - May.19.05....

... The latest SpaceX update says that Delta II launch delays have pushed the Falcon I pad test back to this Saturday...

... Congress, the Shuttle, and the CEV: Concerns aired over shuttle replacement plan - New Scientist - May.19.05. * Senate Hearing on Space Shuttle and Beyond - NASA Watch - May.19.05.

May 18, 2005

Mike Griffin speaking during the Space at the Crossroads meeting
in Washington D.C., May 18, 2005..

11:55 pm: Back from the crossroads... Well, unfortunately I didn't succeed in blogging from the [Space at the Crossroads] meeting so I'll give a rough review here.

As the name suggests, the general theme of the meeting was that 2005 will bring lots of important decisions and events that will set the course for space development in the US for a long time.

The presentations consisted mostly of a series of panel discussions bracketed at the start by Representative Dave Weldon and at the end by Mike Griffin. (See the agenda.)

I'm not sure how to characterize the audience except to say that I felt a bit out of place in my brown corduroy sport coat amid a sea of gray and dark pinstripe suits. (A few other media types were casually dressed.) So it definitely seemed to be mostly a government and aerospace industry crowd. ...

... A couple of strong impressions came through. Firstly, the end of the Shuttle in 2010 is now taken for granted by everyone. Weldon wants NASA to assign a manager full-time to monitor the transition so that the community disruptions as happened after the end of the Apollo program don't hit the KSC area again.

I also noticed a widespread awareness of the existence of an entrepreneurial space industry and that it is becoming a force to reckon with....

... For me the most interesting panel was the one that discussed the question: Entrepreneurs: The Future of Space? George Whitesides (head of NSS) was the moderator and it included Debra Faktor Lepore of Kistler, David Gump of t/Space , and Rich Pournelle of XCOR. Each gave a brief review of their companies and then participated in Q&A period..

Lepore reported that Kistler had emerged from Chapter 11 and is looking for money to finish the K-1. Kistler will pursue the ISS cargo delivery and payload return business.

Gump reviewed the t/Space proposal for the CEV Earth-to-LEO system, which involves a vehicle considerably larger than the AirLaunch QuickReach. Instead of a C-17, it will be launched from a super-sized White Knight type of vehicle (Rutan's design has not been released to the public.) The crew rides in the CXV capsule.

One interesting aspect of their capsule is that it enters into the atmosphere in the same forward orientation as it leaves. Therefore, the seats need to be reversed so that the occupants experience eyes-in rather than eyes-out deceleration. They have built a full scale test system for the seats and shown that the reversal can be done in about two seconds.

Gump gave the following definition of what a "nontraditional" aerospace contractor should offer:

  • Rapid prototyping of hardware
  • Hardware meets specific milestones.
  • Fix-price contracts. This removes the need for the heavy paperwork requirements of the usual aerospace cost-plus approach. The contract is judged instead by how well the company meets its milestones.
  • The cost should be about 10% of what the traditional contractor will charge.

Rich spoke along similar lines as he emphasized that space developers need to think in terms of "products". Products get better and cheaper with each new generation as they build on what was learned with the previous one. He finished with a description and video of the XCOR composite LOX tank project. ...

... The panel on Shuttle, ISS & Beyond focused one issues related to the retirement of the shuttle in 2010, the completion of the ISS in that time frame, and the availability of a new vehicle capable of taking people to the ISS by then. ...

... The panel on US Legal Environment: Too Risky for Future Space Ventures? discussed the liability problems facing commercial space companies, especially space tourism operators. They noted the extreme difficulties in devising any sort of informed consent that would stand up in court. ...

... Griffin talked for about 30 minutes. He listed several historical events, such as the Louisiana Purchase and obtaining Alaska, that he believes parallels the space program in that they were severely criticized at the time but later accepted as wise policies. It seemed clear to me that he sees the expansion of humanity into space as profoundly important and the top long term priority for NASA.

With regard to entrepreneurial space companies, Griffin takes them very seriously. He said NASA will definitely include funds for buying cargo delivery services to the ISS. Furthermore, if a company develops a crew vehicle and shows that it is safe and reliable, then NASA will gladly buy seats on the vehicle.

On the other hand, he also made it clear that there will not be a parallel contract for a "nontraditional" company to develop a CEV system for Earth-to-LEO and back, as some have suggested. Such a company can compete for the prime contract like any other company. If it doesn't win, then it will have to develop its crew vehicle with non-NASA funding. It can then come to NASA and offer to take people to the ISS for a fee.

Robert Zubrin asked a question about when a decision would be made as to whether to develop a Shuttle derived heavy lift vehicle. Griffen wouldn't commit to any date but did say that, unlike the end of the Saturn V program, he wants to keep the tooling and assembly lines for the ET/SRBs available in case they need to start them up again.

12:45 am: Heading for the Crossroads... I will try to blog today from the Space At The Crossroads conference, assuming I can actually get in on a media pass and they have wi-fi. Otherwise, I will try to do a review on it by late evening. The rest of the week I will be at the NSS conference and will also try to blog from there.



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