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Space Transport News Special Edition:
International Space Development
Conference - ISDC06

May 4-7, 2006, Los Angeles, California


This page will contain reviews of a sample of the presentations, links to blog entries from Space Transport News and other independent blogs, photos, and miscellaneous resources for the National Space Society's annual conference - ISDC06 - in Los Angeles, California during May 4th to the 7th. This year the conference is co-hosted by the Planetary Society. The Space Studies Institute is also sponsoring a track during the meeting.

RLV News Archive Directory



May 6 , 2006 - Presentation Notes

10:00 am: Brant Sponberg & Ken Davidian (Centennial Challenges)... Solicitation of ideas, particularly in the human habitation/bioastronautics areas, e.g. closed loop life support.

  • Current Challenges related to LSS include the space glove and low cost spacesuits.
  • Database currently has 411 ideas
  • Showed list of many bioastronautic suggestions
  • They welcome submission of new ideas.
  • Interested in biosphere type, closed loop systems
  • Suggestions:
    • Space suits
      • Break C02 back to oxygen
      • Energy from movement
      • Long-duration suit thermal control
    • Max ISP from CO/O2 engine
    • Programming/Software competitions
      • Voice recognition/operation in space suit
      • Science driven algorithm for life support simulation
      • Use "bounties" approach from open source community to develop, e.g. value added network modelling of space industry
    • Moon:
      • Lunar machinery lifetime tests, e.g. reptitive motion over long perio
      • Lunar ice drill - water extraction
      • regolith
        • Make light source from JSC-1a (lunar simulant)
        • pressure vessel
        • bricks
        • sinter a road
        • Make aluminum/glass, e.g. for a telescope)
      • Lunar dust
        • Hi-fi environment simulation, especially the electrostatic properties of Moondust
        • High quality filter for lunar regolith dust
        • Mitigation techniques for lunar dust problems
        • Radiator cleaner
        • Sealsfor rotating joints, seals in general
    • Test low pressure suits at high altitudes, e.g. Mona Kea
    • Medical/Bio
      • Non-invasive medical diagnostics, e.g. in suits
      • Telemedicine
      • Diagnostic kits
      • Confined environment psychology
      • Smart clothing
      • Bio-sensors (e.g. bone density, muscle mass, etc.)
      • Weight, power constraints
      • Whoever can cram the most quantities sensored/measured on a microdevice would win.
      • Simulator chambers with chemical/mass injection capabilities
        • Multiple teams in competitive reality show format
    • 95% water recycling with practical low mass flyable system
    • Fully closed physical/chemical oxygen production (no H2 can be used)
    • Long-lief materials under mechanical and thermal fatigue conditions.
    • On orbit thermal radiators
    • Small greenhouse experiment - prize is launch opportunity
    • Scholarship prizes
    • Personal re-entry
    • Mil-spec on LOX tank survivability
    • TPS (thermal protection system) prizes
      • Weight, structure, temp profile/cycle reusability criteria
    • For Mars
      • Methane rovers, engines
      • Low-mass surface operations space suits
      • In-situ methane production/utilisation in a very realistic simulation
      • In-situ use of Mars materials for ECLSS (filitration, waste processing, agriculture)
      • Extraction of breathable oxygen from Mars in-situ resources

There is really a whole parallel conference going on that is dedicated to space arts. The Space Art Track includes a large exhibit of space paintings and photos plus a continuous stream of presentations about space and the visual arts, movies, sculpture, writing, theater, dancing in weightlessness during parabolic flights, orbital projects, and more. Unfortunately, because of conflicts with other sessions, I've not be able to attend them so I decided to try the following presentations:

1:30 pm: Lorelei Lisowsky, Chris Robinson, Frank Pietronigro: Gravity Pulse: Zero Gravity Arts Consortium, Parabolic Flight Overview ...

  • Sky Studio: Zero Gravity Arts Consortium Research Flight for Artists
  • Frank Pietronigro
    • A flight on the Zero-G vehicle happened on May 4th with several artists and a video will be shown later today.
    • ZGAC (Zero Gravity Arts Consortium) -
      • advocacy for utilizing weightlessness for the arts.
      • Believes in team projects
      • Build international collaborations
  • Lorelei Lisowsky
    • Pietronigro flew on the NASA parabolic vehicle in 1998.
    • Lorelei flew in 2001
    • ZGAC
      • Try to create links between space artists in US and Europe
      • Charter a Zero-G flight
  • Chris Robinson
    • Explains parabolic flight
    • Gravity pulse - cyclic process
    • Second generation of space artists have more resources and can work with commercial vehicles rather than begging NASA for a flight.
    • May be losing some of the inital experimentational feel, though, as the flights become more routine.
    • Need to avoid the "turds in the plaza" aspect of public art and not just do art without any relation to context.
  • Lowrey Burgess and Frank Pietronigro
    • Burgess was one of the first to put an artwork into space
    • Data Flux - live interactive webcast from a parabolic flight.
    • Open up a gateway to using parabolic vehicles, e.g. dealing with NASA policies and FAA regulations.
  • Frank Pietronigro
    • Interacting with a robotic structure during a flight

Celestine Star of Golden Star Media, Virual World Studios - Panel

  • Puts together arts and video media productions
  • Went on parabolic flight to video the performances on the flights
  • Had to uplink onboard video to a satellite and from there to a station on earth
  • 27 people were on the Thursday flight. Chaotic at times.
  • One project involved setting up an enclosed area with black cloth with blacklight illumination. It would be simple to set up on earth but for the flight one must deal with technical and regulatory challenges.
  • Creating a documentary based on the flights
  • Only recently has internet connectivity from aircraft become available.
  • Connection tends to break during dive.
  • EBDO high bandwidth cell phone.
  • Several airlines are planning to offer connections to terrestrial EBDO
  • Use blue backgrounds for later alteration of background view.
  • Keyed costumes can be used to change what the performer is wearing.
  • Helmut-cams
  • Images projected on the dancer.

3:20 pm: Panel Discussion: While waiting for our miracle - in space elevator track... Vladimir Chobotov, Jordin Kare, Geoff Landis, Tom Nugent, Steven Patamia - I came in late to this meetiing so I missed most of the first presentation.

  • Vladimir Chobotov
    • Presentation about orbital debris.
    • Growth rate over time
    • Size variation and density
    • Effects on space elevator design and operations
    • About 5 know instances of collisions between debris objects
    • Can get exponential growth over time of debris if "business continues as usal"
    • 450 objects in GEO are drifting, no longer under control.
    • Mitigation efforts
  • Jordin Kare
    • Power beaming for space elevators and other things
    • For space elevator - e.g. solar too slow, chemical too feeble, etc.
    • Power beaming looks to be only feasible way to power the climbers
    • Laser power beaming works
    • Optics are easy
    • "Simple" problem for adaptive optics
    • No such lasers exist that
      • Megawatt power (5-6 MW for 20 T climber)
      • High beam quality
      • run for days
    • Current free electron laser 1 kW costs $30M. A Megawatt free laser would cost $1B
    • 100 kW diode pumped alkalai laser looks like it might scale to 1M. Should work in theory but needs to be proved.
      • Might be suitable for beaming power to a lunar base.
      • So might get NASA money for high power laser development.
    • Thinks his laser launch approach has advantages over laser launch
      • Can use arrays of small existing lasers.
      • Development cost vs performance has a big advantage over space elevator since the latter must be built in total to test it.
    • No miracles needed for laser launch. Suitable lasers (e.g. fiber lasers) are now available.
    • Possible Centennial Challenges for power beaming
      • Power modules
      • beam a little power a long way
      • 100 watts
      • 10 KM sideways
      • Track a moving target
  • Geoff Landis
    • Been thinking about what one can do with lasers and power beaming since the 1980s.
    • lookiing for stepping stones to space solar power
    • Lunar bases need power during 2 week night.
    • Beam power to satellites, e.g. when it is eclipsed.
    • Needed $2B for the ground infrasture. Looked like it would make money.
    • Power a tug for taking satellites from LEO to GEO with both ground laser and solar.
    • Power beaming is perfect for the space elevator climbers
    • Tune solar cell to laser
    • Solar cells don't like to work hot. Can't simply crank up power of the laser because after a peak coversion point the cell power decreases.
    • Ultimately power beaming can push a light sail for interstellar travel
    • Should match up a tower with an elevator since thinnest, weakest part of ribbon is in the atmosphere.
    • Skyscrapers not limited by materials. Could build extremely high structures
    • Any rad damage to solar cells could be annealed out by heating them up for awhile.
    • Will go fairly quickly through the Van Allen Belts.
  • Getting larget lasers is difficult because above welding lasers only the military funds their development and they are only pursuing lasers that operate for short periods
  • Tethers can be scaled up from "shorter" applications. Niches for all of the pieces of space elevator
  • Tom Nugent (LiftPort)
    • Technical challenges for space elevators
    • Most pessimistic person about SE that thinks it can still be done.
      • Lightning, wind, twist of the ribbon, weight of precipitation, atomic oxygen effects, orbital debris avoidance during deployment, power beaming
      • Elastic energy - cascading failure? Breakng a stretched material releases energy. E.g. if a thread is broken by a micrometeorite, does the snap of the two threads break other threads.
      • Thermal flux: earth's shadow.
      • Electromagnetic effects
      • Lifter vehicle - endurance, multiple physical regimes, heat management,
      • Radiation damage
      • Cumulative damage.
      • Difficult to test without building whole thing.
    • Can one get good answers to these problems before huge funding required? Nugent says yes.
    • Piggyback on other research, e.g. other space tether apps.
    • Volunteers - most current SE people are doing it part-time
    • Partner with interested researchers
    • Pay big $$ for detailed engineering support.
    • Prioritizing research
  • Steve Patamia
    • An enormous structure like the space elevator will behave in non-intuitive ways
    • Simply predicting where all of the ribbon will be at a given moment will be extremely difficult to do
    • Solar light pressure will move the ribbon, ~70km swaying
    • Major solar storm will also move it
    • Wave motion will travel up and down the ribbon
    • Standing waves
    • Strongly complicates plans to move ribbon to avoid debris
    • Moving the ocean platform to shift the ribbon at a point hundreds or thousands of kilometers above it to miss debris is a non-trivial problem. How such a big thing will move is tough to predict with modeling.
    • Absorbing a traveling wave at the platform end is also a difficult problem. If done incorrectly (i.e. with an impedance mismatch) there will be a reflected wave produced.
    • Space elevator may not be impossible but it is REALLY hard.
    • One may understand individual elements but how they all will interact is extremely difficult to model. Building a test requires building the whole thing.
May 5 , 2006 - Presentation Notes

9:00 am: Eric Anderson (Space Adventures)... Eric Anderson reports on the company and space related tourist experiences:

  • The company has had steady growth since it was founded in the 1990s. (Even during the recession and the period following the Columbia accident.)
  • Reviewed the types of things they offer:
    • Weightlessness flights
    • High altitude MIG flights
    • Orbital tourism
  • A lot of people in the queue for ISS flights in the coming years
  • Gave a photo review of Olsen's flight
  • Suborbital:
    • Explorer project in collaboration with Prodea and Russia firm
    • Shows an old image of the Cosmopolis on the M-55
    • UAE & Singapore spaceport projects.
    • No substantive info or diagrams
  • Circumlunar mission with modified Soyuz
    • Thinks that by the end of the decade there will be a private mission around the Moon

9:30 am: Greg Olsen ... Brief remarks about his flight.

  • Greatest experience of his life except for the birth of his daughter.
  • Lots of lifelong connections made via the experience.
  • Spending lots of time speaking to student groups, using space to attract them to science and engineering.
  • Would love to go again. Seriously thinking about it.

9:40 am: Peter Diamandis (X PRIZE Foundation & ZERO-G).... Discussed the XP Cup event and other projects that he is involved in:

  • XP Cup - May 18-21 in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
  • Personal Spaceflight Symposium
  • XP Cup Symposium - 2 days this year
  • Rocket Racing demo.
  • Lunar Lander Challenge - $3M in prizes
  • 5 year vision 2005-2010
    • Rocket racing finals
    • Flights to 100km
    • X PRIZE suffered from not being at predetermined place and time. XP Cup on the other had can attract big media attention.
  • ZERO-G parabolic flights
    • 65 flights so far
    • Now flying out of KSC
    • Video of Martha Stewart doing zero-g acrobatics
  • Rocket racing
    • Can become a billion dollar industry
    • Showed videos of simulated flights
    • Progress continuing in developing the vehicles.
    • Looking to form 10 teams
    • Planning 4 regional races in 2007
    • Semi-finals in Reno, finals at the XP Cup in NM.
    • Will have a flying vehicle this Oct for demo flights.

10:10 am: Shana Dale (NASA).... Keynote address for Friday.

  • Passionate about commercial space
  • When private sector ready for a given area, NASA should get out of the way
  • Slick animated video of the CEV / CLV / CALV system carrying out a Moon mission.
  • Wants private sector to work with the government like the way the railroad system in the US was created.
  • Announces NASA support for the Lunar Lander Challenge with $2.5M.

Peter Diamandis (X PRIZE Foundation) comes up to discuss the Lunar Lander Challenge:

10:50 am: Panel Discussion: Back to the Moon, On to Mars ... First of several sessions scheduled throughout the day on the lunar exploration program. Louis Friedman

  • John Connelly (NASA) gave the background to the Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS).
    • Claims physics pushes them to a repeat of Apollo architecture.
    • Some features will apply later to Mars, e.g. CEV crew of 6 maybe don't need that many for the Moon but that's the minimum for a Mars mission.
    • The basic design of the CLV/CaLV is set, though some details may change such as the type of engines.
    • Will be able to reach any part of the Moon from equator to the poles.
    • Discusses lunar surface operations and whre a base might be located
    • Exploration Roadmap answers the questions about what will happen with the Shuttle (retire in 2010), what's the purpose of the ISS (research facility supporting the exploration program), and Moon or Mars? Both.
  • Dietrich Vennemann discusses he European Aurora long term R&D plan
    • Not very positive about support for the Kliper
  • Chris McKay - program scientist for NASA's robotic lunar exploration plan
    • Using the Moon to prepare for human exploration of Mars
    • Biological life support - test on the Moon
    • Go to the Moon to grow life there.
    • Regolith O2, polar H2O
    • Preparing for Mars via the Moon:
      • High fidelty analog with real risks and challenges
      • Build experience in long duration and remote mission operations
    • Need long term moonbase
    • Astronauts trained in science
    • In a list of about 20 Mars base characteristics, only two were not shared with Moon (exobiology research and flying UAVs)
    • Will probably send a plant to Mars before sending a person
    • Astronaut training
    • Doesn't believe there is a conflict between a long term Moon base and a Mars program.
      • US McMurdo Station in Antarctica has been continuously occupied for 50 years. Sees it as an analog for a Moon base.
      • The Moon is more interesting than Antarctica and can justify 50 years of exploration.
      • McMurdo uses lots of private commercial support operations and so could a Moon base.


Again I can only sample some of the talks in the parallel sessions.

2:00 pm: Panel Discussion: Space settlement... Each of seven panelists got a few minutes to speak:

  • Mark Hopkins (NSS)
    • Enormous resources in space. E.g. Space habitats created from asteroidal material could produce land area 1000 times that of the earth
    • If everyone on earth is to reach the live style of that in the US, there will huge demands that can only be met by taking advantage of space resources.
  • Lee Valentine (SSI)
    • Survival of humanity at stake
    • Prosperity will depend on space
    • Freedom will be restricted on an increasingly tightly regulated and constricted earth
    • Free space colonies is the priority for SSI. That's where the energy is
    • Commercial approach is key. NASA is almost irrelevant.
  • Robert Zubrin (Pioneer Astronautics & Mars Society)
    • Zubrin isn't interested in lunar science
    • Mars is only place to support human civilisation.
    • Etc., etc.
  • Barbara Marx Hubbard (Foundation for Conscious Evolution)
    • Earth going through evolutionary phase change
    • Need to manage system as a whole.
    • Earth giving birth to a planetary species
    • Natural step for life to expand into space
    • Humanity currently in a pessimistic mode.
    • Forming the Council for a Positive Future
    • Proposing to invite people from many backgrounds to come and learn about the wider possibilities.
  • John Mankins (Sunsat Energy Council)
    • Amount of money being spent on space is too much for modest goals
    • Need to think about big, ambitious goals from science (finding earth type planets around other stars) to applications like space solar power.
    • By pursuing difficult ambitious goals it brings out the best in all of us
  • Edward McCollough (AIAA Space Colonization Technical Committee & Boeing)
    • Moon as a training ground for further space development
    • Leaverite - minerals not worth anything that you leave in place
  • Rick Tumlinson (Space Frontier Foundation)
    • Everyone above is right.
    • There's more than one good motivation for going into space.
    • The ESAS won't advance space settlement.

3:00 pm: Andrew Turner (Space Systems Loral) ... Reporting on the Aquarius launch system

  • Bulk cargo delivery with low cost SSTO expendables
  • A person needs about 700lbs (~300Kg) of food per year. (5 times a person's weight)
  • Water launched
  • Reliability vs cost
  • Expects Falcon 1 to go up in cost with more sensors, canceled launches, etc.
  • Space tug derived from Loral 1300 spacecraft bus (very high reliability)
  • Tug will take payloads from Aquarius up to ISS
  • Reduces signficantly the launch costs for the Exploration initiative
  • Collaborating with Aerojet, Microcosm, Orbitec.

3:30 pm: Rich Pournelle (XCOR) ... Caught the last part of his talk on the challenges of raising money for a startup space company.

  • Many factors influence a potential angel investors decision to invest or not invest in you company. Most of those factors you cannot control. (E.g. might be very enthusiastic but the spouse is against it.)
  • Focus on what you can control, e.g. showing up on time, well-dressed, etc.
  • Can't "cold call" angel investors. They have people filtering out such solicitations
  • Practice your pitch, e.g. on people with no prior interest in space.
  • Until recently only angel investor true believers put money into XCOR
  • Liquidation preferences
    • Holders of preferred shares get most of the money if a company is sold.

4:05 pm: Dave Masten (Masten Space Systems) ... Told the story of the formation and progress with MSS:

  • Hooked into the business when he saw the demo of the XCOR "tea cart" engine at a conference.
  • Had some captal to put into a company so decided to start his own rocket firm.
  • He expected to spend half his time doing engineering but finds that he spends most of his time with innumerable small tasks of running a company.
  • Vendors very difficult to deal with. If they find you are an aerospace firm they will
    • Charge 2-3 times what they would charge anyone else for the part or service
    • Refuse to deal with you for fear of liablity problems related to rockets
    • Will be very enthusiastic about working on a rocket project.
  • Finishing up engine development program.
  • Have begun selling payload space
  • CanSats - soda can sized payloas
  • Looking for people with broad backgrounds. Strong generalis

4:35 pm: George French (Rocketplane Kistler) ... Overview of

  • Had invested earlier in Kistler and had sold enough stock subsequently to breakeven. (Much later came the bankruptcy.)
  • Won the "O Prize" - Oklahoma's award of $30M tax credits for an anchor tenant for the Burns Flat AFB, which woud become a spaceport.
  • Diagrams of XP vehicle
  • Wing in testing
  • NASA/Rocketdyne RS-88 on loan.
    • 36K lbs thrust
    • LOX/Kerosene
    • H2O2 driven turbopump
  • $600M spent by Kistler
  • K-1 is 75% complete.
  • NK-33 engines - Kistler paid $100M for the engines and the mods by Aerojet.
  • Must first fly out of Woomera to get data for FAA approval to fly at a US spaceport.
  • FAA considers parachute return an uncontrolled return.
  • Can both transport cargo to the ISS and bring stuff back.
  • Shows a K-1 based scheme for going to the Moon - includes a heavy lift version of the K-1 using clustered first stage.
  • Service begins in2007.

4:35 pm: Rex Ridenoure (Ecliptic Enterprises) ... How ArabSat 4A might have been saved.

  • The satellite failed to achieve its desired orbit due to a Proton booster failure on Feb. 28th
  • Several people began to collaborate to try to save it via a route around the Moon.
  • Hughes AsiaSat-3 in 1997 similarly failed to reach orbit due to Proton failure.
    • Belbruno & Ridenoure suggested a salvage plan using WSB (Weak Stability Boundary) transfer to the Moon.
    • In 1998 Hughes engineers suggested using the Belbruno technique to put the AsiaSat-3 into GeoSat via two lunar flybys
    • Lasted 37 months after reaching Geo
  • Commercial lunar mission possible
  • Needed ~1.5km/s delta V to get to Moon, 2.5 km/sto get to Geo. They estimated that it had 2.0km/s delta V worth of propellant left on board.
  • A double lunar swingby trajectory was developed.
  • Other options included a Molniya orbit. (Would provide about 8 hours service over Mideast.)
  • Not enough Delta-V to get to GEO. Lot of lunar options.
  • Dennis Wingo tried to offer an Orbital Recovery CX-OLEV tug solution.
    • Use lunar swing-bys to get into "Super-GEO" with 29-hr orbit.
    • CX-OLEV could reach there and bring it back to GEO.
    • The tug wouldn't be available till 2009 at the earliest.
    • Operations cost of the satellite till then too expensive
  • Another option was to offer a commercial lunar mission to carry out tasks such as:
    • Polar ice impactor
    • Comm and network testbed for lunar operations
    • Develop comm infrastructure demo for L2 halo orbit
    • Would need to raise ~$250k to support a comm program short term, $500k-$750k long term.
  • Another space tug proposal came along
  • Insurers, however, suddenly gave them only 24 hours to provide a plan before it would be deorbited.
  • While still trying to get more time they were informed on March 24th that the spacecraft had been deorbited.
  • The whole exercise happened over 3 weeks.
  • They know they could have done it.
  • Will try to be ready for the next time.



May 4 , 2006 - Presentation Notes

9:00 am: Charles Elachi (JPL)... Elachi gave an overview of space science accomplishments and plans for future missions.

9:30 am: Louis Friedman (Planetary Society)... Friedman gave a brief overview of the Cosmos 1 Solar Sail project (a longer talk is scheduled for Sunday.)

  • A solar sail Centennial Challenge is in the works
  • Despite the failures with the launchers, they plan to continue with another attempt to launch a solar sail.
  • The effort so far has at least shown that a private group can develop a sophisticated international project and that private money can be found to sponsor it.
  • Cosmos 2 will definitely ride on a different launch vehilce

The Space Venturing Forum is beginning

10:00 am: Elon Musk (SpaceX)... Elon Musk provided an update on the Falcon projects:

  • Began with some videos of the flight (same as on their website.)
  • Building a spacefaring civilization is the long term goal
  • SpaceX goals are
    • to establish a lead in low cost launch services
    • then develop crew transport, e.g. ISS crew delivery
  • Company - spartan, simple approach; flat organizational structure
  • 180 personnel now, 200 by end of the year
  • The launch problem had never occurred in hundreds of ground engine tests.
  • Instituting operational processes and hardware changes to prevent fuel line misconnections and similar problems.
  • Will add many more sensors and checks to insure that every part, even small ones, is working correctly. This will cause many launch attempt cancellations but should better insure a successful launch when it does take place.
  • Becoming "Falcon 1.1"
  • Cash flow positive in 2005 and expect to be so in 2006.
  • TacSat in December
  • Have 11 launches sold so far. Expect to announce more later this month.
  • Using huge test stand facility in Texas for the Falcon 9 propulsion system development.
  • Merlin is the first big liquid hydrocarbon engine developed in US for several decades
  • Falcon 1 is first rocket designed in 21st century
  • Just hired a top manager from SeaLaunch
  • Falcon 9 will still get to orbit if an engine lost during flight.
  • Soyuz also uses multiple thrust chambers and has achieve high reliability
  • 94% mass fraction.
  • 20% composites by weight
  • Crew system work was on backburner for a long time.
  • A COTS contract will accelerate its development.
  • Manned capability by 2009 if awarded a COTS contract, 2011 if no contract (less capability.)

11:00 am: Panel Discussion on Space Entrepreneurship ... Bill Collins (Starboard Ventures), Jeff Greason (XCOR), Lon Levin (SkySeven Ventures), Ed Tuck (Falcon Fund). Led by Guillermo Sohnlein (Int. Assoc. of Space Entrepreneurs)

  • What does it take to put together a new space business?
  • Defining an entrepreneur:
    • Passion,
    • New idea and market that others aren't addressing
    • Founding different than managing
    • Expect to have failure or two
  • Greason - expected to work for an entrepreneurial company but ended up founding one
    • The amount of day-to-day little stuff for a small startup was surprising. At big company others took care of all that.
  • Levin - involved with XM Satellite Radio.
    • Sat radio had features not available with traditional radio
    • Always thought it would work despite all the problems.
    • Now with a company applying for COTS contract.
  • Customer, customer - point of a business is to create a customer.
  • Greason
    • Managing growth has become the number one problem at XCOR.
    • Finding first rate people is a big challenge.
    • People who have worked only in aerospace from the start "are useless".
    • Aerospace has primarily been serving a government customer.
    • Need people with broad experience.
  • How is space different than other industries
    • Greason - overcoming belief that certain things have been tried and found not to work. In fact, just because government didn't accomplish something doesn't mean that it is impossible.
  • Customers
    • SpaceX - government mostly initially
    • Zero-G - people want to try weightlessness
    • Components needed for future big space projects. XCOR found that there were customers for pieces of rocket systems.
    • Someday will build a spaceship out of catalog parts.

12:30 pm: Burt Rutan (Scaled Composites) ... Burt gave the luncheon talk. He warned that some in the audience might be offended by some of the things he would say but he noted that lunch speakers are usually humorous and so they take his remarks as his attempts at humor.

  • Started with a SS1 video
  • Noted that for this hi-tech, space aware audience the SS1 vehicle is now just an antique in a museum!
  • His customer for the SS1 was great because he accepted that new technology was needed and left its development up to them.
  • The current customer is even better since because of ITAR rules restricting technology sharing he doesn't even have to show the design details to him.
  • Burt wants to go to the Moon before he dies.
  • His grand children should be able to go even farther out into the solar system
  • He repeatedly emphasized the need for technological breakthroughs that will bring safe, robust spaceflight.
  • He then commented on the CEV architecture:
    • CEV program makes no sense
    • Forced to use only technology that they know will work
    • Should instead pioneer better ways to do things.
    • Won't learn anything new with current plans
    • Can't understand the CEV except as a "training program" for a young generation of new engineers or as an exercise in "archeology"
    • If he were administrator he admitted that all of the pressures on him would probably force him towards a similar design. But he told Griffin that if he were administrator he would call a press conference and scream "THIS IS STUPID" and then go back to work.
  • He then switched to a discussion of the X-15 and the SS1
    • He compared a number of design and performance features for the SS1 and X-15 and the SS1 was far from the hairy edges where the X-15 lived.
  • FAA regulations
    • Burt disagrees with the recent commercial spaceflight regulatory approach that focuses on protecting the uninvolved public and not on the passengers
    • Burt thinks that a focus on the passengers would push the development of new tech breakthroughs.
    • Too much effort will be spent to prevent what is athe extremely small chance that someone on the ground will be hurt by a commercial spaceflight accident.
    • He fought to have commercial spacecraft regulated by the FAA aviation section. He thought this was especially applicable to his air launch approach which uses a carrier aircraft, a glide landing of the space vehicle, etc.
    • Recognizes that new technology can't be certified just like an aircraft with standard technology.
    • Applauds AST for allowing for experimental permits to test commercial vehicles.
    • Those working on commercial vehicles should be required to fly their own families first before any customers fly.
  • Investment in commercial space
    • About $1B already committed to commercial spaceports even before any vehicle is ready.
    • Indicates that plenty of investment will appear if such a vehicle appears.
    • Expects investment in commercial manned spaceflight will grow in the next 15 years up to as much as half of what NASA is spending and will be much, much more cost effective than NASA's spending.
  • Belief required
    • He strongly believes that safe, robust orbital spaceflight systems can be developed but he can't prove it. It will require the development of breakthrough technologies.
    • He thinks it will be proven for suborbital spaceflight and that's why he wants to start with that. If he knew how to do safe orbital he would go directly to that.
    • He thinks there will be lots of applications for commercial suborbital vehicles in addition to space tourism. Expects total market to be much larger than most people predict it will be.
  • Competition
    • He was rather snarky about other commercial spaceflight projects
    • Noted that none of the other X PRIZE competitors have flown to space since SS1 won the competition.
    • Referred dismissively to rocket racing as flying antique airplanes with rockets.
  • Q&A
    • Came back to the theme of the need for developing breakthrough technologies when asked about how he would go to the Moon.
    • When asked about the biggest challenges of the SS1 program he cited the cantilevered propulsion sysem and the feathering reentry system. Even his Scaled Composites co-workers had big doubts about it and he had to show complete confidence in it.
  • About a dozen or so of the "founders", i.e. members of the group of first 100 passengers who have paid for their tickets on the SS2, were asked to stand up.

Leonard David's report: Rutan Takes Aim at NASA's CEV Plans, Likens it to 'Archeology' - Space.com - May.4.06. See also The space industry's curmudgeon - The Space Review - May.8.06

For the afternoon I wandered around, sampling some of the talks in the parallel sessions. Here are notes on two of presentations:

2:30 pm: Lee Valentine (SSI)... Lee gave a talk on an Evolutionary Roadmap to Space Settlement. (See also his previous article here.)

  • Free space is where the energy is and where settlement should be
  • Gerard O'Neill predicted more people would eventually live in free space habitats than on planetary surfaces.
  • Macroengeneering projects are motivated by warfare (Great Wall of China), monuments to power (pyramids), or profit (Boeing 747).
  • Things can start small and grow big (e.g. Intel)
  • Find a path to large scale space projects starting with small projects
  • Cheap, safe, reliable space transport necessary and it's development will be driven by suborbital space tourism.
  • Platinum group metals on Moon and asteroids, space solar power are other drivers
  • Assembly in space is crucial for space development and should be focused on now rather than avoided.
  • Start with assembly of satellites. In space assembly and testing would greatly reduce their costs since they would no longer require so much testing and redundancy.
  • Discusses space solar power.
  • Must prevent comet and asteroid impact. The infrastructure to provide for this must be developed and will overlap with other space applications.
  • Incremental development with commercial projects will allow for much lower cost for the large habitats than when first proposed back in the 1970s.

3:30 pm: Virgin Galactic... A presentation by three VG managers:

  • Will Whitehorn compared development of the SS1/SS2 to other Virgin projects such as their trains in Britain
    • Technologies such as ligtweight composites developed in these projects will influence other areas such as energy conservaton, etc.
  • Alex Tai gave a SS2 update:
    • They want system that can fly thousands of times safely.
    • Air launch, hybrid propulsion, feathering contribute to safe operations.
    • Will buy other technologies if they have advantages over SS2
    • Want to allow passengers to float during weightless period.
    • Must allow for a great view (big windows.)
    • Schedule: not fixed yet. Don't want to pressure Burt Rutan. Want him to have plenty of time for testing.
    • Spaceports - will use both Mojave and New Mexico.
      • Expect $11M for new facilities at Mojave
      • Initial work going on in NM.
    • Pilots will come from Virgin airlines.
    • Fitness requirements - very high for crew.
    • 3 day experience
      • Simulation of the flight e.g. centrifuge sensors will measure response to the rigors of the actual flight.
      • No decision yet on space suits for passengers.
      • Will decide according to which approach is safest. E.g. may require them for the first thousand flights.
  • Stephen Attenborough
    • Space tourism business opportunities.
    • VG has gotten lots of media attention
    • VG website often gets more traffic than any other Virgin Group website.
    • About 50k people have registered for more info.
    • Challenge to identify who would actually become paying passengers.
    • Comments box has been quite useful.
    • VG Founders - 1st 100 passengers - get special benefits and privileges. Must pay full ticket price.
  • A founder - Trevor Beatty - became a great hit with some humorous words and videos including oe of his flight on a MIG 25 to 90k feet.
    • He pointed to Buzz Aldrin as one of his great heros and then noted that Buzz was in the audience.




The Art of C. Sergent Lindsey
NewSpace Watch at NSG


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