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Posts Tagged ‘newspace’

A Week of Space Tech

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Bill Nye Science Guy at Space Tech Expo
Bill Nye Science Guy under guard at the Space Tech Expo

On May 20 I left Chicago for Long Beach CA to attend the 2nd annual Space Tech Expo. My mission: to cover the conference for Ad Astra magazine. Additionally I wanted to gather information from speakers and exhibitors that I could use to enhance my "The NewSpace Frontier" presentation. I developed this talk in April and have so far given it at three venues to a combined audience of approximately 200 people.

The Space Tech Expo did not disappoint. One of the curious things about this conference was its two-tiered approach to registration. Only the main programming track required a paid registration. The other two programming tracks and the exhibits were all accessible with a free registration.

While some of the exhibitors were companies/organizations that space enthusiasts would recognize, like ATK, Boeing, XCOR, ZERO-G, Planetary Society, and Google Lunar XPrize; most of the 140-plus exhibitors were companies whose names are not well known but whose products are crucial to the success of the companies whose names we do know.

XCOR Lynx Mockup at Space Tech Expo
XCOR Lynx Mockup at Space Tech Expo

The centerpiece of the exhibit hall was a full-scale mockup of XCOR’s Lynx spacecraft. ZERO-G held a drawing for a free seat on one of their parabolic flights. Woe was me when I didn’t win.

I spent my time camped out in the Space Tech Conference, a separate "room" on the exhibit floor that hosted the main programming track – access to which required the paid registration. Unfortunately I could not be in two places at once as the Satellite and Space Summit track had much excellent programming as well. The third programming track – Open Tech Forum – was specialized to serve industry professionals by providing exhibitors the opportunity to present technical talks on their products and relevant innovations.

Space Tech Conference programming included presentations and panel discussions on the following areas:

  • Space tourism
  • Space commerce
  • Venture funding of space startups
  • Technology transfer opportunities
  • Military perspectives on space
  • NASA Commercial Crew and Cargo Program
  • NASA Space Launch System (SLS)

In addition to the aforementioned topics, there were dedicated presentations by

  • Bas Lansdorp, founder of Mars One
  • Alan Stern, President and CEO of Golden Spike
  • Bob Richards, CEO of Moon Express
  • Alexandra Hall, Senior Director, Google Lunar XPrize

Bas Lansdorp  Mars One
Bas Lansdorp, Mars One co-founder

I was elated to see friend, fellow Chicago Society for Space Studies member, and former fellow NSS Director Richard Godwin at the expo. Richard is President and CEO of Zero Gravity Solutions and was one of the conference’s featured speakers. Of the presentations I witnessed, Richard’s presentation on his company’s work with biotechnology and the use of the microgravity environment of space to manipulate plant and animal stem cells, without using genetic modification techniques, was the most fascinating of all, and potentially the most impactful on human society.

On the last day of the conference I headed over to the Satellite and Space Summit to catch Bill Nye’s ("The Science Guy" and Planetary Society CEO) presentation Asteroids Will Kill You! Know Your Place In Space. The most memorable single item from Nye’s presentation was the observation that an asteroid impact is the only preventable natural disaster.

The conference closed with a broadcast from the Open Tech Forum of Planetary Radio Live featuring:

  • Matt Kaplan, Planetary Radio Host
  • Michelle Peters, Zero-G Director of Research and Education
  • Andrew Nelson, XCOR Chief Operating Officer
  • Bill Nye, Planetary Society CEO

The two most interesting tidbits of information came from Mr. Nelson in answer to a question from the audience. First was that the first commercial flights of the Lynx could be as early as the end of 2014 and second that XCOR has no plans at this time for a manned orbital vehicle.

XCOR Lynx Mockup Cockpit at Space Tech Expo
At the controls of the XCOR Lynx Mockup at Space Tech Expo

The Space Tech Expo will be returning to the Long Beach Convention Center next year but will be held at the start of April. I don’t know if I’ll make it or not, but I am certainly happy that I attended this year’s expo.

Ad Astra, Jim

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NewSpace Frontier and Astronomy Day

Monday, April 15th, 2013

NewSpace Frontier
The NewSpace Frontier

This Saturday is Astronomy Day and once again I will be giving a presentation as a part of the Harper College Astronomy Day activities. The principal sponsor of the event is the Northwest Suburban Astronomers and is cosponsored by the Harper College Department of Physical Sciences. I’m a regular speaker at this event and in recent years have given presentations on The Art of Astronomy, Art and the Exploration of Space, Imaging Mars, and The Universe According to Monty Python.

This year my presentation will be The NewSpace Frontier in which I look at the history of private and commercial space and rocketry activities, the key players today, and the challenges facing this emerging 21st century industry. Of particular concern to me is the possible emergence of an overbearing regulatory environment (ITAR for example). Quoting Patti Grace Smith, former Associate Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration Office of Commercial Space Transportation: "Don’t over regulate this industry. If we regulate the industry the way certification would require – all the vehicles to be certified, with all the tests and costs – the industry will never get off the ground.". Also of concern is NASA’s willingness to support rather than stifle this new paradigm of space exploration.

Some of the space businesses I’ll be talking about include Armadillo, Bigelow, Deep Space Industries, Golden Spike, Mojave Air and Space Port, Moon Express, NASTAR, Orbital Sciences, Planetary Resources, Reaction Engines, Scaled Composites, Sierra Nevada, Space Adventures, Spaceport America, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and XCor.

There will of course be space art in my presentation as space art plays a crucial role in helping people visualize the rockets, spacecraft, space stations, and Moon and Mars bases that the various players envision as a part of our future in space.

As to what hat I’ll be wearing when giving this presentation: while I am a NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador, because I’ll be talking about commercial space and some of the associated politics I can not rightly wear that hat. While billed as a former director of National Space Society for the same presentation which I’m giving a week later at the Winnetka Library, I am not speaking as a representative of National Space Society nor do my views necessarily mirror those of NSS. As President and principal spokesperson for the Chicago Society for Space Studies, I can’t claim to represent the views of that organization. So I’ll be speaking simply as a private citizen who is very interested in seeing our new commercial space enterprises prosper and grow.

In case you can’t attend Astronomy Day, I’ll next be giving my The NewSpace Frontier presentation at the Winnetka Library on Sunday April 28. Details of both events follow.

As to why I care about such things, I offer you the following excerpt from the close of the short story The Sentinel written by Arthur C. Clarke in 1948 and upon which the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey was based:

Perhaps you understand now why that crystal pyramid was set upon the Moon instead of on the Earth. Its builders were not concerned with races still struggling up from savagery. They would be interested in our civilization only if we proved our fitness to survive – by crossing space and so escaping from the Earth, our cradle. That is the challenge that all intelligent races must meet, sooner or later.

Astronomy Day, Harper College

Saturday, April 20th – 5:30pm to 9:00pm
Harper College, Building Z
1200 W. Algonquin Road
Palatine, IL 60067
NSA Astronomy Day Information

NewSpace Frontier Presentation

The Winnetka-Northfield Library, with the support of the NSS Illinois North Shore, the Chicago Space Frontier L5 Society, and the Chicago Society for Space Studies will host The NewSpace Frontier presentation that explores the exciting world of newspace. The presentation will be given by CSSS President Jim Plaxco.
IMPORTANT:The library is requiring that attendees register for this program as it begins before the library opens that day so please take the time to
Register with the library to attend
Note I have been told that Chicago Society for Space Studies members who show up without having registered will be able to attend.

Sunday, April 28, 2013 from 11:30am to 12:45pm
Winnetka-Northfield Public Library
768 Oak Street
Winnetka, IL 60093
(847) 446-7220
Winnetka-Northfield Library

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