Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Musings from the National Space Symposium

I had the opportunity yesterday to explore the cavernous exhibit halls of the National Space Symposium held here in Colorado Springs, sponsored by the Space Foundation. My kids look forward to my making this pilgrimage each year, since the NSS has the best "goodies" of any space conference exhibition center I've ever been to. Orbital Sciences' foam rockets are always a big hit: they fly all over my house until they wear out.
Other discoveries and adventures:
- I scored only 8 out of 10 at the Space Florida trivia game, which was embarrassing. Space Florida seems to have a bigger booth and more exhibits every year: the state is certainly trying to advertise itself as a home for space businesses, perhaps in anticipation of Space Shuttle job losses.
- A lady at Orbital Sciences refused to confirm or deny that the company is bidding on the Orbcomm 2 replacement constellation, which is pretty funny considering it's been in the press for a year that they are not. I asked the question intending to follow up to ask why they were not bidding, but that first answer kind of befuddled me.
- It's easier to get fat this year at the conference - more cookie, ice cream, and popcorn stations were being used to lure people to booths.
- The US Air Force Academy had on display their Falconsat-2 spacecraft, the one that was on board the first SpaceX Falcon 1 booster that did not, shall we say, perform nominally. The satellite was pretty much intact, although the bus was so twisted and bent it was clearly beyond re-use. The booth spokesman noted that the satellite's location transponder had at least worked well, although it did not have much of a function, as the satellite crashed to the ground about ten meters from the crate used to ship it to Kwajalein.
- My longtime acquaintance Gwynne Shotwell, VP of SpaceX, reaffirmed they are holding June 10 as a firm launch date for the third Falcon 1 launch, the one with the ORS Jumpstart mission. I mentioned that founder Elon Musk had said once that they'd have to re-evaluate the business if they had three failures, but Gwynne's comrade in the booth said Musk had disavowed that as a notion made under a very different business model. Given SpaceX's government contracts and the progress toward larger boosters, it didn't apply anymore.
- I stopped by one of my favorite organizations, Space Dynamics Lab of Utah, to see how this innovative satellites-and-sensors outfit, which helps run the AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites, was doing. SDL leader Pat Patterson told me they were doing great, with numerous new contracts and employment at a record 400-plus.

All for now,

No comments: