Saturday, July 28, 2018

Coming up on the Conference on Small Satellites

I've been to several space-related conferences, but Smallsat (August 6-9 for the main conference this year) is my first and favorite, my home base. While it's grown about 10-fold over the last 20 years, this is still a conference with a unifying theme - all the experts in the world, practically, on smallsats, microsatellites, and nanosatellites are in one place to talk about one thing, and that one thing has changed the world. From being looked at as toys or test vehicles, smallsats are now blanketing the planet with new capabilities in imaging, communications, weather monitoring, etc., etc.  Since the introduction of the CubeSat, a standardized 10-cm cube that allows organizations and schools all over the world to have access to space at a launch cost as low as $100K, we are growing the biggest-ever generation of young minds with space experience.  
This is the conference where you hear really amazing ideas, most of which are actually practical because smallsats have brought the cost and technology of space within reach and enabled affordable experimentation, including the ability to refly failed missions (try THAT with the Hubble Telescope). Because it's a single-track conference, everyone hears all the ideas, and the people at Utah State and its Space Dynamics Lab who put this on are amazing.
When I first went in the mid-90s, smallsats were a small pond.   For a few years there, I knew everyone in the business.  Little startup firms like the now-giant SpaceX and the now-absorbed Spectrum Astro showed up alongside the big outfits. This is still the place students and space nerds can go and ask questions of the best minds in the field, and where new ideas can be tested by presenting them to all those minds and seeing what feedback you get.  
I'll be back this year after a lamentable absence, presenting innovative thinking on the tracking of whales and dolphins using small satellites. That's another nice thing about this meeting.  Not every idea has to be worth a billion dollars. Some just make people think "We didn't know about this problem," or "That's innovative, could we help?"
So I hope you all make it, and don't miss the presentation on "Microsats and Moby Dick" on Tuesday afternoon.  See you there. 

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