Friday, August 10, 2018

From the Conference on Small Satellites

The annual Conference on Small Satellites, my favorite event next to Denver ComiCon, is history. 
I got a great reception for the paper on smallsat-enabled whale tracking. A lot of people just liked that it was different from the parade of engineers discussing the specifications of their multispectral sensors or whatever.  The topic and the Booz Allen Hamilton OceanLens(TM) visualization software embedded in the presentation woke people up a bit even after the long lunch break.  I asked for partnerships in making a better system worldwide, and a lot of people had ideas. We will see where it goes. Thanks to the great staff at Utah State University and the Space Dynamics Lab. 

Here's the paper (this version has a couple editing mistakes I missed when uploading). 
Here's the full program.

There were a lot of good presentations from government, military and civilian, all emphasizing how serious people are getting about making the most of the ever-increasing capabilities of small satellites.  NASA is dedicating $100M in investment, DARPA has a $10M small-launcher challenge on, and everyone is talking (I hope seriously) about changing old cultures to emphasize speed and flexibility. (One of the things smallsats offer is that agencies can afford to refly a mission is the launcher or spacecraft fails.)   There were plenty of industry participants, from large companies and small (or smaller companies bought by larger ones. The highly innovative Orbital Sciences is now part of Northrop Grumman.
The NG presenter on the state of the small launcher industry stunned even me by counting up over 100 launchers in development or proposed. Only a fraction of these will become operational, but for a while (after NASA retired the Scout and SpaceX moved on from the Falcon 1)  there were only a few very expensive small launchers on the market. That's clearly in the past.
A record 2,800 people attended some part of the conference.  The vibe is still there, though: the experimental, what-the-hell spirit that still exists alongside the corporate interest in hard numbers.
I can't wait for next year.

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