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Reinventing Space Conference 2012, Tuesday, 5-8-12 May 9, 2012

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Reinventing Space Conference 2012, Tuesday, 5-8-12


Guests:  Open Mic at the Reinventing Space Conference 2012.  Topics:  Responsive space, low cost space access, Army satellite program, university projects, students & education, Dream Chaser, Women in Aerospace Southern California Chapter.  You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming. Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of the Space Show copyright.  This Space Show program was an “open mic” discussion for those attending the Reinventing Space Conference 2012.  The Space Show made its microphones available to those in attendance to speak on any topic of interest to them.  Our discussion topics included responsive space, low cost space access, pushing technology, the U.S. Army satellite program and the launch of the Army’s SMDC-One satellite, the first Army satellite launch in 50 years.  Others spoke about university projects, STEM education, the lack of interest in space /STEM subjects by among the younger population, challenges in the field of education, and the Women In Aerospace Southern California Chapter.  We started out with Dr. Jim Wertz providing us with an overview of the responsive space issues and what we can expect in the coming years.  George Vamos, Dr. Wertz & as Dr. Van Allen discussed offsets and technology trades in lowering launch costs.  Other participants talked about progress they have seen and experienced over their many years of working in the aerospace field.  We heard from Charles Kilmer on this subject.  He was followed by John London of the Army SMDC/ARSTRAT.  He talked about the first Army satellite launch in 50 years, the SMDC-One.  We also learned about future plans for Army satellites in support of the warfighter.  He  talked about the Army launching satellites the size of a loaf of bread and a bread box at 1/2000th the cost of a more traditional satellite.  Rachel and Krystal from Sierra Nevada spoke about Dream Chaser.  We learned more about their upcoming vehicle testing schedule as well as new agreements with Florida.  I also inquired about Dream Chaser for space tourism which as you will hear will follow their priority which is commercial crew to the ISS.  Larry Martin talked about his University of Hawaii project but we also had a participant from the University of N. Dakota and a recent graduate from Georgia Tech. I apologize for not getting their names for this program summary.  These students talked about the challenges in getting younger students interested and aware of space.  Our final participants represented Women In Aerospace and the Southern California Chapter.  Jeanne Innis Olson and Nicole Johnson spoke about the organization & their California chapter.  Those interested in learning more about the organization should contact Wendy Williams at wendy.williams@atk.com.

Please post your comments/questions regarding this program Space Show blog.  I have listed participant bios for those that have a bio on file with The Space Show.


1. Rick Kwan - May 28, 2012

I heard some comments about Silicon Valley people not being yet involved in space, and some advantages of the Linux operating system and what might be done if it were used in space. I’m going to give you my perspective, since I seem to sit along intersection of the storm where computing meets space.

Near the heart of Silicon Valley is NASA Ames, and next door to Ames is Google. A few miles to the northwest is Stanford. Within Silicon Valley, there are lots of groups working on robotics. A key center for that is Willow Garage, in Menlo Park, which sponsors ROS (robot operating system) and OpenCV (open computer vision). There is also a lot of robotic development at NASA Ames itself. Admittedly, a lot of Silicon Valley hackers do not know how to approach space, and never dreamed that they could be involved. And then they meet us.

To bridge the gap between the hard-core computing and aerospace knowledge, there has been a series of technical talks co-sponsored by the AIAA San Francisco Section (AIAA SF) and the Silicon Valley Space Center (SVSC). These talks typically take place at one of the ground zero points of hackerdom, the Hacker Dojo, in Mountain View, about 5 miles from NASA Ames. The talks are generally listed at: http://www.aiaa-sf.org/techtalks/ The current SVSC site is http://siliconvalleyspacecenter.org/ but that should be changing to http://svsc.org/.

While we bring in a lot of AIAA and other aerospace people, a few serious hardware/software hackers always show up. They are continually stunned by what we show them. For that matter, we’ve had non-space angels and VCs quietly check us out. (If they are intrigued, they also leave a business card.) Like in most ventures, the key constraint is a credible business plan or at least the promise that you can figure one out. In part, SVSC serves as a sounding board for ideas and has helped steer a few of them toward funding. Naturally, the bar for fielding a successful space project is much higher than the bar for a software project or most hardware projects.

Regarding Linux in space, Android is built on Linux. Among the projects to fly soon is PhoneSat, which puts a Nexus S Android phone into a 1U CubeSat. A standard Android phone has a USB port so that you could potentially control an experiment. I understand the team has published the code as open source, but it may have a few rough edges that they are sorting out. Getting NASA permission to use a traditional open source license was a major hurdle, but they got it. http://www.aiaa-sf.org/techtalks/2011/1003.html

We’ve also had a very detailed review of small vehicle avionics using the TI OMAP3, a popular smartphone processor. In particular, the talk covered both hardware and software sides of using a BeagleBoard or Gumstix Overo running Linux to run avionics, including attitude controls and possibly propulsion. As it turns out, the latest Linux releases have proven to be inadequate for the “hard real-time” responses required for active flight controls. However, it can be combined with a co-resident real-time kernel to get very acceptable response times. http://www.aiaa-sf.org/techtalks/2011/1201.html

Those are just a couple of the talks.

Finally, there are certain people who have succeeded spectacularly well at computing and then turned their attention to rocketry. This includes: Elon Musk (PayPal then SpaceX), Jeff Bezos (Amazon then Blue Origin), Dave Masten (a career in IT, now Masten Space Systems) and John Carmack (Id Software then Armadillo Aerospace). Of course, no one can underestimate the influence of Paul Allen (Microsoft then Vulcan).

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