Space Access ’12 preview

This morning Space Access ’12, a long-running annual conference about amateur and entrepreneurial spaceflight, kicks off in Phoenix. This conference, dating back now nearly 20 years, brings together companies and individuals working on various suborbital and orbital space projects, as well as enthusiasts wanting to learn more. This year the conference has expanded to three full days (in recent years the conference started on Thursday afternoon), with an emphasis on full: Thursday’s and Friday’s sessions run until 10 pm MST, while the conference wraps up Saturday at “only” 6 pm.

A few things to look for at this year’s event:

An announcement from the Space Studies Institute: Thursday afternoon Gary Hudson, the new president of the Space Studies Institute, is scheduled to speak, with this annotation in the program: “do not miss – we can say no more”. We can expect that Hudson will have some kind of announcement about SSI programs or other activities.

The usual array of company updates: Several suborbital vehicle developers, including Armadillo Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, and XCOR Aerospace, will be present to talk about their ongoing vehicle development efforts. Also on the schedule for Thursday night is Chuck Lauer to talk about Rocketplane Global, perhaps shedding more light on the news from earlier this year that he is reviving the previously-bankrupt company. Among the other companies in the NewSpace arena presenting at the conference are Altius Space Machines, Garvey Space, mv2space, and Orbital Outfitters. One established space company will be here as well: United Launch Alliance, the joint Boeing-Lockheed Martin venture that builds the Atlas and Delta rockets and in participating in several companies’ commercial crew development efforts.

Some policy discussion as well: Regulatory, funding, and related policy discussions have also been a staple of Space Access conferences, and this year is no exception. Much of that will take place on Saturday, with a talk from FAA/AST, a presentation from Rand Simberg about his space property rights proposal, and panel discussions.

An emphasis on the “Maker” community: Space Access has for many years featured talks by individuals or groups working on rocket motors, rockets, and the like. More recently, though, there’s been a surge in interest in do-it-yourself (DIY) technical projects with events like “Maker Faires” and television shows. That will be emphasized here this year with a talk about a “Hackerspace” being developed in Mojave, as well as a panel on “DIY Space Access”.

Some missing names: Some companies traditionally don’t participate at Space Access, and that’s true again this year: Scaled Composites, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin are among the companies who are at least not presenting at the conference. (SpaceX is also not presenting, although last year SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell did give a talk at the conference.) Some more familiar names will also be missing this year, though: Armadillo’s John Carmack and XCOR’s Jeff Greason, two long-time attendees, are not making the trip, and both companies will have very limited representation at the conference. In both cases, though, that’s because the companies are busy working on vehicles: Armadillo’s STIG-B rocket and XCOR’s Lynx Mark 1.

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