Trip Report: Space Access '05

This is mainly intended as a write-up of what I heard at SA '05. I have missed a good many Space Access conferences in recent years and have been grateful for whatever reporting I could find of the talks that were given there, especially via HobbySpace (click on the "RLV News" link under "Space Log" on the left). This time, I went myself; expecting that other people may want the same as I wanted, I'm trying to provide it. So, if you have been to previous Space Access conferences, you can scroll down a little and find links to the raw information. If you want to fill in some background so that you can put the raw information in context, read sequentially for a minute more. Or, if you want to look at other write-ups, the conference was blogged by HobbySpace, Rand Simberg, and Michael Mealling (look under "Past Articles"for the 29th and 30th of April, 2005).

The quickest backgrounder available, and not at all bad, is the first two paragraphs of the Space Access Society home page. (You guessed right: the SAS is the entity that organises this and earlier Space Access conferences.)

Another important piece of context is knowing who else was there. Below you'll find a long list of companies and organisations, several of whom sent more people than just a speaker. Most of them were small companies trying to build launchers of some kind; some had some money, some appeared to have very little. There were also a Congressional staffer, two FAA bureaucrats, a USAF lootenant, an investor or two and an actual Venture Capitalist, some students (I think they are working on aerospace-related degrees), a writer here and there, probably some aspiring space entrepreneurs (I even saw someone from a Korean company Challenge & Space; good luck reading their web site), various lobbyists and consultants, the AIAA, the Space Frontier Foundation, and a sprinkling of people like myself whose only connection with the space business is their desire to become its customers at prices we can afford.

Just as important as who was there is who wasn't. NASA and Lockheed, who have in the past sent people, were missing; so were Boeing, Arianespace, and the like, which did not surprise me. I also didn't see Space Exploration Technologies, Scaled Composites, Virgin Galactic, or Blue Origin. To be sure, the latter isn't saying anything to anybody, and the first three have had plenty of publicity.

Finally, here is a more personal background piece, explaining why I thought SA '05 was worth going to.

What I Thought They Said

The text you'll find if you follow the links below is not altogether trustworthy. I scribbled notes (using physical ink on physical paper) during the talks, then, some days later, typed up what was in those notes, amended by my memories, if I still remembered anything. Sometimes the notes were sketchy, and often they were paraphrases of what the speakers had said. In some places I have deliberately interjected [something I think], but in other places, the text is quietly polluted with my own opinions. And you'll notice that my writing style is not likely to give Stephen King any sleepless nights.

To provide a rudimentary structure, I've divided the talks into three kinds. This distinction is a little bit arbitrary, to be sure. The kinds are:

  1. Concepts: fun and interesting things which certainly ought to be possible, and even feasible.
  2. Hardware: vehicles or devices that have been built, are being built, or that someone definitely intends to build (given enough money).
  3. Business: all that non-engineering stuff that just won't go away no matter how patiently you ignore it, and is in fact critically important.