August 2007


Motivated Volunteers based in the Southern California area are needed for our upcoming kick-off event in Bel Air on the evening of October 4th, 2007. You’ll have the opportunity to meet and network with intriguing individuals. Many members of this high-demographic will have little to no exposure to the space community.

Come help us and let’s welcome them to our community. We need greeters and people to work the registration table. If you have another idea how you could help out, please let us know.

I want to give you an update regarding 62 Mile Club’s event on October 4th in Bel Air, California celebrating commercial space enterprise. We recently secured Wyle Laboratories and XCOR Aerospace as monetary sponsors. There is are still several other sponsorship opportunities available.

In Kind Sponsors Include:
University of Southern California
X PRIZE Foundation
Space Tourism Society
Space Frontier Foundation

If you’re interested in attending or being a sponsor, please contact us here.

I found this 04-03-06 Space.com piece written by Leonard David which is relevant to our interest in the commercialization and privatization of space. I’ve pasted an excerpt below.

This piece was originally titled Forums Aims to Unleash Next Generation of Space Billionaires by Leonard David and published by Space.com.

Voodoo to mainstream science

“To date the space industry has been focused on engineering and technology. Looking into the future, the industry needs to think more creatively about developing new business models for space,” said Kathleen Allen, Director of the Marshall Center for Technology Commercialization.

“Even the big companies realize that the days of simply being a government contractor are changing. Everybody needs to think more entrepreneurially,” Allen told SPACE.com. She is also a professor at USC’s Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.

Allen said that the private space industry is comprised of pioneers…leading-edge entrepreneurs. “It’s very analogous to what happened with nanotechnology,” she observed.

“Less than 10 years ago, nanotechnology was voodoo science and the people who talked about it were considered to be on the fringe of real science. Today nanotechnology is mainstream science in the sense that everyone is talking about it. I think the same thing is happening with space tourism and other private space enterprise. Ten years from now, everyone will take it seriously and believe that it can happen,” Allen explained.

There are messages that space entrepreneurs need to hear and be reminded of, Allen emphasized.

For one, don’t be discouraged when people throw up roadblocks. Space entrepreneurs are the visionaries, the disruptors–part of an emerging industry that re-energized and revolutionized the entire space industry, she said.

Totally spaced out

“Space business is just not about things in orbit or beyond,” said Madhu Thangavelu, who conducts the Graduate Space Concepts Studio at USC, a “visioneering” approach to space systems architecting.

Thangavelu, a forum discussant, said he sees “wonderful, thought provoking, awe inspiring activities”, a host of space-related businesses that can be executed here on Earth.

But just how out of whack are space entrepreneurial groups contrasted to other entrepreneurial activities of the day. Or, are they in synch?

“Totally, totally spaced out,” Thangavelu advised. “Just being an entrepreneur is bad enough.”

For comparison, look at the restaurant business, where three out of four enterprises go belly up in two years from inception, Thangavelu noted.

Upstart startup

“Space business needs to look at broader alternate futures, not just high-tech rockets and their components…horribly expensive testing and failure rates worse than restaurant business, not to mention all the regulation that they ball and chain you to,” he told SPACE.com.

The recent launch failure suffered by upstart startup SpaceX, while a let down, Thangavelu said that the firm has clearly established a lead in the business and first mover advantage. He said there’s need to invigorate the costly pseudo-business model that exists now–”where the U.S. Air Force and NASA are the customers and a bunch of privileged vendors called ‘defense contractors’ pretend to compete.”

“Space enterprise is a highly creative, innovative and interdisciplinary arena,” Thangavelu said. “We need new blood and a whole bunch of imaginative people to project visions, debate ideas, present concepts–not just NASA projects–and that will surely have the potential to make human space activity richer, more interesting.”

Heartfelt setbacks

“The spontaneity of space is what gives the space entrepreneurs their drive,” said Rick Citron of the law firm Citron & Deutsch in Los Angeles, a group that also serves, as they term it, an “entrepreneurial greenhouse”.

“Thinking outside the box creates genius,” Citron said, and being engaged in such activity means not being prone to doing those things necessary to be in alignment with anyone. Each of the 30-plus space enthusiast groups has their own agenda, he told SPACE.com, “and that is a good thing for this evolutionary process.”

Are other entrepreneurs similarly composed? “No, but many of them strive for the gusto that comes from the process of controversial change,” Citron explained. He is also taking part in this week’s forum.

Given the recent woes experienced by SpaceX, does their failed rocket attempt to reach orbit put a damper on things?

“Not on your life,” Citron responded. “Those of us who have lived 50-plus years of the exploration of space have seen more than our share of heartfelt setbacks. This was not a failure…we can’t call it that. Rather, it was another step towards the conquest of space.”

Citron’s message to entrepreneurs: “The engineers and dreamers who are making these things happen need to have a business team along their side. The business team figures out the reality, what it takes to bring management and capital to the table.”

And if the mix is right, Citron continued, that allows the inventors to create financially viable products and services. “The right people will assist in translating the dreams to allow others to participate in developing an environment for success,” he said.

Complete Article

Astrphysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson wrote an excellent piece regarding why America needs space. It could fuel the ever present argument of whether the government should be footing the bill for space or not. If you are on the fence, I suggest you at least reading the piece below and the 08-18-07 blog entry.

http://www.parade.com/articles/editions/2007/edition_08-05-2007/Space

Congratulations to XCOR aerospace on it’s entry to Inc. Magazine’s 500 fastest growing companies in the U.S. For a hard copy of the article with pics see the September 2007 issue.

Copy via a XCOR press release
Mojave, CA – August 23, 2007 – Like the
rocket-powered aircraft it builds, XCOR
Aerospace‚s business has taken off, earning it a
spot on the prestigious Inc. 500 list of fastest growing private companies.

Each year, Inc. Magazine ranks the 500 fastest
growing companies in America based on the
percentage increase of revenue over a three-year
period. It announced on August 23 that XCOR
Aerospace, of Mojave, California, made the list.
The small, privately-held California
C-Corporation was ranked No. 446 overall with 646
percent three-year revenue growth from 2003 through 2006.

XCOR’s journey from a start-up in 1999 to the
Inc. 500 was not easy. Aerospace veterans Jeff
Greason, Dan DeLong, Aleta Jackson, and Doug
Jones formed XCOR, where they built and tested
their first rocket engines on a tiny budget. The
breakthrough came when the team decided to modify
a pusher-propeller-powered Long EZ airplane and
replace its conventional piston engine with
XCOR-designed and built rocket engines. This
demonstrated XCOR’s re-usable and re-startable
rocket motors on actual flying hardware. The
rocket plane not only proved the reliability of
XCOR’s technology, it generated publicity and
helped raise the firm‚s profile in the aerospace
industry. This attracted serious investors,
including Esther Dyson and the investment group, Boston Harbor Angels.

The higher profile and proven technology helped
XCOR compete for and win a series of contracts
with NASA and the Department of Defense. These
contracts include building and testing a methane
engine for NASA, and designing a suborbital space plane for the Air Force.

“These contracts have added to our bottom line,
which is great, but that is not the whole story,”
said Greason, now President of XCOR. “We competed
for contracts that help us develop and improve
various types of technology we need to achieve
our main objective. That goal is to build rocket
powered vehicles that can carry people and
payloads into space. That’s where the real money is.”

XCOR is currently working on a craft designed to
carry people and payloads into suborbital space,
but its longer term goal is to build a craft that can place them into orbit.

“The men and women of XCOR Aerospace are proud
that their efforts have earned the company a spot
on the prestigious Inc. 500 list,” Greason said.
“It shows we are moving in the direction we have been aiming for all along–up.”

Well… Maybe it can do that. Check out this fascinating material nicknamed Frozen Smoke. Although it was developed in the 30′s, NASA developed a better stronger version in 2002 via a NASA developed company called Aspen Aerogel.

It’s a unique material that could have a multitude of applications on earth and in space.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/science/article2284349.ece

A frequent question by nay-sayers is ‘ why do we need space?’ or ‘isn’t space just a waste of money?’ Spin-offs via technology transfer via direct and indirect space related research is an example of just how space is important to us here on earth

A few examples:

  • Scratch resistant lenses
  • Polarized sunglasses
  • Cardiac monitor
  • Ski boots
  • Micro x~ray cameras
  • Digital mammography
  • “Jaws of Life”
  • GPS
  • “Cool” suit to relieve symptoms of MS and Cerebral Palsy
  • Ultrasound skin damage assessment

and many more….

Due to rising launch costs, Robert Bigelow of Bigelow Aerospace has announced that he’s skipping on of his planned unmanned modules and going straight to the human rated ones. Note: there will not be humans inside this first one though.

For the full story:

http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2007/08/13/315578.aspx

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12484430

Eric Anderson of Space Adventures was guest on the CNBC show The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch earlier tonight. I didn’t get to see, but I hope to catch it on a re-run.

Next Page »