Space Access '07
Thu 22 Mar afternoon
Thu 22 Mar evening
Fri 23 Mar morning
Fri 23 Mar afternoon
Fri 23 Mar evening
Sat 24 Mar morning
Sat 24 Mar afternoon
by Ian Kluft
These are notes I took from the presentations at the Space Access 2007 Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.
Saturday Afternoon, March 24, 2007
2 pm Leik Myrabo, Lightcraft Progress
- experiment using ground-based laser and microwave transmitters as propulsion for a launch vehicle
- future plans include space-based lasers as well
- so far highest flight to 17m
- plans to scale up to orbital launch
- supercondutor battery system to receive beamed power
- progressively larger vehicle launches planned for 2013, 2017, 2022, 2024
2:40 Panel, The New Space Investment Climate - Esther Dyson, Stephen Fleming, Joe Pistritto
- there is more money now: hedge funds are making big deals, more IPOs
- there is more money being paid attention to space because China is getting into it too
- the bad news: the "fitness function" is still all based on NASA - what does NASA want? etc
- the companies in the space (business topic area) create the realities in the space
- these are things which decrease the "giggle factor" which is now almost gone in this industry
- investors may be interested but don't want to look stupid to their friends - "that factor is declining"
- we've made a lot of progress
- individual investors may invest but VC firms probably won't yet - there's no answer yet to their question of an "exit strategy"
- there are always examples of rich individuals who self-fund their companies in every industry, and there is here too
- there are cases of "angels" who fund their own companies as individuals or small groups, and we have examples of this here too
- there are angel investors who invest their money in another company, which is happening in this industry already
- we don't know of any NewSpace companies which have attracted actual VC firm funding yet
- if you can write the checks yourself, you can get farther on your business plan
- Good investors can be very helpful. Bad investors can be terrible. You always lose some control when you accept others' money.
- It has been said never ot start a company based on something the government gives away for free. But this industry has an example of that with ZeroG.
- question from audience: is the exit strategy always either an IPO or merger & acquisition? Answer: yes, the VC firms are spending other people's money which they have to generate a return on
- once you take investors, it's no longer your company
- VC's can bring more money
- common mistake: failure to do due diligence on the investors when they do due diligence on you. What investments have they made? What successes and failures?
- don't be running out of money when you're looking for money
- Fleming says he asks what percentage of personal net worth is in the company? One extreme is that everyone is sweat equity. Another extreme is to have mortgaged everything. Investors have different reasons to worry about companies on either extreme.
- Dyson speculates on investors' psychology that some may think the price will be lower if they wait until the first mishap.
- question from the audience: what would a company be expected to say to an angel investor? Pistritto says they need to have a plan and a good explanation. Dyson says that if they can't explain it to her, they aren't ready. Fleming wants to hear their story in person and how detailed and enthusiastic it is.
4:20 Rick Tumlinson, Space Frontier Foundation and personal endeavors
- background for Rick: after 20 years in non-profit work, started Extreme Space holding company as incubator company
- starting Orbital Outfitters, space suit company
- Jon Clark (NASA atronaut w/ MD) joined the board of Extreme Space
- "the third entity I cannot mention to you but watch Popular Science"
- another company "G Squared" is "a lot of smart people and some patent lawyers"
- NASA issues killing US space companies
- turf protection
- lack of reward/punishment system for civil servants
- ownership of NASA by constituencies with no interest in opening space
- Bait & switch (i.e. COTS not likely to be honored in next budget crunch)
- culture of broken promises
- "NASA Reformation Act of 2009"
4:45 pm Paul Breed Sr, Unreasonable Rocket, LLC entrant
5 pm Dave Ketchledge, The Next Shuttle
- a hobby design project which has gotten some media coverage
- talks about history of X projects and root causes of accidents
- says the kinds of accidents which occurred on X planes would never happen with a suborbital craft carrying tourists
5:15 Alex Bruccoleri, Microwave Thermal Rockets
- summer project at NASA Ames
- external energy source frees the vehicle from carrying fuel
- high Isp and thrust to weight ratio
- heat exhanger required because 3 megawatts required to propel craft
- diagram of experimental apparatus
- results: got cavity in operation to 2300 degrees F
5:30 Gerry Nordley, award for Pete Manly
- for many accomplishments in the aerospace field, a lock of his hair was flown on a JP Aerospace balloon to 95,000' and returned on an award plaque
- Robin Snelson, member of the JP Aerospace Association, came up to award the plaque
5:40 Robin Snelson, Space 2008
- showed area in virtual world game of "Second Life" where the players have made a simulated space rocketry
- after finding a contingent from NASA Ames, her "hidden agenda" was to help NASA collaborate with entrepreneurs
- she found they were mostly interest in collaborating with other NASA people
- under cover of helping to plan a Yuri's Night party at NASA Amesi in the real world, she got more access
- NASA employees have been building prototypes in the virtual world
- Robin has been launching rockets in the virtual world
6 pm Panel, How Are We Doing? - Jeff Foust, Jon Goff, Rand Simberg, Henry Vanderbilt
- Simberg: comparing with previous years, we're being taken seriously now
- Goff: change in the past couple years has been how the NewSpace community has pulled together to help each other in friendly competition
- Goff: the big aerospace companies can still act commercial and interact with NewSpace companies - some examples have turned up that they're showing they have strengths and we can work together
- Goff: in a mammal vs dinaosaur interation, it's easy to get stepped on
- Foust: the giggle factor has steadily gone away because of the progress that has been made over the past 10 years
- Foust: progress is visible but more needs to be done - there hasn't been another private manned space flight since SpaceShipOne 2-1/2 years ago
- Simberg: Beijing unwittingly did us a favor a few weeks ago. The scenario of a "Space Pearl Harbor" happened but the Chinese blew up their own satellite. Eyes have been opened in DC. The need for rapid relaunch capability understood now.
- audience comment: the announcement that Bigelow and Lockheed-Martin would work together to assess the feasibility of Atlas V for Human related launches. The dinosaur needed the mammal to get credibility.
- Goff: we'll have to watch and see whether that's the reason - this is speculation
- Vanderbilt: it is an interesting development that Lockheed wanted Bigelow as a customer for any reason. We haven't had anything like that before.
- Simberg: space debris is a serious problem - we may need to put a bounty on them to begin a cleanup process
- Simberg: once there's so much junk up there that it starts cascading, we'd be in trouble. An acquaintance says it isn't that bad yet.
- Vanderbilt: "it isn't an opportunity unless you can get someone to pay for it." very unlikely
- audience comment (from me): if you get a piece of space junk and it sells well on eBay, it may create demand to get more
- Vanderbilt: would you get as much for the second piece?
- audience: the US government would claim it if you got any
- some discussion of possible revisions to the Outer Space Treaty
- Simberg: if we could extend maritime law into space, salvage missions and other commerce would become much more feasible
- audience (Pournelle): the ??? treaty would have given away outer space for all time - he and other members of the L5 society were among the ones who fought it and got it dropped from consideration
- audience (Pournelle): an open question is whether one can own property on the moon - we shouldn't concede it
- Vanderbilt: if you landed on the moon and started using it, the legal right (from the Outer Space Treaty) to force others not to interfere with you would apply
- audience (Pournelle): the US Navy would protect your property on the high seas.
- Vanderbilt: the trick appears to be to get there, start operating and have good lawyers
- audience (Clague): the US State Dept rendered an opinion on a crackpot's claim that NASA's landing a probe on Eros asteroid was on his property, stating the US Gov't doesn't recognize personal property rights in space.
- Simberg: wouldn't take that seriously because it's ridiculous. Bring a serious case and it'll be a new case. But now we can have this discussion and it isn't just hypothetical any more.
- Vanderbilt: there are people in the room who will probably do this (land private equipment on the moon) soon
- Vanderbilt: time to wind up for dinner
- Vanderbilt: a lot of the business at the conference goes on outside the session
- audience comment: thanks to Henry Vanderbilt for organizing the conference
- conference ends with applause and standing ovation