The day after the Space Investment Summit, the International Space Development Conference (ISDC) began in Washington. Thursday morning saw a talk by Elon Musk of Paypal and SpaceX. He is youthful, filthy rich and optimistic about his chances for the COTS contract. Many private companies like Virgin and XCOR are represented here, competing to take passengers into suborbital and orbital flight. Like a Shuttle waltzing toward a Space Station, we are approaching the 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY dream of commercial flight to orbit.
Above is a model of the Ares I and Orion, which would replace Shuttle as NASA's sole access to Space. The first stage solid rocket motor has 5 segments rather than the 4 in the Shuttle SRB. The J-2X engine powering the second stage is developed from the J-2 engine in the Saturn V. These are all new powerplants that will need expensive development and testing. The huge Ares V booster, bigger than Saturn V, will be even more expensive to develop.
Thursday afternoon representatives of the DIRECT launcher made a presentation. DIRECT would use 4-segment SRB's like those in Shuttle, and the RS-68 engine in the second stage. The engineers made a convincing case that DIRECT would make better use of existing hardware. Developing one launcher rather than two will save a huge amount of time and funds. If someday Ares V is cancelled by another administration, the US will be stuck back in LEO. DIRECT is a proposal that needs consideration.
In an unscheduled appearance during a panel on Space Solar Power, Colonel "Coyote" Smith announced the first demonstration SSP project. To get around FCC regulations, officially it will be a student project of students from Colorado Spring and Annapolis. Free power from the sky may finally become reality. We may soon see a new tech boom in Space.
ISDC is a truly exciting event with many fascinating people! Many men and a growing number of women here are all enthusiastic about Space. Daytime talks cover every subject from Earth to Mars and Beyond. Everyone is fascinated by the Spacesuit; it seems to symbolise a new human adventure.