National Space Symposium Rockets Into The Final Frontier

Just getting back from my latest trip to the National Space Symposium and Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins, CO. Some of the videos we did at the Space Symposium are already up at Engineering TV. The ones from CSU will be up soon.

If you have been following the latest space news then you might know that NASA's shuttle program is winding down and the Space Transportation System (STS) will fly one more time. What you may not know is that a number of commercial ventures are in the works like Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser (see Engineering TV video). The Dream Chaser looks like a small shuttle and it runs on a pair of interesting hybrid engines. The hybrid engine uses a solid rubber fuel that is combined with laughing gas (nitrious oxide, NO2). This provides a much safer environment compared to most alternative propulsion systems. Still, the Dream Chaser will be launched like most of the competing systems atop a very large rocket.

I also checked out Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems' Crew Space Transportation-100 (CST-100). Boeing had a full size mock up at the show (view Commercial Space Flight with Boeing). It looks more like a large Apollo capsule. It can hold up to seven crew members. Unlike the Apollo capsule, Boeing has four rocket motors underneath the capsule. These provide propulsion in space. They are also designed to lift the capsule off the main rocket during launch if the mission needs to be aborted.

Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser and the Boeing CST-100 compete with SpaceX's Dragon capsule. We didn't get a video interview with them but they did have one of thier actual capsulses on display. These Low Earch Orbit (LEO) systems are designed to dock with the International Space Station (ISS). They can be smaller than the shuttle because the ISS construction is complete.

Not surprising, satellites were a big part of the show. We were able to check out a number of other research and production areas as well. This includes the latest from Lockeed Martin about a range of satellites. We also talked with Moog about a number of items including their ESPA Secondary Payload Adapter Ring.

Not everything was hardware at the show. DigitalGlobe takes advantage of the high-resolution earth imaging satellites to provide comprehensive geo-information. They are utilizing GPU arrays to extract more information from this data.

We talked with a number of other companies as well so check out the Engineering TV link for more video interviews with did at the National Space Symposium. There was way too much to see including a host of speakers that included Bill Nye the Science Guy. He is the Executive Director for the The Planetary Society that was founded by Bruce Murray, Carl Sagan, and Louis Friedman.

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