1st Space Solar Power International Student and Young Professional Design Competition

The Space Generation Advisory Council is announcing a partnership with the International Astronautical Federation’s Space Power Committee (SPC) to organise and run the 1st Space Solar Power International Student and Young Professional Design Competition.

The competition aims to challenge entrants to submit a technical paper for a new and innovative technical concept for Space Solar Power (SSP).

SSP, in its typical implementation and for the purposes of this competition, is the idea of transmitting power harvested from the sun in space down to Earth.

The winning entrant will be given up to $2000 USD to cover travel costs to to Naples, Italy to present their paper at the 2012 Space Generation Congress (SGC) and to present a poster at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC).

The competition aims to challenge entrants, in this case individuals and small teams (1-3 people) between the ages of 18-35, to submit a technical paper for a new and innovative technical concept for Space Solar Power (SSP). SSP, in its typical implementation and for the purposes of this competition, is the idea of transmitting power harvested from the sun in space down to Earth.

The entrant shall describe in technical detail their idea on a new SSP technical concept taking into consideration the use of current or realistic near-future technologies in a single technical paper (maximum length of 10 pages).

The competition is intentionally broad. Contestants should attempt to understand the scientific, engineering, economic and social challenges involved.

The submitted papers will be judged based on, but not only, aspects such as originality, feasibility, economic viability or novelty with previously proposed concepts.

After the competition’s results announcement, the winning entry will be requested to prepare a 3 to 5 min long executive summary video as well as both IAC and SGC presentations.

Submission Deadline: 1st July 2012 (23:59 UTC)

Winners Announced: 17th August 2012

For more information please read the SSP Competition Rules.

Buzz Aldrin Presents NSS Space Pioneer Award on Colbert Report May 3

On Thursday, May 3, Buzz Aldrin, Apollo XI Astronaut and Member of the NSS Board of Governors, presented a 2012 Space Pioneer Award for Mass Media to Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report on the Comedy Central cable network.

Colbert is receiving the award in recognition for his unceasing promotion of “space tourism, space development, NASA programs, and the use of private enterprise for better access to space”, all of which are supported by NSS.  He frequently interviews astronauts, space entrepreneurs and scientists, demonstrating that it is possible to inform the public on serious space topics in a comedic setting.

Colbert is probably best known in the space community for his campaign to name a new space station node that actually resulted in the naming of a space station treadmill after him.  The Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill, or C.O.L.B.E.R.T. for short, is located in the Tranquility node of the ISS, the node that was the subject of the naming competition.  Colbert received the most votes; however NASA decided to name the node after the Sea of Tranquility, site of the Apollo XI moon landing.

NSS Executive Director Paul E. Damphousse, Stephen Colbert, and lunar astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

Planetary Resources' Eric Anderson Keynote Luncheon Speaker at ISDC 2012

The National Space Society (NSS) is pleased to announce that Eric Anderson, the Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of newly-announced Planetary Resources, will be the keynote speaker for the opening luncheon at this year’s International Space Development Conference (ISDC), being held at the Grand Hyatt Washington (DC) hotel May 25-28, 2012.

Anderson is expected to address conference attendees on his new company’s plans for asteroid mining. “Planetary Resources is perfectly aligned with the second half of the National Space Society’s vision, that of ‘the utilization of space resources for the dramatic betterment of humanity,'” said Paul E. Damphousse, NSS’s Executive Director, “We look forward to hearing more specifics on the company’s strategies for harvesting planetary materials for use here on Earth.”

Planetary Resources has been making waves in the space community since the April 24 press conference announcing the company’s formation by Anderson, Co-Founder and Chairman of Space Adventures; and Peter Diamandis, Founder and Chairman of the X Prize Foundation, Co-Founder and Director of Space Adventures, and CEO and Co-Founder of Zero Gravity Corporation.

Investors in Planetary Resources include Google founders Eric Schmidt and Larry Page, film director James Cameron, former Microsoft chief software architect Charles Simonyi, and Ross Perot, Jr.

About ISDC: The International Space Development Conference is the annual conference of the National Space Society. ISDC 2012 will take place at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, DC from May 24 through 28, 2012. ISDC brings together a diverse group of NASA officials, aerospace industry leaders and interested private citizens to engage in discussions about today’s prevalent space issues in order to stimulate innovation and overcome the obstacles that hinder human advancement off the Earth. Sponsorship opportunities are still available.  Please visit our web site isdc.nss.org/2012 for more information or register.

Asteroid mining plans revealed by Planetary Resources, Inc.

Expanding the resource base of humanity to include the solar system

Seattle, Wash. – April 24, 2012 — Planetary Resources, Inc. announced today its plan to mine Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) for raw materials, ranging from water to precious metals. Through the development of cost-effective exploration technologies, the company is poised to initiate prospecting missions targeting resource-rich asteroids that are easily accessible.

Resource extraction from asteroids will deliver multiple benefits to humanity and grow to be valued at tens of billions of dollars annually. The effort will tap into the high concentration of precious metals found on asteroids and provide a sustainable supply to the ever-growing population on Earth.

A single 500-meter platinum-rich asteroid contains the equivalent of all the Platinum Group Metals mined in history. “Many of the scarce metals and minerals on Earth are in near-infinite quantities in space. As access to these materials increases, not only will the cost of everything from microelectronics to energy storage be reduced, but new applications for these abundant elements will result in important and novel applications,” said Peter H. Diamandis, M.D., Co-Founder and Co-Chairman, Planetary Resources, Inc.

Additionally, water-rich NEAs will serve as “stepping stones” for deep space exploration, providing space-sourced fuel and water to orbiting depots. Accessing water resources in space will revolutionize exploration and make space travel dramatically more economical.

“Water is perhaps the most valuable resource in space. Accessing a water-rich asteroid will greatly enable the large-scale exploration of the solar system. In addition to supporting life, water will also be separated into oxygen and hydrogen for breathable air and rocket propellant,” said Eric Anderson, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman, Planetary Resources, Inc.

Of the approximately 9,000 known NEAs, there are more than 1,500 that are energetically as easy to reach as the Moon. The capability to characterize NEAs is on the critical path for Planetary Resources. To that end, the company has developed the first line in its family of deep-space prospecting spacecraft, the Arkyd-100 Series. The spacecraft will be used in low-Earth orbit and ultimately help prioritize the first several NEA targets for the company’s follow-on Arkyd-300 Series NEA swarm expeditions. Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Engineer, said “Our mission is not only to expand the world’s resource base, but we want to increase people’s access to, and understanding of, our planet and solar system by developing capable and cost-efficient systems.”

“The promise of Planetary Resources is to apply commercial innovation to space exploration. They are developing cost-effective, production-line spacecraft that will visit near-Earth asteroids in rapid succession, increasing our scientific knowledge of these bodies and enabling the economic development of the resources they contain,” said Tom Jones, Ph.D., veteran NASA astronaut, planetary scientist and Planetary Resources, Inc. advisor.

Planetary Resources, Inc. is financed by industry-launching visionaries, including Google CEO Larry Page and Ross Perot, Jr., Chairman of Hillwood and The Perot Group, who are committed to expanding the world’s resource base so that humanity can continue to grow and prosper:

  • Eric E. Schmidt, Ph.D., Executive Chairman of Google, Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Planetary Resources, Inc. investor: “The pursuit of resources drove the discovery of America and opened the West. The same drivers still hold true for opening the space frontier. Expanding the resource base for humanity is important for our future.”
  • K. Ram Shriram, Founder of Sherpalo, Google Board of Directors founding member and Planetary Resources, Inc. investor: “I see the same potential in Planetary Resources as I did in the early days of Google.”
  • Charles Simonyi, Ph.D., Chairman of Intentional Software Corporation and Planetary Resources, Inc. investor: “The commercialization of space began with communications satellites and is developing for human spaceflight. The next logical step is to begin the innovative development of resources from space. I’m proud to be part of this effort.”

Some of the company’s advisors include film maker and explorer James Cameron; General T. Michael Moseley (Ret.); Sara Seager, Ph.D.; Mark Sykes, Ph.D.; and David Vaskevitch.

Founded in 2009 by Eric Anderson and Peter H. Diamandis, M.D., Planetary Resources, Inc. is establishing a new paradigm for resource utilization that will bring the solar system within humanity’s economic sphere of influence by enabling low-cost robotic exploration and eventual commercial development of asteroids. For more information, please visit www.PlanetaryResources.com.

See full press conference:
     Part 1
     Part 2
     Part 3
     Part 4
     Part 5

NASA Administrator Bolden, Deputy Administrator Garver Announced as Keynote Speakers at ISDC 2012

The National Space Society is pleased to announce NASA Administrator Charles Bolden as the Keynote speaker for the Opening Plenary Session at this year’s International Space Development Conference (ISDC), being held at the Grand Hyatt Washington (DC) Hotel May 25th. In addition, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver is confirmed as the Keynote speaker for NSS’s Annual Awards Dinner on Sunday evening, May 27th.

Retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Charles Frank Bolden, Jr., began his duties as the twelfth Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on July 17, 2009. Gen. Bolden’s 34-year career with the Marine Corps included 14 years as a member of NASA’s Astronaut Office. He traveled to orbit four times aboard the space shuttle between 1986 and 1994, commanding two of the missions. His flights included deployment of the Hubble SpaceTelescope and the first joint U.S.-Russian shuttle mission, which featured a cosmonaut as a member of his crew.

As Deputy Administrator, Ms. Garver is NASA’s second in command and this is the second time she has worked for the agency. During her first period of service (1996 to 2001), she served as a special assistant to the NASA Administrator and senior policy analyst for the Office of Policy and Plans, where she was later named Associate Administrator. Reporting to the NASA Administrator in the latter position, she oversaw the analysis, development and integration of policies and long-range plans, the NASA Strategic Management System, and the NASA Advisory Council.

Ms. Garver, who also worked for NSS from 1984 through 1996 and served as the Society’s Executive Director for a number of years, will also participate in a panel exploring NSS’s heritage during a plenary session the same morning, as part of the Society’s celebration of its 25th Anniversary year.

About ISDC: The International Space Development Conference is the annual conference of the National Space Society. ISDC 2012 will take place at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, DC from May 24 through 28, 2012. ISDC brings together a diverse group of NASA officials, aerospace industry leaders and interested private citizens to engage in discussions about today’s prevalent space issues in order to stimulate innovation and overcome the obstacles that hinder human advancement off the Earth.

Greason Announced as Keynote Speaker for Saturday Dinner at ISDC 2012

The International Space Development Conference (ISDC) 2012 Planning Committee is pleased to announce Jeff Greason, President and Co-Founder of XCOR Aerospace, as the Keynote Speaker at the Saturday Dinner on May 26th. The dinner will be held in the Independence Ballroom of the Grand Hyatt Washington Hotel at 7:00 pm.

“Jeff’s well-received and thought-provoking speech at ISDC 2011 – A Settlement Strategy for NASA – has become widely regarded as a major statement in the field of space policy and we very much look forward to hearing what Jeff has to tell us this year,” said Paul E. Damphousse, NSS Executive Director. To see a video or transcript of Greason’s 2011 speech, click here:


Jeff Greason has nearly 20 years of experience managing innovative technical project teams at XCOR Aerospace, Rotary Rocket Company (RRC), and Intel Corporation. As the President and Co-Founder of XCOR, he leads an engineering team that has developed 22 different, long-life, reusable, liquid-fueled rocket engines using a variety of nontoxic propellants. Under Jeff’s leadership the company has also developed low cost liquid propellant piston pumps and two generations of piloted reusable rocket aircraft. He is also the co-inventor of XCOR’s Nonburnite technology, which combines aerospace fabrication practices with materials common in the semiconductor industry.

A recognized expert in FAA/AST reusable launch vehicle (RLV) regulations, Jeff also supervised XCOR’s reusable launch vehicle licensing efforts through completion in early 2003. He also provided support to the Mojave Airport on its successful application as the first inland spaceport and commercial launch site for reusable launch vehicles. Jeff has testified on Capitol Hill numerous times, has been a member of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) RLV working group since 2000 and now serves on the full COMSTAC. In 2009 he was named to the President’s Human Space Flight Review Committee (Augustine Committee).

For more information about ISDC 2012 or to register for the Conference, please visit isdc.nss.org/2012.

Tucson NSS Chapter Celebrates Earth Day

NSS Chapter News

The Tucson L5 Space Society provided an exhibit titled “Asteroids: Threat or Resource?” at the annual Earth Day celebration at the Northwest Campus of Pima Community College (PCC) in Tucson, Arizona. Earth Day is April 22 but this event was held during the school week on April 18, with 68 exhibitors and several hundred college students and faculty attending.  Photo shows Chapter president Al Anzaldua (left) with Dr. Denise Meeks, Science Department Chair of PCC and organizer of the event, and a large photo collage of asteroids and comets. Seated at the table is Richard Gray. Lots of questions and energy left Al’s voice hoarse.

Mirrors in Space for Low-Cost Terrestrial Solar Electric Power at Night

The latest addition to the NSS Space Solar Power Library is a paper by Lewis M. Fraas of JX Crystals Inc, Issaquah, WA, on “Mirrors in Space for Low-Cost Terrestrial Solar Electric Power at Night.” An abstract is below; the link goes to a PDF of the full paper.

Abstract: A constellation of 18 mirror satellites is proposed in a polar sun synchronous dawn to dusk orbit at an altitude of approximately 1000 km above the earth. Each mirror satellite contains a multitude of 2 axis tracking mirror segments that collectively direct a sun beam down at a target solar electric field site delivering a solar intensity to that terrestrial site equivalent to the normal daylight sun intensity extending the sunlight hours at that site at dawn and at dusk each day. Each mirror satellite in the constellation has a diameter of approximately 10 km and each terrestrial solar electric field site has a similar diameter and can produce approximately 5 GW per terrestrial site. Assuming that in 10 years, there will be approximately 40 terrestrial solar electric field sites evenly distributed in sunny locations near cities around the world, this system can produce more affordable solar electric power during the day and further into the morning and evening hours. The typical operating hours or power plant capacity factor for a terrestrial solar electric power site can thus be extended by about 30%. Assuming a launch cost of $400/kg as was assumed in a recent NASA Space Power Satellite study for future launch costs, the mirror constellation pay back time will be less than 1 year.

New Extraterrestrial Mining Company?


Join visionary Peter H. Diamandis, M.D.; leading commercial space entrepreneur Eric Anderson; former NASA Mars mission manager Chris Lewicki; and planetary scientist & veteran NASA astronaut Tom Jones, Ph.D. on Tuesday, April 24 at 10:30 a.m. PDT in Seattle, or via webcast, as they unveil a new space venture with a mission to help ensure humanity’s prosperity.

Supported by an impressive investor and advisor group, including Google’s Larry Page & Eric Schmidt, Ph.D.; film maker & explorer James Cameron; Chairman of Intentional Software Corporation and Microsoft’s former Chief Software Architect Charles Simonyi, Ph.D.; Founder of Sherpalo and Google Board of Directors founding member K. Ram Shriram; and Chairman of Hillwood and The Perot Group Ross Perot, Jr., the company will overlay two critical sectors – space exploration and natural resources – to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP. This innovative start-up will create a new industry and a new definition of ‘natural resources’.

The news conference will be held at the Museum of Flight in Seattle on Tuesday, April 24 at 10:30 a.m. PDT and available online via webcast.

Amateur Astronomers Will Help ‘Target Asteroids!’

A new NASA outreach project will enlist the help of amateur astronomers to discover near-Earth objects (NEOs) and study their characteristics. NEOs are asteroids with orbits that occasionally bring them close to the Earth.

The amateur astronomers are about to make observations that will affect current and future space missions to asteroids. Some will use custom-made, often automated, telescopes equipped with CCD cameras in their backyards. Others will use home computers to make remote observations with more powerful telescopes states or continents away. Many belong to leading national and international amateur astronomy organizations with members ranging from retirees to school kids.

Researchers on NASA’s robotic asteroid sample return mission, OSIRIS-REx, are turning to amateur astronomers for new data on near-Earth asteroids in a citizen science observing campaign called “Target Asteroids!” The campaign starts in April 2012 and will last at least to the end of this decade.

The full name of the OSIRIS-REx mission is Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security – Regolith Explorer. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is to launch in 2016, reach a well-characterized primitive asteroid called (101955) 1999 RQ36 in 2019, examine that body up close during a 505-day rendezvous, then return at least 60 grams of it to Earth in 2023.

“Asteroids are a rich and accessible historic archive of the origin of our Solar System and life, a valuable source of mineral resources, and potentially hazardous Earth impactors that civilization must learn to deal with,” said OSIRIS-REx Principal Investigator Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona. “Our mission will address all these issues.”

1999 RQ36 — a 500-meter-diameter, dark carbonaceous asteroid — is difficult for even powerful Earth-based telescopes to observe at this time because it is relatively distant from Earth.

“Amateur astronomers are asked to observe asteroids selected because they are in near-Earth orbits that can be reached by current-generation spacecraft and are at least 200 meters in diameter,” said Target Asteroids! scientist Carl Hergenrother, head of the OSIRIS-REx astronomy working group.

“Precise orbits, sizes, rotation rates, physical composition and other important characteristics for these asteroids are largely unknown, ” Hergenrother said.

“We want amateur astronomers to do astrometry (which precisely measures positions of objects), photometry (which measures brightness) and spectroscopy (which measures the colors, or wavelengths, of light) to discover as much as we can about these objects,” he said.

“These will be challenging objects to observe because they are very faint,” said Target Asteroids! coordinator Dolores Hill of the OSIRIS-REx education and public outreach program. “Amateur astronomers may have to make what are called ‘track and stack’ observations,” a technique that acquires and adds multiple short images.

“One of the major goals of having amateur astronomers on board is they can observe these objects every night, unlike professional astronomers who may get to telescopes once every few nights, or more typically once a month or every three months,” Hergenrother said.

People don’t need to own their own telescopes or live under clear skies to work on Target Asteroids!, Hergenrother and Hill emphasized.

For not much money, observers can now go online and sign up to use a growing network of quality robotic telescopes sited at some of the choicest astronomical spots in the country, they added.

Scientists will compare data from amateur and professional astronomers’ ground-based observations with data from OSIRIS-REx spacecraft instruments to learn more about Earth-crossing asteroids and identify likely candidates for future asteroid missions, they said.

For more information see the Target Asteroids! web page.