ISDC 2009 update: George Nield of FAA AST opens up Commercial Space Day

Hey space fans, Ian Murphy reporting again from ISDC 2009 through the NSS blog.


First off, sorry for not getting this out sooner.  I was shooting for 2:30 but I forgot there was a meeting of the NSS public affairs committee at 2pm and once I get talking the hours just seep away.


George Schellenger of and SpaceTaskForce got everyone pumped up with his energetic opening video featuring a visual barrage of the various commercial space efforts.  If you want to check it out you can download the press kit off the NSS website by visiting


Brett Alexander, President, Personal Spaceflight Federation ( was the moderator for the morning sessions.


George Nield, Associate Administrator for the FAA office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) was the first speaker.  His speech was laden with a big picture positive and philosophical outlook on the state of the industry in light of all the recent controversy and absence of a clear direction that has been the norm in the headlines recently.


Confident in the industry’s progression to date, Nield started off saying that with respect to the achievements of NASA “commercial space achievements will the way and wave of the future.”


He reminded us that 50 years ago today the United States launched two passengers on the Jupiter missile. 1) a rhesus monkey named Able and the other a squirrel monkey named Baker.  He also reminded us of another historical event, the commemoration of the Golden Gate Bridge, which was celebrated by a flyover of 500 planes and the launching of 100 sky rockets.  Nield made a point to note “we used to celebrate the opening of bridges with rocket launches and now rockets have become the bridges themselves.”


His entire speech seemed to be aimed at combating the “sullen weight that has settled on the American Space Program.” He reference the “unusually pessimistic tone” symbolic of conversations centered around the retirement of the Shuttle, the supposed plateau of progress in the commercial space arena, the frustration over ITAR ( and the relative success of international aerospace ventures.  He wondered aloud “Have we lost our edge?”


He encouraged us all to point out to the unconvinced (by that he means everyone referenced in the above paragraph) to “not confuse the occasional bad day for the end of days,” for these people suffer from what he referenced as the Eeyor Effect (  We must maintain, “humans are possessed with an infinite plasticity” to accomplish the difficult and almost anything, especially private spaceflight, is a humanitarian imperative.


He joked that the arbitrary deadlines placed upon the industry by the general public and media must have been created on “National Wishful Thinking Day” pointing out that Sir Richard Branson, when asked about how many tests it will take to get to his first passenger flight, responded, “We will do more tests that NASA has flown missions.”


The moral of the FAA AST leader’s speech “The pace is being set by safety.


The way I see it I can’t wait to go to space but I’m not in a hurry if I am not absolutely positive that I’m coming back to earth.


Got this from Will after his speech (IM)…

28th May 2009: 

Virgin Galactic today announces the successful completion of the first phase of tests of the rocket motor that will propel space tourists, scientists and payloads into space. 

In the desert of southern California, Virgin Galactic’s key supplier Scaled Composites and its subcontractor SNC (Sierra Nevada Corporation) have successfully completed the first tests of the innovative rocket motor that will propel space tourists, scientists and payloads into space. The hybrid Nitrous Oxide system being used is the largest of its kind in the world and it will send Virgin’s customers up into sub-orbital space at speeds over 2500 mph (4000kmh), to heights over 65 miles (110km) above the Earths surface, before the spaceship descends back down through the atmosphere using its pioneering feathered re-entry system. 

Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic said: “As Virgin Galactic gets ever closer to the start of commercial operations, we are reaching and passing many important and historic milestones. The Virgin MotherShip (VMS) Eve, the first of our amazing, all carbon composite, high altitude WhiteKnightTwo launch vehicles, is flying superbly. SpaceShipTwo, which will air launch from Eve, is largely constructed and awaiting the start of its own test flight programme later this year.” 

The rocket motor burns for a very short period of time because the spaceship is launched from VMS Eve in the upper atmosphere, rather than from ground level. This means much less fuel is required, and the fuel burn is more environmentally benign than the solid rockets used in most ground based systems. 

While the rocket motor is extremely powerful, it is also completely controllable. This system can – if necessary – be shut down at any time, allowing the spaceship to glide back down to land at a conventional runway. This is a significant feature in the overall safety of the Virgin system for human space flight.

Sir Richard continues: “Less fuel and clean fuel all add up to a space launch system which will be completely unprecedented in its low environmental impact compared with current space flight. The spaceships carbon footprint for each of its passengers and crew will be about a quarter of that for a return trip from London to New York, demonstrating again the extraordinary benefits that new technology can bring to the quest for clean transportation.” 

“We believe space is on the cusp of a new industrial revolution. Virgin Galactics mission has always been to transform the safety, cost and environmental impact of access to space. Not just for passengers, but also for a range of important scientific purposes, and to send small satellites into orbit. The worlds scientific community is united in recognising that making better use of space will be vital to mankinds ability to manage the huge future challenges of life back here on Earth.” 

The rocket motor will continue a series of exhaustive tests, and the spaceship itself will start flight testing later this year. The testing programme for the rocket, the spaceship and VMS Eve will be extensive.

To view broadcast quality footage of the tests, along with the full interview with Sir Richard Branson please visit 

To view on YouTube click here 

For any other enquiries, please contact Bite PR on or phone the

switchboard on +44 (0)20 8741 1123.

ISDC 2009 update: ISDC 2009 Registration & Afternoon Sessions of SIS6

Ian Murphy reporting from the ISDC registration room…

Registration is in full swing, the bags look great (still can’t add photos sorry) the volunteers shirt look great but either their too big or humans have begin shrinking at an unusual pace.  Registration is open until 8pm if your coming in tonight and from 7am to 7pm if your coming in tomorrow. 

A glance at tomorrow’s agenda – 

9am – Dr. George Nield – FAA AST Associate Admin

10am – Jeff Greason, XCOR President (just saw him a few minutes ago and seems to be in very good spirits despite a red eye flight)

11am – Will Whitehorn, Virgin Galactic President

12pm (lunch) – Elon Musk, SpaceX Founder

2pm – COTS Panel – Alan Lindenmoyer, NASA + Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX + Robert T. Richards, Orbital

3pm  – GLXP Panel – Will “Master P” Pomerantz + Bob Richards, Odyssey Moon (amongst countless other cool things) + others

5pm – Commercial Space Panel – Ken Davidian, FAA AST + others

4pm (in Augusta room) – Tim Pickens “So you want to start a space company” (no way I am missing this one.

This is just a small taste of all the great stuff at ISDC.  After the tracks during the day are over we are really hoping for good weather because after Richard Garriott (sixth private citizen to travel to the ISS, creator of the Ultima series and the greatest party thrower on the planet – – ) speaks tomorrow night at 7pm ISDC will have a new first.  FIREWORKS.  Yep, the schedule says Fireworks Show and I put Brett Silcox in a headlock until he swore it wasn’t an elaborate prank (the schedule also says “desert reception” and being that we are in Florida, where I am pretty sure there are no deserts, you can see why I was skeptical). 

Note – just got an email that says photos may not be possible.  I will find another place to post them and get a link out. 

Update from Jason Rhian in the afternoon SIS 6 sessions…

The afternoon panel was moderated by Daniel Gruenbaum of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and consisted of Jane Reifert the president of Incredible Adventures, Bernie McShea vice-president of business development for Space Florida, John Cassanto CEO of Instrumentation Technology Association and Robert Ward, president of Strategic Insights & Creative Imagination.  While the topic governed how the hospitality industry and space tourism industry should and will work hand in hand, the discussion topics also drifted to how better market the space story.

“Those inspirational moments are the things required to create aspirational goals,” Ward said.  “We need to tell the story in a less technical and more emotional way.”

Another interesting quote from Jane Reifert of Incredible Adventures: ” The easier it is to do, the easier it is to sell.” 

The last panel of the day was comprised of the following: Emerging Business Technology Practice Group Chair, Brent Britton, Vice-President of 4Frontiers Corporation and NewSpace LLC Joseph Palaia, Global Entrepreneur, Per Wimmer and SGS Deputy Chief of Operations and Northrop Grumman Chairman Roy Tharpe.  The panelists decided that the mold for how panels would be held – needed to be broken.  Britton’s introductions were laden with pop-culture references, Palaia openly disagreed with comments made by earlier panelists and Wimmer jumped off the stage to give his presentation.

“Show me a kid that doesn’t get excited about a robot,” Palaia said.  “Especially when I put the controls of that robot in their hands!”

Thanks to Jason for his work today

I got a chance to sit in on this panel too and wanted to chime in on something I overheard…

John Cassanto, CEO of Instrumentation Technology Associates had a great presentation on Secondary markets associated with space tourism.  A couple of great points that I will paraphrase

1) commercial research racks and scientific experiments are not new – there is a solid foundation of previous success

2) There is a high value secondary market for space tourism companies, especially in area like biomedical research and experiments

3) Passengers will WANT to carry their own experiments and fly other’s experiment’s if not for the good of science than maybe to supplement the cost of their own flight.  These “experimentourists” should be encouraged. (the word “experimentourist” is trademarked and cannot be used with out the express written permission of Ricky Bobby Inc…or Ian Murphy).

4) Every passenger compartment can have areas for micro gravity and zero gravity racks for experiments and payloads.

That’s all for now.  I get to go pick up Will Whitehorn from the airport at 5pm.  Wish me luck on convincing him to either rig the Space Ambassador Program so I win or just giving me a free ride in exchange for giving him a lift 😉

ISDC 2009 Update: Morning Sessions Update From Space Investment Summit 6

Hey all you space fans.  Official ISDC troublemaker Ian Murphy here .  Tim Bailey gave me the keys to the ISDC blog so I am going to do my best to feed your insatiable appetite for all things ISDC throughout the weekend.  I am going to post as much info as I can get from as many sources as I can get give it to me and from time to time will bug you with my own opinions.  NOTE: there is something wrong with the photo upload function so look for pics to come later tonight.

1st up is an update from Jason Rhian on the morning sessions of Space Investment Summit 6…

SIS 6 Opening Remarks

ORLANDO, Fl – Space Investment Summit 6 laid out new and innovative ways to interweave pre-existing hospitality venues with the emerging private space industry. The summit began with opening remarks from Paul Eckert, Ph.D. of Boeing and the National Space Society’s Associate Director Brett Silcox, welcoming guests and informing them of the multitude of opportunities that are already out there and new ones that are arising.  This year’s summit was held at the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate on Wednesday May 27.

Interim President of Space Florida, Frank Dibello’s remarks focused on both maintaining already established aerospace ties and seeking new ones.

Co-Founder of Earth2Orbit LLC Amaresh Kolipara, founder of MC Squared Michael Leventhal and Barry Bloom of Universal Creative constituted the summit’s first panel that discussed how space is an enabler for pre-existing businesses and went on to further expound upon common themes of how separate space market segments are actually intermeshed.  

President of Desert Sky Holdings Robert Jacobson, Senior Show Producer of Walt Disney Imagineering Luc Mayrand, Steven Blum of Universal Creative and William Moore Chief Operating Officer of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Delaware North Parks and Resorts constituted the members of the second panel of the day.  The topic that they discussed was theme parks entitled “Really Being There: Space-Themed Physical Attractions.”  Topics ranged from the development of Disney’s “Mission Space” ride to the ins and outs of operating the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

“It is the place where average men and women get to walk in the footsteps of astronauts,” Moore said.  “People really need to understand what is possible in space.”

After a brief opportunity for attendees to meet and network the next panel addressed the multi-media aspects of the various virtual-reality endeavors in the space market.  Dave Hosley of D & B Professional Development, Marc Watson, president of Imagine Creative Technology LLC, Chester Kennedy Vice-President of Engineering and Simulation for Lockheed Martin and Tami Griffith of the U.S. Army’s Research and Development Engineering Command were the members tackling the topics on this panel.  With topics ranging from medical uses, entertainment and military applications the virtual aspects the panel discussed were both diverse and profound.

The feature presentation and luncheon’s guest speaker is USN Captain (Ret) former NASA astronaut and Vice President of Strategic Development for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Jon A. McBride.

Next update on the afternoon sessions coming from Jason Rhian after lunch…

also once the photo function is fixed, I will post a ton of photos…


Affiliate Organizations needed for ISDC 2009!

The 2009 ISDC Affiliate Organization application information is now online at

We are looking for a variety of groups that share our excitement for space exploration!  Groups can be local to the Orlando area in FL or a national organization with members that might be interested in coming to ISDC.   

Bringing in Affiliate Organizations are a great way to expand our grassroots advocacy to whole new groups of people!  Please look at your local community and groups where you are a member and see if it is a fit for your organization. There is no cost to become an Affiliate Organization, just a committment to tell your members about ISDC!