ISDC Silent Auction to Benefit Alabama Tornado Relief Efforts

The theme of the International Space Development Conference (ISDC), taking place this week in Huntsville, Alabama, is exploring how we grow a spacefaring civilization “From the Ground Up!” This years silent auction, an annual ISDC tradition, will raise money not just for the National Space Society, but also for tornado relief efforts in Alabama.  Fifty percent of auction proceeds will be donated to the Red Cross in Madison County, where Huntsville is located.

Perhaps the most intriguing of the space-related items to appear in the silent auction is a zero-gravity flight that will be provided by Aurora Aerospace of Oldsmar, Florida.  The company will have the Rockwell Commander 700 aircraft in Huntsville on Sunday, May 22, and the winner of this auction item can either schedule their flight for that day, or they can make arrangements with Aurora Aerospace to take the flight in Florida at a later date.

Bart Leahy, ISDC 2011 Conference Chair, believes the auction captures the true spirit of the event: “Space advocacy has always been a challenging mix of idealism and practicality. We want to see human beings living in thriving communities beyond Earth, but we realize there are difficult things to do here on Earth to make it happen. Likewise, while we realize we are here to promote space activities, we can’t ignore the devastation many families have faced from last month’s tornadoes. I look at this as a way we can be good citizens of our solar system and our community.”

The auction will be conducted in the Von Braun Center as part of ISDC’s exhibit hall Thursday May 19 and Friday May 20. General Admission to the exhibit hall will be $5 per person at the door.  Individuals can find an online registration form for the conference at The winning bids will be announced at 4 p.m. on Friday in the exhibit hall, and payment will be accepted at that time.

The auction and exhibit area are only one part of a very diverse and extensive conference. Participants include space professionals and advocates from around the world who will explore all aspects of human space endeavors, including the International Space Station, heavy-lift launch vehicles, commercial space activities, space-based solar power, technology development, and politics, education, and outreach.

Statement on Launch Costs from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk

The following is quoted in full from the SpaceX website, dated May 4, 2011.  Note that SpaceX is participating in the NSS International Space Development Conference (ISDC 2011) later this month.


Whenever someone proposes to do something that has never been done before, there will always be skeptics.

So when I started SpaceX, it was not surprising when people said we wouldn’t succeed. But now that we’ve successfully proven Falcon 1, Falcon 9 and Dragon, there’s been a steady stream of misinformation and doubt expressed about SpaceX’s actual launch costs and prices.

As noted last month by a Chinese government official, SpaceX currently has the best launch prices in the world and they don’t believe they can beat them. This is a clear case of American innovation trumping lower overseas labor rates.

I recognize that our prices shatter the historical cost models of government-led developments, but these prices are not arbitrary, premised on capturing a dominant share of the market, or “teaser” rates meant to lure in an eager market only to be increased later. These prices are based on known costs and a demonstrated track record, and they exemplify the potential of America’s commercial space industry.

Here are the facts:

The price of a standard flight on a Falcon 9 rocket is $54 million. We are the only launch company that publicly posts this information on our website ( We have signed many legally binding contracts with both government and commercial customers for this price (or less). Because SpaceX is so vertically integrated, we know and can control the overwhelming majority of our costs. This is why I am so confident that our performance will increase and our prices will decline over time, as is the case with every other technology.

The average price of a full-up NASA Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station is $133 million including inflation, or roughly $115m in today’s dollars, and we have a firm, fixed price contract with NASA for 12 missions. This price includes the costs of the Falcon 9 launch, the Dragon spacecraft, all operations, maintenance and overhead, and all of the work required to integrate with the Space Station. If there are cost overruns, SpaceX will cover the difference. (This concept may be foreign to some traditional government space contractors that seem to believe that cost overruns should be the responsibility of the taxpayer.)

The total company expenditures since being founded in 2002 through the 2010 fiscal year were less than $800 million, which includes all the development costs for the Falcon 1, Falcon 9 and Dragon. Included in this $800 million are the costs of building launch sites at Vandenberg, Cape Canaveral and Kwajalein, as well as the corporate manufacturing facility that can support up to 12 Falcon 9 and Dragon missions per year. This total also includes the cost of five flights of Falcon 1, two flights of Falcon 9, and one up and back flight of Dragon.

The Falcon 9 launch vehicle was developed from a blank sheet to first launch in four and half years for just over $300 million. The Falcon 9 is an EELV class vehicle that generates roughly one million pounds of thrust (four times the maximum thrust of a Boeing 747) and carries more payload to orbit than a Delta IV Medium.

The Dragon spacecraft was developed from a blank sheet to the first demonstration flight in just over four years for about $300 million. Last year, SpaceX became the first private company, in partnership with NASA, to successfully orbit and recover a spacecraft. The spacecraft and the Falcon 9 rocket that carried it were designed, manufactured and launched by American workers for an American company. The Falcon 9/Dragon system, with the addition of a launch escape system, seats and upgraded life support, can carry seven astronauts to orbit, more than double the capacity of the Russian Soyuz, but at less than a third of the price per seat.

SpaceX has been profitable every year since 2007, despite dramatic employee growth and major infrastructure and operations investments. We have over 40 flights on manifest representing over $3 billion in revenues.

These are the objective facts, confirmed by external auditors. Moreover, SpaceX intends to make far more dramatic reductions in price in the long term when full launch vehicle reusability is achieved. We will not be satisfied with our progress until we have achieved this long sought goal of the space industry.

For the first time in more than three decades, America last year began taking back international market-share in commercial satellite launch. This remarkable turn-around was sparked by a small investment NASA made in SpaceX in 2006 as part of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. A unique public-private partnership, COTS has proven that under the right conditions, a properly incentivized contractor — even an all-American one — can develop extremely complex systems on rapid timelines and a fixed-price basis, significantly beating historical industry-standard costs.

China has the fastest growing economy in the world. But the American free enterprise system, which allows anyone with a better mouse-trap to compete, is what will ensure that the United States remains the world’s greatest superpower of innovation.


Robert Bigelow of Bigelow Aerospace to Be Keynote Speaker at NSS International Space Development Conference

Robert Bigelow, Founder and President of Bigelow Aerospace, will be the Honored Keynote Speaker at the 2011 International Space Development Conference (ISDC) Governors’ Dinner and Gala to be held in the Davidson Center at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama on May 20. Mr. Bigelow founded Bigelow Aerospace, which is noted for developing and launching the first inflatable space habitats. At the Gala, Mr. Bigelow will also receive the National Space Society’s Space Pioneer Award for Space Development for his efforts to advance the technology of space habitats and for the significance they may play in the development of space tourism, industry and exploration.

Bigelow Aerospace took over the Transhab space habitat development program after NASA scrapped it, and effectively reinvented it — developing and successfully launching its prototypes, Genesis I and II, in 2006 and 2007. Limitations on payload volume during launch are one of the major constraints of the NewSpace industry, and the Company’s inflatable concept solves that problem for most in-space habitat applications. The lower launch volume and mass per volume of the inflatables, combined with now imminent launch cost reductions, should soon allow delivery of paying passengers to safe and functional orbiting destinations, such as the Bigelow station planned for operation by 2015.

The intended expansion of the space station market to private and international customers by Bigelow Aerospace has already had a transformative effect on how the future of space development is likely to unfold. In addition, inflatable modules will also serve their originally-intended purpose, as crew habitats for human operations beyond Low Earth Orbit.

ISDC Conference Chairman and Vice President of HAL5 Bart Leahy said, “Mr. Bigelow’s selection as Keynote Speaker for the Gala ties in perfectly with this year’s ISDC theme, ‘From the Ground Up.’ Efficient, low-cost space habitation is crucial to almost all future human space travel and Bigelow Aerospace is currently the industry leader for that technology.”

Prior to founding Bigelow Aerospace, Robert T. Bigelow was well-known for being a general contractor and developer in the Southwestern U.S. and for owning the Best Suites of America hotel chain. He has made a significant personal investment in the founding and on-going funding of the Company and is dedicated to “revolutionizing space commerce via the development of affordable, reliable, and robust expandable space habitats.”

The International Space Development Conference is the annual conference of the National Space Society. ISDC 2011, hosted by the Huntsville, Alabama L5 Society (HAL5), will take place at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Alabama, May 18-23, 2011. HAL5, a local chapter of the National Space Society (NSS), has made significant contributions toward developing cheap access to space technology, space education, and public outreach since it was formed in 1983. NSS and HAL5 believe that by educating and working with the public, the government, and private industry, we can speed up the date when routine, safe, and affordable space travel is available to anyone who wants to go.

National Space Society Announces Space Pioneer Award for Business Entrepreneur to be Awarded to SpaceX

In recognition of SpaceX’s groundbreaking year in 2010, with the successful launch of two Falcon 9 rockets, and the safe return of its Dragon capsule, the National Space Society (NSS) is today announcing that Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will be the recipient of the NSS’s 2011 Pioneer Award for Business Entrepreneur. This award will be presented at the NSS’s annual International Space Development Conference (ISDC), which will be held from May 18-May 22, 2011 in Huntsville, Alabama. Adam Harris, SpaceX’s Vice President for Government Affairs, will accept the award on behalf of SpaceX.

NSS Executive Director, Gary Barnhard states, “There are certain milestones and breakthroughs that accompany any successful venture, including those in the space industry. SpaceX has clearly demonstrated the engineering skill and tenacity to be a serious contender in the evolving commercial cargo and crew launch vehicle market.”

SpaceX recently announced its proposal to build a new Falcon Heavy lift launch vehicle, with a projected launch date sometime in late 2013 or in 2014. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk stated that SpaceX is working towards cost reduction in manufacturing while making the rockets lighter and stronger with improved engine thrust and reliability. Even larger vehicles, with greater lifting capabilities are envisioned by SpaceX and others to meet the requirements of NASA’s Heavy Lift program. Says Rick Zucker, NSS Executive Vice President, “Expanding our launch capabilities to include heavy lift options, such as the one which has now been proposed by SpaceX, could make a significant contribution to space exploration beyond Low Earth Orbit.”

Mark Hopkins, Chair of the NSS Executive Committee, notes that, “The high cost of launch has always hampered the exploration and development of space. With its Falcon Heavy vehicle, SpaceX seeks to achieve a major reduction in launch costs. Such a reduction could enable entirely new categories of space industry, such as commercial space stations and privately funded activities on the Moon in cooperation with a government funded lunar program.”

Information about the Falcon Heavy is at
Information on the ISDC is at:

Keeping Tabs on the International Space Development Conference May 18-22

The NSS International Space Development Conference (ISDC) will be this May 18-22 at the Von Braun Center and Embassy Suites Hotel and Spa in Huntsville, Alabama. You can keep tabs on announcements regarding the ISDC via the following social media outlets:

Twitter (short messages and updates)

Facebook (longer messages and pictures)

LinkedIn (broadcasting to a professional audience) (for merchandise sales)

And, of course, the main ISDC website:

Coming to Huntsville in May: NSS 2011 International Space Development Conference

The 30th International Space Development Conference (ISDC), the annual gathering of the National Space Society (NSS), is coming to the Von Braun Center in Huntsville May 18-22, 2011. NSS and its local chapter, the Huntsville Alabama L5 Society (HAL5), are looking forward to hosting entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists, politicians, and private citizens who are interested in creating a spacefaring civilization “From the Ground Up,” which is the theme of the conference.

ISDC 2011 on The Space Show: ISDC 2011 Chair, Bart Leahy, and Business Track Chair, Cliff McMurray, were on The Space Show with David Livingston on March 22. They talked about ISDC 2011, space advocacy, space policy, and space networking. Click here to listen.

With all the changes and uncertainties in the space business, it would be nice to get some perspective, as well as some idea of what the future might hold. ISDC does just that. ISDC will cover the broad spectrum of space topics, including the current and future states of space policy, the proposed Space Launch System, the future of the International Space Station, military space activities, Earth and planetary sciences, and the Google Lunar X Prize. Other sessions will discuss space-based solar power, biotechnology, breakthrough science and technology, space settlement and colonization, living in space, education, advocacy, and outreach, economy and business, and space history…but that’s not all.

To address these challenging topics, our programming will feature panels and talks by professionals from across the industry, from NASA to commercial space to military space to the halls of Congress to the science community. Among these speakers will be international, national, and local experts, including:

  • Lori Garver, NASA Deputy Administrator
  • David Neyland, Director, Defense Advanced Research Projects Office (DARPA) Tactical Technology Office
  • George Nield, Associate Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation
  • Dennis Stone, Manager, Program Integration, Commercial Crew and Cargo Program, NASA
  • John Logsdon, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University
  • Phil McAlister, Acting Director, Commercial Human Spaceflight, NASA HQ
  • Buzz Aldrin, Former Apollo 11 Astronaut, Author, and Founder, ShareSpace Foundation
  • Michael Griffin, UA Huntsville Eminent Scholar and former NASA Administrator
  • George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic
  • Michael Simpson, President, International Space University
  • Ken Money, President, National Space Society and former Canadian astronaut
  • Klaus Dannenberg, Deputy Executive Director, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Simon ‘Pete’ Worden, Director, NASA Ames Research Center
  • Robert Zubrin, Founder and President, Mars Society
  • Les Johnson, Deputy Manager, Advanced Concepts Office, NASA MSFC, and Author
  • Tim Pickens, Chief Propulsion Engineer and Commercial Space Advisor, Dynetics, and Team lead, Rocket City Space Pioneers
  • Deborah Barnhart, CEO, U.S. Space & Rocket Center

In addition to these luminaries, NSS will be presenting the Wernher Von Braun Award ( to Japanese Hayabusa team for their work in developing a spacecraft to bring samples of asteroid material back to Earth. The award is given every other year and recognizes excellence in management of, and leadership for, a space-related project. Previous winners of the award include Burt Rutan, Steven W. Squyres, Donna Shirley, Robert C. Seamans, Jr., George Mueller, Max Hunter, and Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger. This year, we are privileged to have Curt Von Braun, an executive at Raytheon and nephew of Wernher von Braun, presenting the award on behalf of NSS.

This year’s ambitious agenda also will feature a trade show for civil, military, academic, and non-profit groups interested in space activities; a job fair hosted by Huntsville Space Professionals and Next Step in Space; and a book fair showcasing the latest in space-themed authors. All of these activities will be hosted in the VBC East Hall, while technical programming will occupy most of the North Hall.

Prior to ISDC proper, which begins on May 19, on May 18 the National Space Society will host the Space Investment Summit, an invitation-only event that educates space-minded entrepreneurs on the ins and outs of securing investors and doing business. Huntsville entrepreneur, “rocket man,” and Google Lunar X Prize team leader Tim Pickens will be the keynote speaker for this event.

Other opportunities for registered conference attendees include tours of Marshall Space Flight Center, the United Launch Alliance plant in Decatur, and the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, and discounts at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and Space Camp.

For more information on exhibiting or sponsoring, attending, or volunteering for ISDC 2011, visit the web site is Come learn how to make a spacefaring civilization grow “from the ground up!”

Japan and Support of the International Space Station

Previously, we looked at the Europeans Space Agency (ESA) and their ATV program, which is preparing to send their resupply spacecraft, Johannes Kepler, to the International Space Station on 15 February.

Now, we look at the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the recently completed launch and capture of the Kounotori spacecraft.

HTV-2 "Kounotori"
Image Credit: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

The external exposed cargo includes a Flex Hose Rotary Coupler and Cargo Transport Container. These spare parts will be transferred to External Logistics Carrier 4 after it is installed during the Discovery STS-133 mission.

The pressurized cargo space is carrying 2,928 kilograms of supplies and equipment:

  • 630 kilograms of crew provisions
  • 1,626 kilograms of research equipment and supplies
  • 609 kilograms) of station hardware
  • 49 kilograms of computers and supplies
  • 14 kilograms of spacewalking equipment and supplies

Among the new research equipment will be the Japanese Kobairo gradient heating furnace for generating high-quality crystals from melting materials, an Amine Swingbed technology demonstration that will look at ways to revitalize the air on space vehicles, and the International Space Station Agricultural Camera, which will take frequent images, in visible and infrared light, of vegetated areas on the Earth.

Canadarm2 Captures HTV2
Image Credit: NASA

Hatch Open
Removing cargo through the hatch on HTV2
Image Credit: JAXA

Mike Snead's Presentation on Future Energy Needs and Availability

Here is Mike Snead’s Presentation from the Space Solar Power Track at the ISDC.  It is a great analysis of future energy needs and availability.

Energy, SSP, and Jumpstarting America’s Spacefaring Future (52 charts; 13 Meg; PowerPoint 2003 format) This is the presentation given at the National Space Society International Space Development Conference 2009 in Orlando, FL. Speaker notes are included. (Copyright (c) 2009 Spacefaring Institute LLC. See title page notes for permitted uses.)

For more information about Mike Snead’s ideas see Spacefaring Institute LLC.

A Commentary on the Future of the American Space Program: I Get Who, What, Where & When but Why?

A commentary on the future of the american space program

by Ian Murphy

I wasn’t around for Mercury or Gemini.  I wasn’t around to see the end of the Apollo.  I wasn’t around to see the first Shuttle flight.  I’ve never witnessed the “profound” emotional effect the American space program had on the people of this country.

I was born in 1978 and that makes me Generations X or Y, I’m not sure.  I’m still waiting for some egghead sociologist/intellectual to definitively pigeon hole me so a marketing company can properly apply me to a demographic group.  Like so many born in the 70’s or early 80’s, my first recollection space travel was when I was 7 years old and my 2nd grade class was ushered into a crowded elementary school gymnasium and placed in front of the schools only television, which lived a top one of those tall A/V carts so classes could share, to watch the first teacher launch towards space.  We all know what happened: She never got there and space travel became an unnerving childhood memory for what is now the most prolific generation to ever to walk the earth.

It’s been 40 years since the end of the Apollo and 23 years since that tragic event and once again we are all wondering where do we go from here.  The Bush administration mandated the Vision for Space Exploration in 2005, which stated that by 2020 we would go back to the Moon, then on to Mars and beyond.

Imagine you need to describe our progression in human spaceflight to a 2nd grader today:

“Well Junior, first we built a rocket and launched it into space.  Then we put an animal in the rocket and launched it into space.  Then we launched a rocket with a person in it into space and they went around the Earth once before coming home.  Then we put a few people in a rocket, launched them into space and they traveled around the world several times before coming home.  Then we launched a few people into space, they flew to the Moon, went around it a few times and then came home.  Then we launched a few people into space, they flew to the Moon, landed on the moon and then came home.  Then we built a new spaceship with wings so it could carry more people and do more things.  We used this new spaceship to build a house in space.  Then we made the house bigger and bigger until more people could live in it.  Now that the house is built, we are going to build a rocket just like the one we used to have that will launch a few people into space so they can fly to the Moon, land on the Moon and then come home.”

Notice the confused look on the face of the child when they say, “you already said that last part.”

I’m not a child but I get just as confused when I hear this same story told to me using bigger words and then justified with convoluted reasoning.  Maybe it’s because I come from the X PRIZE school of thought so eloquently framed by Dr. Peter H. Diamandis when he states “It is the purpose of NASA to push the limits of what humans can do in space and it is the duty of the private sector to industrialize in their wake.”

Is the current strategy pushing any limits?

I’m not a rocket scientist, NASA program manager or ‘big 3′ corporate executive.  I am not an accomplished professor of aerospace studies nor did I receive a degree in the field.  But I’m also no dummy and when I speak to Apollo astronauts I wonder why none of them has told me that going back to Earth’s Moon makes sense.  In the words of an Apollo astronaut I spoke to last week, “why are we bankrupting ourselves by building an extraneous lunar colony on the Moon for indulgent astronauts when we can instead go to Mars’ Moon, Phobos, with similar technology?”

I have high hopes for the Augustine Commission.  The Book of Laws is an amazing read and it would be difficult to find a more qualified person to head such a panel than Norm Augustine but after the members of the commission were announced, I have to wonder out loud why a “blue ribbon” panel put together to decide whether going back to the Moon is a good idea does not include one person that has either been to the Moon or worked on any previous lunar mission.

There is nothing wrong with changing our collective national mission in space.  The American people will not give up and neither Lockheed, Boeing, Aerojet nor ATK will go the way of GM.  I sincerely hope the members of the Augustine Commission put aside their preconceived notions and business relationships and try and think less like a know-it-all rocket scientist or politician and more like an insightful 2nd grader.

Ian Murphy was the head of communications for the X PRIZE Foundation from 2001-06 and is responsible for publicizing the winning Ansari X PRIZE flights of SpaceShipOne, as well as, the X PRIZE Cup and the Archon X PRIZE of Genomics.  He has consulted for SpaceX, Zero-G Corp, Personal Spaceflight Federation, Army Times Publishing Company, Lockheed Martin, Rocket Racing and Anousheh Ansari’s flight to the ISS.  He is a contributor to SpaceTaskForce, Chairman of the National Space Society’s public affairs committee and a public relations and marketing consultant based out of Cape Canaveral, FL.

ISDC Thank You's

I would like to thank Ian Murphy from blogging from the ISDC and all is PR work for the ISDC.

I would like to thank Gary Barnhard hosting and having the Hospitality Suite in his room and getting some of my favorite drink. I hope I didn’t keep you up too late.

I would like to Thank Tim Bailey the entire organizing committee for throwing such a great ISDC.

I would like to thank Josh Powers and Ed Burns for leading a hand with organizing when they were needed.

I would like to thank everyone who showed there apprienation of my efforts on the blog, the social networking comittee and other work on behalf of the NSS.

Ad Astra,

Karen Shea