SSI Update December 2009

First, thank you for your support of the Space Studies Institute.  SSI was founded on the principle that the technology we develop to industrialize and settle space is our best hope for the future. SSI’s mission is to help complete the missing technical steps to open the High Frontier. SSI does this by supporting research and holding conferences to:

1. Determine the critical path to space settlement
2. Identify missing technology
3. Fund the development of that technology

Over the past three decades, your contributions have laid the groundwork for Burt Rutan’s X Prize winning SpaceShipOne, XCOR’s suborbital spacecraft Lynx, and the first production of engineering materials from lunar resources. You have also helped propel discovery of hydrogen at the lunar poles, a workable design for a closed all biological life-support system, three generations of mass driver engines, and the discovery of the Near Earth Object population.


It seemed to Professor Dyson and me that the key technology to make SSI’s research worthwhile was a mature space transportation system.  Without affordable space access, any additional time, money and talent SSI would spend developing technologies for use in space would be premature and not cost-effective.

Accordingly, SSI’s most recent hardware project was an investment in XCOR Aerospace to support rocket engine pump development.  DARPA matched SSI’s investment four to one.  The cryogenic and propellant pump systems made possible by that SSI investment are an integral part of the propulsion system developed by the company for its fully reusable suborbital launch vehicle, the Lynx. The pumps not only boost the performance of its long-lasting 5K18 liquid oxygen-kerosene engines, they also permit XCOR to improve performance through use of lighter tanks that conform to the spacecraft’s aerodynamic shape.

These kinds of technical advances move us closer to affordable space access and are proof that SSI can make a difference through targeted investment in research and technological development.
Continue reading SSI Update December 2009

SSI Space Manufacturing Conference postponement

The Space Studies Institute Conference is postponed until the at least the fall. There are several reasons for doing this. The principal reason is that I have not had sufficient free time to get the conference properly organized. Several session chairs have schedule conflicts and Dr. Klaus Heiss, who was to chair the economic session and whose participation we desperately need, has fallen gravely ill.

Platinum group metals prices have reached an all-time high and there is renewed interest in satellite solar power. SSI advocates a broad-based and nonterrestrial materials focused solution to critical materials supply and energy supply to the earth. This is the precise time for SSI to restart its efforts to develop processes for acquiring and using nonterrestrial materials. We still do not have good processes to get engineering materials from extraterrestrial resources.

Because of propulsion advances by several companies in the private sector, not the traditional big aerospace companies, I expect the cost of launch to low Earth orbit to fall by an order of magnitude within the next decade.

Much important work has been done in the past by SSI and it is critical that SSI maintain a high level of technical accuracy and have participation from a wide variety of experts at our conference. It is also critical that we have participation from India, China and Europe. This postponement will give us enough time to organize a successful conference.

As soon as John Lewis and I can find a new date, I’ll let you know.

Best regards,
Lee S. Valentine
Executive Vice President, Space Studies Institute

SSI Update December 2007

The fourteenth SSI Conference on Space Manufacturing will be held at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton on April 19 and 20, 2008. The session chairs are responsible for the papers in their sessions. The sessions and chairs are:

Conference Chair: Prof. John S. Lewis

Space Manufacturing, Chair: Prof. Niklas Jarvstrat

Space Resources, Chair: Prof. John S. Lewis

Robotics, Chair: Prof. William “Red” Whittaker

Space Solar Power, Chair: Col. Michael “Coyote” Smith

Space Transportation, Chair: Prof. George Dyson

Closed Environment Life Support Systems, Chair: Dr. Lee Valentine

Economics, Chair: Dr. Klaus Heiss

Special Evening Session: Space Solar Power; the Space Solar Alliance for Future Energy

Poster session: Dr. Roger O’Neill

Recently the National Security Space Office of the Department of Defense, NSSO, under the leadership of General James Armor, began a serious study of Satellite Solar Power. The NSSO began the effort because the armed forces need to supply forward bases with electrical power and satellite solar power appeared likely to be economically competitive with the present cost of electricity at bases in Iraq. The NSSO is very interested in long term energy security for the United States and its allies. It would like to develop satellite solar power to prevent future wars over energy resources. No entity in the federal government has been charged with power satellite development and, excepting the NSSO, none has made any effort to promote it. The NSSO office would like to transfer responsibility for powersat development and construction to the private sector as soon as possible. They see the possibility that critical technologies will be classified secret and so become unusable for civilian purposes.
Continue reading SSI Update December 2007

SSI Princeton Conference 2008

Space Manufacturing 14 will be held at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, April 19 and 20, 2008.

Space Studies Institute
Prof. Freeman Dyson, President

Conference Chair Prof. John S. Lewis

Space Manufacturing, Chair Prof. Niklas Jarvstrat

Space Resources, Chair Prof. John S.. Lewis

Robotics, Chair Prof. William “Red” Whittaker

Space Solar Power, Chair Col. M.V. “Coyote” Smith

Space Transportation, Chair Prof. George Dyson

Closed Environment Life Support Systems, Chair Dr. Lee Valentine

Economics, Chair Dr. Klaus Heiss

Technology for Human Space Settlement