Space Manufacturing 14 Call for Papers

Space Manufacturing 14: Critical Technologies for Space Settlement will be held at NASA Ames Conference Center in Mountain View, CA, October 30 and 31, 2010.

Thirty five years ago, NASA Ames Research Center was the site of the first large technical study of space settlement. We have made significant progress since then, but with the prospect of low cost space transportation in the near future, now is the time to reinvigorate research and collaboration on the critical path technologies needed for space industrialization and settlement. The 14th Space Studies Institute conference on Space Manufacturing continues in the spirit of the Princeton Conferences initiated by Prof. Gerard K O’Neill in 1974.

The Space Manufacturing and Space Settlement Conferences have always given SSI great value. This conference is the only one solely concerned with the science and engineering of humanity’s expansion into the solar system. Its most important function is to bring together the engineers, entrepreneurs and researchers who do the real work. New space companies and new institutions have formed from collaborations forged at earlier conferences. We hope that this and future annual SSI conferences will be as fruitful.

The specific purpose of Space Manufacturing 14 is to identify and recommend critical hardware research that can be conducted now by SSI, NASA and other organizations.

[Update Oct. 1, 2010: The agenda is now online.]
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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.
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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

Technology for Human Space Settlement