Category Archives: Update

SSI 50 Conference Update

Time is running out to buy tickets for the Space Studies Institute’s 50th anniversary conference at the special Early Bird rate. The special ends May 18.

Planning for the conference, which takes place September 9-10 in Seattle, is coming along nicely. Our venue is the Museum of Flight, a world-class air and space museum. We have engaged McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood and Steaks to cater two gourmet luncheons for us, as well as afternoon snack breaks. Early ticket sales have been brisk, and response from invited speakers has been enthusiastic.

SSI 50 marks the kickoff for a new SSI project, the Space Settlement Enterprise. This multi-year project will reexamine the original High Frontier vision created by Professor Gerard O’Neill, bringing his ideas up to date with new technology, new discoveries, and new space ventures. This year’s conference will lay the groundwork that project, helping to determine the questions that need to be addressed. Our panel format is designed to allow for plenty of Q&A and audience interaction. There will be no passive lectures. We need your ideas.

Preliminary Schedule

Monday, Sept 9

8:00 On-site registration

9:00 Keynote and Welcome

9:30 “Habitats” — panel hosted by Dallas Bienhoff, founder, Cislunar Space Development Co.

11:30 Lunch

1:00 “Space Construction” — panel hosted by Joe Carroll, president, Tether Applications

3:00 Snack break

3:30 “Space Resources” — panel hosted by Prof. George Sowers, Colorado School of Mines

7:00 Possible Event Event TBA


Tuesday, Sept 10

8:00 On-site registration

9:00 Keynote

9:30 “Transportation and Logistics” — panel hosted by Henry Vanderbilt, founder, Space Access Society

11:30 Lunch

1:00 “Life Support and Public Health” — panel hosted by Dr. Jim Logan, Space Enterprise Institute

3:00 Snack break

3:30 “Economic Viability” — panel hosted by Edward Wright, senior researcher, SSI


Happiest of Holidays, Best for the New year.

If you haven’t yet watched the video of SSI President Gary Hudson’s “Gravity is a Massive Problem”, scroll down two posts right now and check it out.  We’ll wait here.

Great presentation, an important issue that SSI would like to keep rolling, but its future is up to you.  If you feel that developing G-Lab is an important project that is needed as part of the High Frontier Concept, then please make a tax-deductible contribution today. Any amount you can give can help a great deal.

And now, we would like to offer you some extra holiday me-time pleasure.  For free :-).

Do you like to read great books?

Imagine a book with contributors and characters including:

Gerard K. O’Neill, Dr. Freeman Dyson, Gregg Maryniak, Dr. Brian O’Leary, Eric Drexler, William C. Brown, Lee Snively, John Lewis, Dr. Henry Kolm, Brandt Goldsworthy, Dr. T. Stephen Cheston, Rick Tumlinson, Dr. James C. Fletcher, John Mankins, Dr. R. Buckminster Fuller, Dr. Peter Jankowitsch, Morris Hornik, Dr. Thomas O. Paine, James D. Burke, David C. Webb, David Odom, Frank White, Richard G. Woodbridge III, Dr. Yash Pal, Charlie Walker, George Gallop, Jr., Dr. Jerry Gray, Dr. Lee Valentine, Peter Diamandis, Dr. Ben Finney, James Vedda, Gordon Woodcock, Dr. Robert Waldron, Dr. Klaus Heiss, Dr. James E. Byassee, Dr. Frank Press, Robert Staehle, Dr. Peter Glaser, Gary “G.C.” Hudson … and tens, if not hundreds, of others.

Imagine a book that starts with the simple question “Is a planetary surface the right place for an expanding technological civilization?” and takes you on a tour through a history of the Engineering, the Sciences and the soul of the Space Community.

Topics move you through Space Colonization, Mass-Drivers, Large (very large) Space Manufacturing, Anthropology, Lunar Chemical processing, Space Solar Power and Power Beaming, Gravity effects on off-Earth human beings, Rocketry, Asteroids for profit and homesteading, Space Debris solutions, the many faces of NASA, Regolith simulant creation, Closed-loop life support, launches of satellites giving location information years before we all heard of GPS, off-Earth Composites, the creation of the International Space University and SEDS, meetings with and letters from Presidents (ones that some people even liked), Costs of doing Space Business, the origins of the conferences that Space-folk take for granted today, and on… and on…

This is a “book” decades in the making, and still being written.  A mix of down-to-Earth hard effort and inspiring Vision.

This “book” is:

The Archive of the Newsletters of The Space Studies Institute.

And it’s free.

For you.


It starts with a hand-typed letter on Princeton University Physics Department letterhead and, as of this posting, continues to all of the more “slick” issues of 1989.

More pages are being assembled, but the 50+ issues already waiting should keep you well occupied through the holidays.

To see the current “chapters” of this book that was built on and to support the foundation of The High Frontier Concept, click here.

But to get the very most out of this special resource, we invite you to start at the beginning and see it all unfold. Start with the July 7th 1974 “Newsletter on Space Colonization” by clicking right here.


To all of SSI’s Senior Associates and Members and old and new dear friends, the staff and board and trustees of The Space Studies Institute wishes the Happiest of Holidays and a powerful 2016.

We all donate our time and effort, but no projects can continue without continued contributions and membership of people who have run the numbers themselves and see the reality in the The High Frontier Concept.  It’s not just ‘giant space stations,’  it’s much bigger than that.

Thank you for your many years of continued support.

Introduction to G-Lab

The Great Enterprise Initiative

Today, the Space Studies Institute is announcing a new Great Enterprise Initiative and two special Projects that we hope will hasten the day when permanent space settlement arrives, fulfilling Professor Gerard K. O’Neill’s vision of forty years ago.

The Great Enterprise Initiative is a road map outlining the technologies and capabilities necessary for settlement. It incorporates five major themes, from Transportation, Resources, Environmental technology to areas of Society and Economy. Progress in all these areas is required for us to accomplish our goal. We will be holding conferences and summer studies workshops during the next few years to flesh out road map details and to begin to address specific challenges.

We are announcing two major Projects. The first is G-Lab, a space-based variable or partial gravity laboratory, described below in more detail. The second is E-Lab, a terrestrial “systems-of-systems” integration lab that will bring together promising closed environment life support technologies into a comprehensive life support solution for space settlement. We will describe the E-Lab effort in the near future. We plan to be meeting with potential donors and sponsors of both of these Projects in the near future.

My presentation given today at the Space Access 2012 Conference in Phoenix Arizona is available at We welcome your support of these endeavors.

Gary C Hudson, President

The G-Lab Project

In order to investigate the long-term effects of partial gravity on humans and other vertebrates, the Space Studies Institute proposes the private development of a co-orbital free-flyer laboratory, in trail ~10 km aft of and station-keeping with the International Space Station (ISS). After a half century of research and development, and perhaps as much as a trillion dollars of worldwide expenditure on national space programs, it is shocking to realize we simply have no evidence that humans can thrive, or even survive, on worlds beyond Earth.


National Space Policy (2010) calls for consideration of permanent human expansion into space:
“Fifty years after the creation of NASA, our goal is no longer just a destination to reach. Our goal is the capacity for people to work and learn and operate and live safely beyond the Earth for extended periods of time, ultimately in ways that are more sustainable and even indefinite.”

The Augustine Commission also concluded:
“…the ultimate goal of human exploration is to chart a path for human expansion into the solar system.”

Additionally, the The National Research Council’s Decadal Survey on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space 2011 reported:
“Finally, despite its awareness that the [NASA] large centrifuge program has little likelihood of being restarted, the …Panel would be remiss if it did not strongly recommend an animal centrifuge capable of accommodating rats/mice at variable gravity levels.”

In spite of these findings and policy, for the foreseeable future NASA interest remains fixed on brief “flags and footprints” style missions beyond low Earth orbit. This is fundamentally a redux of Apollo, and is likely to result in the same boom-bust outcome of four decades ago.

Steps to an Answer

Any attempt to answer the question will require long-term human presence in partial gravity, but such a step is likely beyond the financial reach of SSI and even very rich donors until the price of space transportation falls by an order of magnitude. In the interim, a feasible and useful approach will be to study smaller vertebrates (rats or mice) at partial gravity. This approach was the one recommended by the NRC Decadal Survey and a centrifuge was fabricated and scheduled for installation on the ISS. Budget pressures and the high potential for interference with other ISS experiments led to cancellation in 2005. While considerably less costly that a full-sized rotating station, this is still an expensive undertaking.

In 2011, SSI recognized that this NASA design effort might be repurposed into a private free-flyer facility at affordable cost. We have initiated the process of obtaining a Space Act Agreement with NASA Ames Reach Center in order to leverage this prior effort.

Our plan calls for a three phase program to plan, design and develop the facility that we have designated the “G-Lab.” The conclusion of these three phases would result in a flight-ready spacecraft that could be launched on one or more medium or heavy-lift launch vehicles in late 2016 or early 2017 provided funding is not an issue.

Close proximity to the ISS allows SSI to share access (crew and cargo “rides”) to the ISS, greatly reducing operating expenses. It also allows intermittent visitations of crews from one platform to the other. New visiting vehicles such as Dragon and Cygnus will be available to allow inter-station exchange.

The SSI Plan

Our SSI approach calls for these initial three phases to be funded exclusively by private contributions or sponsorships. Our reasoning is that a private effort will proceed with more dispatch – and can more easily incorporate innovative solutions to developmental problems – than if there was any major early government controlling interest. (A truism of aerospace engineering is that 85% of the life-cycle cost of a project or product is set by the requirements and design definition process in the first few months of a program.)

Once the spacecraft is ready for launch (and practically, beginning some years before) SSI will seek to broaden the funding participation from purely private to a public-private partnership. Our long experience in the aerospace and government funding world suggests to us that having a hangared spacecraft ready for flight will be an powerful inducement to several national space agencies and other funding sources to participate in the project. Participation can take the form of in-kind contributions, for example free or heavily discounted launches, crew visits, or re-supply missions. This philosophy was adopted by participants in the current ISS program with great effectiveness.
Our approach leverages early private funding to encourage future public funding sources; we think of this as a “multiplier effect” similar to the way prizes for technical accomplishment induce expenditures larger than the prize value itself. In the case of G-Lab we see the availability of the facility as the “prize” worth the further expenditure of public dollars for launch and operations.

Of course, some risk is inherent in this approach. To reach the end of Phase C, a substantial private donor commitment will be needed. To increase donor confidence in our ability to deliver a flight-ready spacecraft, we propose to divide the initial “private” phases into three milestones of increasing value. During Phase One, a relatively modest seed funding will be at risk, and in cooperation with Phase Two and Three donors SSI would face a “go/no-go” decision point. If the decision is “go” and funding for Phase Two and Three is secured, the project proceeds. If not, the effort may be terminated with minimal downside. Internal to the Phase Two and Three efforts, additional milestones would be crafted in cooperation with funding sources. See the table below plus the schedule at the end for future details.

Our hope is to raise the Phase One funding within the next three to six months.

AStudyPrivateEstablishment of requirements, technical and scientific teams, facilities evaluation and siting, preliminary concept design and refinement9 months
BDesignPrivateDesign, engineering mockup fabrication and evaluation, ground facilities setup, initiation of ground based science activities15 months
CDevelopmentPrivateG-Lab subsystems fabrication, science instruments fabrication, integration and test24 months
DLaunchPublic-PrivateLaunch Integration, Launch, On-orbit checkout and commissioning6 months
EOpsPublic-PrivateOn-orbit and ground operations10 years+

The Space Studies Institute

SSI has a long history and a solid legacy, based on the vision of Professor Gerard K. O’Neill and his colleagues. With over a dozen SSI conferences completed, along with research into a number of technologies important for space settlement, the Institute is well positioned to play an important role as a key primary international entity that will create the ways and means of true space settlement. This is an appropriate goal to honor Professor O’Neill’s vision.
The core SSI vision is to enable permanent independent space settlements beyond Earth, established by individuals and private organizations. Unlike advocacy organizations, SSI’s focus has always been on physical demonstrations that yield measurable steps towards establishing self-sufficient space settlements.

The Space Studies Institute G-Lab Project Team

SSI is in the process of recruiting a top notch scientific and technical team for the G-Lab Project. We are working closely with NASA Ames, which is the lead NASA center for space biology, to identify key scientific personnel and have begun interviewing possible team leaders. Meanwhile, we have begun to assemble an initial volunteer management team to see the project though Phase One.

Reaction of Industry Leaders to the SSI Announcement

“Perfecting vitamin G, what could be more important to space travel?”

Alan Stern, Vice President, Southwest Research Institute; Former NASA Associate Administrator for Science

“As far as we know, there is only one unknown factor which might prevent human beings from settling the solar system — how much gravity do we need to thrive and to have children?  Government research attempts to answer this question have always been abandoned before being finished.  SSI can step in to close this last critical gap in our knowledge.”

Jeff Greason, CEO XCOR, Augustine Committee Member

“SSI’s G-Lab is a necessary stepping stone to understanding how humans can and will adapt to survive in space. The future will be designed on Earth, and lived on worlds far beyond.”

Greg Bear, author of more than 30 books, spanning thrillers, science fiction, and fantasy, including BLOOD MUSIC, EON, THE FORGE OF GOD, DARWIN’S RADIO, CITY AT THE END OF TIME, and HULL ZERO THREE.

“I’m glad to see SSI is pursuing an answer to the question of what impact reduced, but non-zero, gravity has on the human body.  This is one of the most critical questions facing both space exploration and settlement, and it’s good to see someone finally trying to get us some answers. SSI has a challenging road ahead of it, but can think of nothing more worthy of its efforts.”

Jonathan Goff, President/CEO, Altius Space Machines, Inc.

“I’m enthusiastic about helping make space settlement feasible under The Great Enterprise Initiative.”

Fred Becker, Board of Directors, National Space Society

“The G-Lab Project is just the kind of private undertaking, that will help to make the kind of future that we envisioned in “The Rocket Company” a reality.”

Patrick Stiennon and David Hoerr, co-authors of THE ROCKET COMPANY.

“Traditionally, government has been a useful source of funding for basic research that has a long-term return on investment, but for over half a century, research into how large numbers of humans can live in space has been not just underfunded, but almost unfunded, because space settlement, rightly or wrongly, has never been a serious national goal.  SSI’s proposed private non-profit initiative to understand the effects of variable gravity on human physiology and how to close life support systems in space picks up NASA’s decades-long dropped ball, and offers hope that we might finally understand how to advance us on this imperative for the long-term survival of humanity.”

Rand Simberg, Adjunct Scholar, Competitive Enterprise Institute, consultant and author.

SSI Update December 2011

Within the next ten years, one or more of the new space companies will develop a mature space transportation system, and the cost of space transportation will drop by a factor of between 10 and 50. While the technology for space transportation has been advancing rapidly in the past few years, the supporting technologies of space settlement have not been moving so quickly.

SSI’s purpose is to minimize the time between the appearance of transportation able to support space industrialization and settlement, and the first space colonies.

SSI’s distinguished board of Senior Advisers continues to expand, and increasingly plays a strong role in deciding our future direction. After a meeting of Senior Advisers and Professor Dyson in July 2011, we decided to restructure SSI’s dual Board of Governors and Board of Directors to a single, smaller and more active Board of Trustees.

On December 16, 2011, the Board of Governing Members adopted new by-laws to accomplish that goal, and elected three Trustees: Professor Freeman Dyson, Gary C Hudson and myself. I continue as Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Gary was elected to serve as President and CEO.

Decades ago, Gary Hudson courageously undertook the great challenge of developing a mature space transportation system. The grand promise of space settlement and space industrialization motivated him then and now.

For the past several months, with the support of SSI’s Trustees and Senior Advisers, Gary has pursued a plan to accelerate the appearance of the first permanent human space settlement.

Please join me in welcoming Gary Hudson as SSI’s new President.


Lee Valentine, Chairman


Dear Senior Associates and Friends of SSI,

SSI has a long history and a solid legacy, based on the vision of Professor Gerard K. O’Neill and his colleagues. With over a dozen SSI conferences completed, along with research into a number of technologies important for space settlement, the Institute is well positioned to play an important role as a key primary international entity that will create the ways and means of true space settlement. This is an appropriate goal to honor Professor O’Neill’s vision.


The core SSI vision is to enable permanent independent space settlements beyond Earth, established by individuals and private organizations. Unlike advocacy organizations, SSI’s focus has always been on physical demonstrations that yield measurable steps towards establishing self-sufficient space settlements. We are exploring an ambitious project in this regard right now, and hope to have some exciting news to share in the coming months.

Our mission can be divided into a group of tasks focused on past, present and future.

Preserving the legacy of the past is a task that requires collecting and making available to the community as much technology data relevant to space settlement as we can locate. A treasure trove of data and reports of previous successes and failures is hiding in the attics and garages of retired engineers and scientists. We must find and preserve what we can and put this information into electronic searchable format.

Securing the potential of the present means identifying and supporting students and young professionals who are currently working or wish to be a part of the space settlement community. This can take the form of grants, scholarships, and participation in conferences and symposiums. Also, in compliance with non-profit regulations and law, we will act alone or in concert with others to prevent governmental actions that may delay, impede or cripple the ability to realize our space settlement vision.

Inventing the future will be the most expensive and difficult task. We need to continue to identify and rate technology research and development activities and to devote funding to those that are not adequately funded by other entities. An adjunct to this task is developing the economic and legal/political foundation and tools necessary to permit individuals and private groups to establish future space settlements – a “Solar System homesteading” plan.


We face a major challenge. We recognize that the world financial crisis has become structural, deep and persistent. Despite the economic challenges, we must find the funds needed to accelerate the process of developing space settlement tools, hardware and know-how. We must do this because the promise of opening the space frontier is too great to let this opportunity pass.

Professor Dyson recently reminded me that the Verein für Raumschiffahrt (Society for Space Travel) was founded in Germany in 1927, during equally challenging economic times. So it is possible.

There are two routes to accumulate the large amount of funding required to achieve steady and useful progress by SSI. One path is revenue generation by operating some for-profit enterprise; this was Professor O’Neill’s idea for Geostar, Inc. in the 1980s. The other path is via donation or endowment. Regrettably, the Geostar opportunity has passed us by, so the most likely near-term route to funding is a gift from a single wealthy donor.

We have discussed various projects and have one in mind that we are currently exploring in more detail. This project would attempt to answer a key technical question that enables permanent human settlement of space. It will be expensive – not in comparison to a NASA venture to be sure – but for SSI, expensive indeed. We request your support in this challenging task.

Our ambition is to do something bold and useful. We believe the boldness of a goal will be a help and not a hindrance to raising a significant sum. Alexander MacDonald, of Carnegie Mellon and now NASA Ames, has shown us the way forward with his historical survey illustrating the large amounts of money contributed by private donors to the establishment of American astronomy over the past two centuries.

A Brief Note on the Economic History of Space Exploration in America

We are especially grateful to the Senior Associates, members and individual donors whose contributions have sustained SSI for nearly 35 years. We will keep you informed with further updates as SSI formulates our new approach and begins to play a significant new role in the future settlement of space. We welcome your comments and suggestions.

Speaking personally, I am honored to serve in the role chosen for me to guide SSI during this transition. I was just embarking on a career in aerospace when Gerry O’Neill first published his ideas for space settlement, and I assure you they motivated me then as they still do today.  It is time to finally realize his vision.

Very respectfully,
Gary C Hudson, President