Space entrepreneurs to gather for spaceflight symposium

Sept. 11, 2007 by Karl Hill NMSU News Center

Adventure-seeking, risk-taking entrepreneurs are driving the new space race, but government partnerships are critical to the success of the emerging commercial spaceflight industry, says Patricia Hynes, chair of the upcoming International Symposium for Personal Spaceflight.

ISPS 2007 will be held at the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces Oct. 24 and 25. Key players from both the public and private sectors will participate in the symposium – along with experts on marketing, tourism and other aspects of the industry.

Presentations, panel discussions and interview sessions will cover topics ranging from vehicles and launch systems to space tourism and spaceports. The theme of the symposium, presented by New Mexico State University and the X PRIZE Foundation, is “Our Next Giant Leap: Progress and Next Steps.”

“Adventure seekers can find the risk of starting a new business as thrilling as those who seek to experience suborbital spaceflight,” said Hynes, director of the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium at NMSU. “They can come from the public and private sectors.”

The symposium’s plenary session on Oct. 24 will feature the two commercial space companies NASA selected to compete to build vehicles to shuttle cargo and eventually humans to the International Space Station. Elon Musk, president of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), and George French and Chuck Lauer, president and vice president of Rocketplane Kistler, “will update us on the status of their companies and vehicles,” Hynes said.

SpaceX and Rocketplane are competing companies with different designs and approaches. They were chosen by NASA to demonstrate new commercial space transportation systems in the $500 million Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.

NASA eventually will choose one company to build its next generation of supply vehicles. Alan Lindenmoyer, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program, also is scheduled to take part in the plenary session.

Alex Tai, chief operating officer of Virgin Galactic, will provide a different perspective on the business of space commercialization. Virgin Galactic will base its suborbital spaceliner business at New Mexico’s Spaceport America, being developed north of Las Cruces.

“This session will set the stage for what is to come,” Hynes said. “We have to partner – government and commercial enterprises – to develop the vehicles and systems to launch this next giant leap in transportation.”

Robert A. Dickman, executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), will serve as master of ceremonies for the symposium. The AIAA is a professional technical society with more than 35,000 members in 79 countries.

More than 60 confirmed participants include Anousheh Ansari, who became the world’s first female private space explorer when she spent $20 million to fly to the International Space Station last September; Clayton Mowry, president of Arianespace Inc. (USA), the world’s leading satellite launch company; Mark Sirangelo, CEO and chairman of SpaceDev, which is developing high-performance space systems and components for Burt Rutan and others; and George Sowers, vice president for advanced programs for United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

More information, including online registration forms, is available at

Preceding the symposium, from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday, Oct. 23, the PSL Leonard R. Sugerman Public Forum will be held at the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum. This free event, sponsored by the Physical Science Laboratory at NMSU, is designed to inform the public of progress in the development of the spaceflight business that Sugerman helped to pioneer. Information on Spaceport America and the X PRIZE Cup will be provided.

The Wirefly X PRIZE Cup “rocket festival” will follow the symposium on Oct. 27 and 28 at Holloman Air Force Base.

Arianespace is the symposium’s title sponsor. Co-sponsoring organizations, in addition to the university and the X PRIZE Foundation, include the AIAA, the Association of Space Explorers, Space News and the Space Foundation.

Topics for the symposium’s first day include progress on vehicle systems; the synergy between government and personal spaceflight; developing space tourism; an interview session with space tourists conducted by David Livingston, host of “The Space Show,” an Internet radio program; and marketing the “new space” business.

The second day’s schedule includes sessions on Spaceport America, which is under development in southern New Mexico; building a global network of spaceports; the impact of spaceports on communities; “Staying Alive in a Growing Market,” a panel of successful space entrepreneurs; “When All You Need Is Cash,” covering financial issues; and a question-and-answer session with astronauts and space tourists.

Each of the symposium’s panels will include a veteran astronaut to provide the perspective of someone who has flown in space.

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