Spaceflight Insider

International Space Development Conference truly is international

A two-thirds scale model of Berkley's liquid propellant rocket is displayed next to a banner for ISDC 2018.

A two-thirds scale model of Berkley’s liquid propellant rocket is displayed next to a banner for ISDC 2018. Photo Credit: Joe Latrell / SpaceFlight Insider

LOS ANGELES — Attendees from over a dozen countries including Japan, Romania, Turkey, India, and the United States descended on Los Angeles to discuss the latest in space developments at the National Space Society’s 2018 International Space Development Conference (ISDC).

The crowds were treated to presentations from scientists to middle school students, and everyone in between. Now in its 37th year, ISDC returned to the city where it all started. This year’s event, which occurred May 24-27, 2018, was hosted at the Sheraton Gateway, just a few minutes down the road from the Los Angeles airport.

Jeff Bezos hold the Gerard O'Neil award presented by O'Neil's wife, Tasha, at ISDC 2018 in Los Angeles. Photo Credit: Joe Latrell / SpaceFlight Insider

Jeff Bezos hold the Gerard O’Neil award presented by O’Neil’s wife, Tasha, at ISDC 2018 in Los Angeles. Photo Credit: Joe Latrell / SpaceFlight Insider

The Big Events


The highlight of ISDC 2018 was the presentation of the Gerard O’Neil award. This year, Jeff Bezos was given the honor for his work on developing infrastructure that could help take humanity into space. His space company, Blue Origin, is currently developing the suborbital New Shepard rocket system, the orbital New Glenn rocket as well as various other projects.

The award was presented by O’Neil’s wife Tasha. Once at the podium, Bezos announced that Amazon, one of the companies that the billionaire owns, was picking up the recently-cancelled SyFy show “The Expanse” for a fourth season.

After the announcement, science writer Alan Boyle then sat down with Bezos in an informal interview discussing the how and why of Blue Origin and what the billionaire hoped to achieve.

“This is not something we can do, this is something we must do,” Bezos said before challenging the audience to ask themselves if their missions are changing the world.

Physicist Emeritus Freeman Dyson was honored with the Robert A Heinlein memorial award, for his continued work in the field of physics. In his acceptance presentation, Dyson explained his idea of the “Noah’s Ark Egg,” a device designed to seed the universe with life. The concept involves storing one embryo from each species into a container and launching to interstellar space. By launching thousands of these eggs, it might be possible to “restart” life on a planet elsewhere.

Panel Sessions


The Space Investment Summit returned to the conference after a multi-year absence. Led by Thomas Andrew Olsen and Meagan Crawford of the Center for Space Commerce and Finance, the summit injected ISDC with financial discussions.

Dennis Wingo, Chuck Lauer, John Garvey, Red Ridenoure, and John Wilkes with Ken Davidian at the War Stories panel. Photo Credit: Joe Latrell / SpaceFlight Insider

Dennis Wingo, Chuck Lauer, John Garvey, Red Ridenoure, and John Wilkes with Ken Davidian at the War Stories panel. Photo Credit: Joe Latrell / SpaceFlight Insider

Ken Davidian of FAA’s Office of Space Commercialization hosted a panel titled “War Stories” that featured such notable space entrepreneurs as Dennis Wingo, founder of Skycorp, Chuck Lauer of Rocketplane, John Garvey founder of Garvey Space, Red Ridenoure of Ecliptic, and John Wilkes, a sociologist assisting with the Google Lunar X-Prize. Each of them presented a brief history of their careers, including the difficulties they faced in running their businesses and in some cases the reasons for their firms failures. The conversations as well as the audience questions helped keep the mood lighthearted during a somber event.

Part of the summit included a space business plan competition. Six companies were selected to undergo an intense boot  camp to polish proposals before stepping in front of the ISDC “Space Sharks” to pitch their ideas.

Of the six, Waypoint2Space won the audience participation award for its astronaut training and entertainment complex to be located right outside Johnson Space Center in Houston. Voyager, a software firm working on creating an easier and faster way for satellite builders to complete requests for proposals, took home the cash prize of $2,500 presented by the Heinlein Trust and CSCS.

NASA’s Institute for Advanced Concepts presented a panel composed of past award recipients who showcased their far out ideas and how they could change the nature of space travel. These presentations ranged from spacecraft capable of reaching the nearest neighboring star (Proxima Centari) in less than 20 years to advanced fusion drives. One proposal called for the development of paper thin satellites that would capture space debris and dispose of it in Earth’s atmosphere.

LaunchPad hosted a series of discussions on spaceflight concepts from university researchers. Shawna Panda led the presentations that covered everything from tele-medicine, artificial gravity, and other unique concepts such as Eric Shear’s Saturn Ice Ring Network Exploration Mission that would use a single mothership and several daughter ships to explore and analyze the materials of Saturn’s rings.

College Groups


Colleges and Universities were in attendance with Doratea Macri, Eric Pillai, and others from Berkley’s Space Enterprise Team bringing components from their current rocket program. They introduced a new material for liquid-fueled motors that required no cooling from a propellant jacket. The material, called CFOAM, could handle the internal temperatures and, with some exterior carbon fiber, the chamber pressure as well.

Mayu Murayama holds Japan’s first commercial CubeSat. Joe Latrell / SpaceFlight Insider

The team from University of California, San Diego including student researchers Philby Wang and Maxwell Kelly parked their engine test stand, nicknamed Colossus, in the lobby of the hotel for all to see. The massive machine is capable of testing liquid rocket motors that output over 3,000 pounds (13.34 kilonewtons) of thrust.

Student Involvement


Over 400 students participated in a Space Settlement contest managed by NASA’s Ames Research Center. According to Lynn Zalinski, a coordinator for the project, the students had to design a space habitat, explain what its function was, how many people it would hold, how much it would cost to build, etc. Once they had the technical elements completed, the students had to create a poster describing their habitat.

In addition to the posters, some student groups brought real hardware they were working on. One team included Chantal Mbala, Skylar Martin and Dene Castles—the first from South Africa to attend ISDC and present their findings. They brought with them their ion drive experiment based on the VASIMR engine work by Frank Chang-Diaz.

Commercial Space


ASTRAX, a consortium of companies from Japan, had a large presence at ISDC. The founder of the consortium, Taichi Yamasaki, presented why he was involved with so many companies and what their ultimate goal was—the creation of space-related products ranging from zero-gravity flights to landing on the Moon to space Saki.

Another company, Space Division Inc. (SDi), is working to recycle unused carbon fiber material from the aerospace industry. SDi collects unused carbon fiber and processes it into everyday items. 

“Thousands of tons of waste comes from the aerospace sector alone,” said Jaysen Harris, co-founder of the company. “What we recover and upcycle can become anything from office desks to skateboards to bow ties.”

 

 

Tagged:

Joe Latrell is a life-long avid space enthusiast having created his own rocket company in Roswell, NM in addition to other consumer space endeavors. He continues to design, build and launch his own rockets and has a passion to see the next generation excited about the opportunities of space exploration. Joe lends his experiences from the corporate and small business arenas to organizations such as Teachers In Space, Inc. He is also actively engaged in his church investing his many skills to assist this and other non-profit endeavors.

Reader Comments

James Lunar Miner

“One team included Chantal Mbala, Skylar Martin and Dene Castles—the first from South Africa to attend ISDC and present their findings. They brought with them their ion drive experiment based on the VASIMR engine work by Frank Chang-Diaz.” – Joe Latrell

It is good to read about folks who are serious about an electric space propulsion system. The high Isp offered by electric propulsion systems on upper stages and reusable nuclear thermal rocket engine powered Landers is needed for cheaply and efficiently getting cargo from low Earth orbit to the Lunar surface to enable building the international Moon Village and mining the Moon while minimizing the damage to our Ozone Layer and avoiding excessive CO2 environmental impacts on Earth.

Another evolving and upcoming electric propulsion option:

“The Phase Four CubeSat Class RF thruster tested by The Aerospace Corporation achieved the highest performing electrode-free RF engine data ever directly measured, producing up to 3.3 mN of thrust at 700 seconds specific impulse.”

From: “Electric Propulsion Pioneer Phase Four Reveals Results That Challenge Incumbents on Performance, Promising a New Era of Satellite Functionality”
News provided by Phase Four 4/16/2018
At: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/electric-propulsion-pioneer-phase-four-reveals-results-that-challenge-incumbents-on-performance-promising-a-new-era-of-satellite-functionality-300630063.html

James Lunar Miner

“The way Bezos sees it, the imperative for space settlement won’t come from a sudden terrestrial catastrophe, but from the realization that we have to expand beyond our home planet if we are to preserve it.”

From: “Jeff Bezos: ‘We will have to leave this planet … and it’s going to make this planet better’”
By Alan Boyle 5/29/2018
At: https://www.geekwire.com/2018/jeff-bezos-isdc-space-vision/

A critical issue for efficiently leaving LEO to “expand beyond our home planet” is to continue developing and using various high Isp electric space propulsion systems.

Note:

“High Power Electric Propulsion (HiPEP) is a variation of ion thruster for use in nuclear electric propulsion applications.”

And,“The pre-prototype HiPEP produced 670 mN of thrust at a power level of 39.3 kW using 7.0 mg/s of fuel giving a specific impulse of 9620 s.[2][4] Downrated to 24.4 kW, the HiPEP used 5.6 mg/s of fuel giving a specific impulse of 8270 s and 460 mN of thrust.”

From: “High Power Electric Propulsion” Wikipedia
At: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Power_Electric_Propulsion

Highly efficient electric propulsion powered third stages with a 9,620 Isp would use much less propellant to get an equivalent mass of cargo from LEO to a stable low Lunar polar orbit (and would cause far less Stratospheric Ozone Depletion) than would be the case with inefficient and much higher mass third stages with 380 to 465 Isp chemical rocket engines.

James Lunar Miner

The large Isp improvement demonstrated by the Power and Propulsion Element, or PPE, of NASA’s Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G) should significantly reduce the costs of hauling propellant and cargo from LEO to Low Lunar Orbit to enable ISRU and building the Moon Village while also making deep space missions much more affordable.

NASA’s High Power Electric Propulsion (HiPEP) with a 9,620 Isp could make a direct and major contribution to the PPE and our commercial and military space efforts.

“The PPE demonstrates the partnership approach with U.S. industry for the whole gateway, capitalizing on developments in high power SEP and investments within the U.S. telecommunications industry to partner with NASA while minimizing costs.”

And, “This partnership is intended to advance and diffuse advanced electric propulsion technology into the U.S. commercial satellite industry, leading to a U.S. competitive advantage.”

From: ‘Gateway Memorandum for the Record A statement from NASA regarding partnerships and development of the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway’ May 2, 2018.
At: https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/gateway_domestic_and_international_benefits-memo.pdf

James Lunar Miner

Various efficient and super high Isp electric propulsion systems that soon will be or already are used for satellites and other spacecraft are critical for what Chantal Mbala, Skylar Martin, Dene Castles, and other folks at the International Space Development Conference expect to see us accomplish on the Moon, in Cislunar Space, and across our Solar System.

Note:

“In a VASIMR® engine, gas such as argon, xenon, or hydrogen is injected into a tube surrounded by a magnet and a series of two radio wave (RF) couplers The couplers turn cold gas into superheated plasma and the rocket’s magnetic nozzle converts the plasma thermal motion into a directed jet.”

And, “Solar power can be efficiently used for near-Earth VASIMR® missions, such as drag compensation for space stations, lunar cargo transport, and in-space refueling. Recent advances in solar array technology show a significant increase in solar power utilization (up to an order of magnitude).”

From: “Our Engine”
At: http://www.adastrarocket.com/aarc/VASIMR

James Lunar Miner

Ron Ticker would have been interesting to listen to at the International Space Development Conference

“’We have a head start on the Power and Propulsion Element based on work we did with the previous mission, the Asteroid Redirect Mission,’ said Ron Ticker, deputy director of the PPE program at NASA Headquarters, during a May 25 presentation at the International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles.”

And, “PPE’s baseline capabilities include the generation of 50 kilowatts of electrical power as well as hosting a 40-kilowatt electric propulsion system, with storage of up to two tons of xenon propellant and the ability to be refueled.”

From: “NASA to request proposals for first Gateway element later this summer” By Jeff Foust 6/1/2018
At: http://spacenews.com/nasa-to-request-proposals-for-first-gateway-element-later-this-summer/

Question:

Will the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) ferry itself to the proposed orbit of the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway?

Such self-ferrying of the Power and Propulsion Element and then refueling it in orbit would be clear and useful demonstrations to help “advance and diffuse advanced electric propulsion technology into the U.S. commercial satellite industry”.

Quote from the previously noted: ‘Gateway Memorandum for the Record A statement from NASA regarding partnerships and development of the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway’ May 2, 2018.

James Lunar Miner

Another super high Isp electric propulsion system that could benefit International Space Development:

“As we reported last year, NASA’s record-holder for ‘specific impulse’ – i.e. fuel-mass to engine-thrust efficiency – at the time was its High Power Electric Propulsion (HiPEP) system, which allows 9,600 (+/- 200) seconds of specific impulse. Neumann’s prototype, on the other hand, achieved up to 14,690 (+/- 2,000).”

From: “This Physicist Just Got The All-Clear to Test His Record-Breaking Ion Drive in Space”
By BEC CREW OCT 7, 2016
At: https://www.sciencealert.com/this-physicist-just-got-the-all-clear-to-test-his-record-breaking-ion-drive-at-the-international-space-station

And:

“So far, the Neumann Drive runs best on magnesium, but tests have been performed on vanadium, titanium and carbon. It should be able to run on anything that can conduct electricity.”

From: “A student designed an ion thruster that can make it to Mars and back on one tank of fuel”
By Danielle Muoio Sep. 29, 2015
At: http://www.businessinsider.com/student-designes-neumann-drive-ion-thruster-2015-

James Lunar Miner

Another super high Isp electric propulsion system that could benefit International Space Development:

“As we reported last year, NASA’s record-holder for ‘specific impulse’ – i.e. fuel-mass to engine-thrust efficiency – at the time was its High Power Electric Propulsion (HiPEP) system, which allows 9,600 (+/- 200) seconds of specific impulse. Neumann’s prototype, on the other hand, achieved up to 14,690 (+/- 2,000).”

From: “This Physicist Just Got The All-Clear to Test His Record-Breaking Ion Drive in Space”
By BEC CREW OCT 7, 2016
At: https://www.sciencealert.com/this-physicist-just-got-the-all-clear-to-test-his-record-breaking-ion-drive-at-the-international-space-station

Note:

“So far, the Neumann Drive runs best on magnesium, but tests have been performed on vanadium, titanium and carbon. It should be able to run on anything that can conduct electricity.”

From: “A student designed an ion thruster that can make it to Mars and back on one tank of fuel”
By Danielle Muoio Sep. 29, 2015
At: http://www.businessinsider.com/student-designes-neumann-drive-ion-thruster-2015-9

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