The 2013 Space Access Conference

Commentary by Michael Mackowski

Part One – The Conference

Space Access 2013I finally had the opportunity to attend the Space Access Conference, an event run by Henry Vanderbilt, a long-time space advocate from Phoenix. The conference’s focus is on “New Space” launch vehicle developers and the burgeoning suborbital market. I had been aware of this conference for some time, and despite that it is held in my home town, the conference content and my personal or business interests never overlapped sufficiently to motivate me to take time off work and attend. This year, things were quiet at work and I decided to see what it was all about.

The conference ran for three days (April 11-13) and I attended most of the first two. The nice thing about the program is that Henry limits it to a single thread so you don’t have to choose between parallel sessions. There was an interesting mix of speakers. Most were related to launch vehicles but there was also a good mix of astronomy (asteroids), history (DC-X), and far term concepts (space settlements).

The rocketry presentations were on varied levels. Some were from the more well-known companies like XCOR, while quite a few were folks doing this as a hobby or as students, some barely a step above high-powered hobbyist rocketry.

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Progress for Space Tourism

New Mexico Governor Signs Spaceport Liability Legislation Into Law

Spaceport America

The AP (4/3, Clausing) reports, “Gov. Susana Martinez on Tuesday signed into law liability-waiving legislation aimed at saving the state’s nearly quarter-billion-dollar investment in a futuristic spaceport and retaining its anchor tenant, British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.”

Martinez said the new law shows the state is “not only reaffirming the major commitment New Mexicans have made to Spaceport America but we now have an even stronger opportunity to grow the number of commercial space jobs at the spaceport and across our state. This legislation will prevent lawsuit abuse and make it easier for businesses related to the space travel industry to thrive and succeed right here in New Mexico.”  The article notes that previously Virgin Galactic had protested its rent payments and had threatened to leave if the law was not passed.  In a statement yesterday, Virgin Galactic said it was always committed to the project but now more needs to be done to bring other customers to the spaceport.

New Survey on Government Spending May Actually have Good News for Space Advocates

Commentary by Michael Mackowski

GSS_before_after

The results of a survey on government spending were released recently and reported in an Associated Press article on March 8. The General Social Survey asked people whether they believe government spending in specific categories is “too much,” “too little” or “about right.” The survey was performed by the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago with principal funding from the National Science Foundation. Using an index based on the difference between the “too much” and “too little” responses, the public’s view on various categories were graded between plus and minus 100, where high values mean more funds should be provided, while negative values indicated the public thinks too much is already being spent in that area.

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The Science, Space, and Technology Committee in the 113th Congress

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) has split the Energy and Environment subcommittee into two separate subcommittees, resulting in six subcommittees in the new session.

The Space and Aeronautics subcommittee will continue to be chaired by Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS). The complete list of assignments is listed below.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) was reelected as the top Democrat (“Ranking Member”) on the full committee in December. Democratic subcommittee assignments have not been announced yet.

Full Committee

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas)

Vice-Chairman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.)

Chairman Emeritus Ralph Hall (R-Texas)

Subcommittee on Energy

Chairwoman Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.)

Vice-Chairman Randy Weber (R-Texas)

Subcommittee on Environment

Chairman Andy Harris (R-Md.)

Vice-Chairman Chris Stewart (R-Utah)

Subcommittee on Research

Chairman Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.)

Vice-Chairman Steve Stockman (R-Texas)

Subcommittee on Space

Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.)

Vice-Chairman Mo Brooks (R-Ala.)

Subcommittee on Technology

Chairman Thomas Massie (R-Ky.)

Vice-Chairman Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.)

Subcommittee on Oversight

Chairman Paul Broun (R-Ga.)

Vice-Chairman Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.)