[KySat Space readers: this is the final post from my live notes from the Kentucky Space Conference '08 session held last Wednesday in Lexington.]
Dr. Janet Lumpp, KySat faculty advisor from the University of Kentucky, is now up discussing student talent development - it's a issue critical to the success of Kentucky Space and has already come up in discussion a couple of times during the day.
Displaying a well-known quote from NASA administrator Mike Griffin, she says that the vision for space exploration will be carried out by kids in elementary and middle school now.
We're behind. Awarded engineering degrees have flat-lined. They're not keeping pace with population growth.
She points out that our kids are keeping up with the rest of the world through the fourth grade, but fall behind in science, engineering and math after that.
They must be reached at an early age in order to grab their attention before it drifts into other fields. For example, she wonders if the "CSI effect" might be attracting kids to forensics. Kentucky Space needs to fire kids imagination similarly.
She describes some principles for such a long term effort:
The first point is that Ky Space will be multi-generational effort.
It should inject enthusiasm by doing launch events - whether it's high altitude balloon events or doing suborbital launches. Bring students figuratively and literally as close to launches as possible.
She suggests that Kentucky Space can create "playground events" using handheld radios and antennas. She holds an antenna to demonstrate. Kids could submit cube commands that could be executed during playground fly-overs to deliver pictures and audio.
Dr. Lumpp points out that Prof. Bob Twiggs has created "PearlSats," which are strands of ping pong balls filled with candy, for example, that can be hoisted to a high altitude by balloon and "tested" afterward.
Perhaps those balls might be filled with seeds.
Displaying a picture of model rockets launching from a Crayola crayon box, she says that events might also be arranged that capture kids' imaginations using model rockets.
Or CanSats might be flown.
Continuing, she wonders if Kentucky Space might host design competitions. Balloons, sob-orbital and orbital mission design concepts could be solicited. Perhaps at this event in a year or two, a poster session could be held featuring mission concepts from elementary and middle schoolers.
All of these activities can help fill the talent pipeline.
Dr. Lumpp also describes the possibility of doing a standardized KY Space curricula. Much like the CATS testing done statewide, this curricula can also be used to assess progress in the space sciences. That curricula can used, for example, by schools or offered at the local YMCA. And of course, money is needed!
She pulls out some scale models that might be used to illustrate distances for a fifth grade curricula, and discusses how the concept of the extraordinary distances in space might be taught by walking a small foam ball across the stage to approximately thirty feet from a globe. That's the distance of the moon from the Earth.
For High Schools, the Doppler shift that can be taught using Kentucky Space CubeSats. Similarly, Energy Transfer/Transformation can be taught using space systems being used in orbit.
In all those cases, Dr. Lumpp discusses how that knowledge might be applied on a standard basis as part of a statewide space sciences curricula.
For impromptu educational events, she invites people to contact her. As Kris points out in response to a question, it's early - 90 percent of resources so far have been spent on the satellite. But clearly the educational goals of Kentucky Space participants, including the corporate partners, include developing space talent in the commonwealth of Kentucky.
Given a couple of elementary school children of my own, this was my favorite session of the conference.
[KySat Space readers: the next couple of posts will consist of my live notes from the Kentucky Space Conference '08 session held on Wednesday in Lexington.]
Dr. Jim Lumpp, KySat faculty advisor from the University of Kentucky, will talk briefly about future missions.
Beginning with high altitude balloons, he explains that near-space can be used for a wide variety of things because at 100,000 feet, only one percent of the atmosphere is left.
"You can also look up," he says.
Suborbital missions will continue to play a part in the Kentucky Space program. As a test bed for systems, the experience is invaluable.
Displaying a picture of KySat-1, orbital missions are, of course, critical and picking up a theme of Dr. Malphrus', he says that the infrastructure being built around orbital missions is impressive.
Given enough experience, perhaps a lunar mission is possible. Could a P-Pod ride to the moon and eject a cube for lunar orbit?
The satellites being built at MIT, Johns Hopkins, UC Berkeley and Stanford are big - cubesats are different and KySat has discussed with each of these schools the possibility of working together to contribute cube technology being developed in-house.
Because CubeSats are such a disruptive technology, he adds, the National Science Foundation is looking to launch 3-6 missions a year to do space weather and atmospheric research.
Transitioning to the current project, KySat-1, Dr. Lumpp says that KySat-1 will be passively magnetically stabilized. Since there is nothing "to lever off of" in space, being able to point cubes will be the subject of future efforts. And he offers this thought: perhaps by inducing an electronic current, a magnetic field can be created. This field could be turned on and off. When it's off, the Earth's magnetic field can take over to passively orient the cube.
It's a brief session and in response to a question, Dr. Lumpp describes how cubes can be used for life sciences research. Pharmasat is doing an E. Coli study, for example.
In fact, he adds, it's the launch opportunities that are holding up science.
[Kentucky Space readers: the series of posts from a one-day conference held yesterday in Lexington, Kentucky are grouped under Kentucky Space Conference '08 in the category cloud on the blog. Image: Dr. Malphrus]
University of Kentucky student Michael Gailey, who is developing some of the testing facilities for the Kentucky cube, is up and is discussing spacecraft testing. Because there are no Jiffy Lubes in orbit, rigorous testing on the ground prior to launch is required, he jokes.
Threats in space include radiation, heat on the sun-side of Earth, and cold when in the shadow of the planet. Throw in the hard vacuum of space and the operating environment is hostile.
Michael displays a picture of the thermal vacuum facility being build at the University of Kentucky now. It will simulate the space environment - thermally cycling the cube from hot to cold and back again, and performing a "bakeout," which tests for any undesirable outgassing from the cube that might pose a threat to other spacecraft on the ride to space.
The shaker will be able to shake a 50 pound satellites on three axis in order to meet the NASA standard for durability while the craft is encased in the P-POD on the rocket.
A clean room is also being built ensure that no foreign components make their way into the cube. The room will meet "class 100" clean room standards.
Showing a picture of the room, Gailey says it's a great place to be if you have allergies.
Dr. Ben Malphrus, who is a Morehead State University faculty advisor for the ground portion of KySat, is up next.
The big project has been the development of the 21 meter dual-use space tracking antenna. It's 82 feet in height. And coming in at roughly 300,000 pounds, it is capable, as he says, of very wide range of motion in altitude and azimuth. The dish has also been designed to operate at K and KU bands to push the broadband envelope.
This antenna is capable of both radio astronomy and the support of satellite missions. It can provide long term monitoring campaigns, sky surveys (dynamic mapping of HI in the Milky Way) and the study of galactic supernova remnants.
Morehead State is very fortunate to have such a world class instrument, he says.
MSU has also obtained an anechoic chamber from Lockhead Martin, which it rebuilt. It simulates the EM environment of space.
Lastly, in development at Morehead is a Space Science Center and Research, Development and Educational Facility, which will permit control of the antenna and include a Digital Star Theater. This building is currently under construction and Dr. Malphrus treats everyone to some pictures - which also show, by the way, the radio antenna on a hill in the background. The building will be devoted exclusively to space sciences, and probably, he adds, wouldn't have been possible without an initiative such as those coming from Kentucky Space.
Here's the takeaway from these two speakers: The physical infrastructure to support Kentucky Space is being built now. The capacity to design, build, test and validate flight hardware in Kentucky is likewise being developed.
As Dr. Malphrus points out, "These are big results are coming from a very small cube."
[Kentucky Space visitors: the series of posts from a one-day conference held yesterday in Lexington, Kentucky are grouped under Kentucky Space Conference '08 in the category cloud on the blog.]
Does Kentucky have a space brand? Not yet, but perhaps in the future it will.
Jeffrey Manber is a space entrepreneur speaking at Kentucky Space '08, a one-day conference focused on doing space in Kentucky.
Putting a spin on popular designations for the Internet, Kentucky, he says, is participating in Space 3.0, which along with SpacePort New Mexico and the Google X Prize, are pioneering a new way of doing space.
He contrasts these efforts to commercialize space with his work in an earlier era, and specifically his work with Payload Systems. He describes, for example, the difficulty of getting export licenses to do pharmaceutical research aboard "special Soviet space hardware located 200 miles from Moscow." The grammatical subterfuge was necessary because using spacecraft not made in the U.S.A., was unthinkable.
Success on that project was achieved in 1988, when a story came out on the front page of the New York Times that business was being done with the Soviets. The matter taught him an early and important lesson. Winning a policy battle in Washington means making sure the losing side knows they've lost. Get ahead of the story.
Manber also tells the story of PanAmSat, which put geostationary satellites in orbit. It meant going head to head with communications monopolies. It was another effort he was involved with, and one the government fought effort every step of the way - only governments do space, after all. To his astonishment the United States, which had a monopoly via Intelsat on international communications, didn't want competition!
The founder of PanAmSat eventually launched his satellite with no permission to actually use it.
That taught Manber a second important lesson - apologize later. West Germany, Great Britain and, finally, the U.S., worked with PanAmSat to break the international communications monopoly.
Manber emphasizes that because they were open to commercialization under Gorbachev, it was the Russians who actually led the world into the preceding era, which he dubs Space 2.0. The irony is that they believed in commercialization of space. And as president of MirCorp, which followed his stint at Payload Systems, he helped the Russians, adding "If you wanted to work with the socialists, you worked with NASA. If you wanted to work with the capitalists, you worked with the Soviets."
He recounts Pespi-Cola wanting to put its iconic brand in space to take a picture of it with the Earth in the background for its annual report. Again, NASA was opposed. "NASA didn't know stock options."
Citing another example of bureaucratic inertia, Manber says it took three months for the State Department to decide who would press the launch button for Sea Launch, which used Norwegian, Russian and Ukrainian equipment. Eventually the solution was for the American and Soviet personal to alternate languages during the count down!
Again, he emphasizes that it was the Russians who embraced space capitalism in the 1990's.
The point is that this hard-won effort to decentralize who gets to do space will make efforts like Kentucky Space attractive and doable.
"Attractive," because sound business principles can apply. The commercial industry with capital being put at risk will be serious about that capital. At Virgin Galactic, he says, marketers are selling tickets. If, hearkening back to the earlier days of commercial space business, old space business practices had been applied to aviation, transatlantic flights would cost millions, there would be only five flights a week and those flights would carry just a handful of passengers.
What's more, all the economic studies would "prove" that the market couldn't be expanded.
There is an opportunity with Kentucky Space. "We decide when and where to fly." Because Kentucky is not traditionally associate with space, there is great freedom in that.
Throwing out some possibilities, he says that perhaps a standardized bus could be used for high altitude balloons. Perhaps that bus could be associated with Kentucky Space.
Put enough of these successes together, and "you get a brand."
Saying that he met last week with Chinese space officials, Manber concludes by saying that he told those officials that "Kentucky might want to work with you," that it was interested in collaborative educational opportunities.
Having provided ample evidence from his own career, he rhetorically asks, "Why wait?"
Tyler Doering wrapped up the Ky Space "Space Express" mission and displayed a number of photos, many of which you can see in the Flickr badge on right side of this blog.
All of the payload systems were designed by the student design team, so they had to be robust. As Tyler explained, 1.5 seconds into the flight, the rocket and dart are pulling 150 G's - so it's a harsh ride.
He recounts the arrival at White Sands, sight reconnaissance, communications with the launch provider and payload integration, and finished with a video of the launch. You can watch it in the YouTube player on the right. Unfortunately, the Super Loki failed but not before payload telemetry was received.
The student-designed systems worked.
The dart that held the payload was not recovered, but Tyler displayed pictures of the recovered booster. Though disappointed that the rocket didn't' reach altitude, the whole Space Express mission provided an invaluable experience that will be helpful for the orbital launch, he added.
Getting a launch out of White Sands was a privilege few can say they've had.
Follow up questioning focused on student participation and coordination, student stipends, how one coordinates the efforts of six state institutions and potential commercial applications of the effort.
Kris Kimel, president of the Kentucky Science and Technology corporation and James Smith of Belcan kicked off the second annual KySat conference.
Kris explains that a lot has happened with KySat in the year since the last conference, pointing out, for example, that Kentucky has been awarded $13 million to get more Kentucky high school kids into - and passing - advanced placement courses in science and technology.
In addition, the KySat Space Express mission took place in December. Though the systems worked as planned, the rocket failed to reach its target altitude.
Four or five proposals are now in the works with NASA, UC Berkeley, John Hopkins and other institutions to further develop the space program.
The big question is how can "we expand the impact of this effort to include more people."
The design, launch and management of small satellites is still the goal, but other goals have been expanded.
As he explains, "KySat" has been changed to "Kentucky Space." There are four components:
With that, he announces that Jim Smith who serves as the chief engineer for Belcan, which has financially committed to Kentucky Space.
Referencing an August, 2007 Ky Space meeting, Smith says that Belcan was on board from that moment, wondering only how it might play a constructive role. The company concluded that it could best help by providing some strategic planning, focusing efforts and by identifying opportunities.
The current Kentucky Space vision statement says that by 2013:
KySpace will be a collaborative, non-profit enterprise that is recognized for enhancing the economic vitality of Kentucky through the expansion of technology development opportunities in space systems, aeronautics, astronautics; the stimulation of innovative business development and economic growth; and the expansion of educational opportunities throughout the Commonwealth.
He outlines steps being taken now to make that vision a reality. Given the enthusiasm for the entire Kentucky Space project, the question for Belcan is not one of "wanting," but only of "how." That's a very good start.