Space Access Update #100  2/8/03 
                Copyright 2003 by Space Access Society 

Contents this issue:

 - Suborbital Institute's First DC Lobbying Project This Week 

 - Space Access '03 Conference Info & Rates (Unchanged!) 

 - Columbia Lost With All Hands - Where To Now?  A First Look 

      Suborbital Institute's First DC Lobbying Project This Week 

This is last second notice, but if you're interested in doing citizen 
lobbying support for the budding commercial suborbital spacelaunch 
industry, and you can spend some time in Washington DC over the next 
few days, the newly formed Suborbital Institute will be doing its 
first ever volunteer lobbying project starting with a training session 
Sunday evening February 9th then a Monday morning Congressional 
staffer breakfast. 

We understand that this is being organized by Pat Bahn, Trent Telenko, 
and Ed Wright, and that the issues to be pushed include regulatory, 
insurance & liability, and new commercial spaceports.  (We expect that 
the chief benefit of this initial effort will be consciousness-
raising, since we suspect that most of official Washington still has 
no idea that a commercial suborbital launch industry is even 
possible.)  If you're interested but can't make this session on such 
short notice, we're told it will likely be happening again in the 
coming months.

Email for more information. 


         Space Access '03 Conference Info & Rates (Unchanged!) 

We forgot to mention in our last Update that registration rates for 
this year's Space Access'03 conference (April 24-26 in Scottsdale 
Arizona) will be unchanged from last year - $100 in advance, $120 at 
the door, student and day rates available at the door only.  A hasty 
partial list of confirmed presentations includes Armadillo Aerospace, 
Experimental Rocket Propulsion Society, Pioneer Rocketplane, TGV 
Rockets, X-Rocket LLC, and XCOR - we expect once again to host over 
twenty presentations giving a snapshot of where the nascent low-cost 
launch industry is this spring of 2003, once again a balance between 
our favorite "usual suspects" with another year or two's progress to 
talk about and fresh faces with new and different approaches. 
SA'03 happens Thursday evening April 24th through Saturday night April 
26th, 2003, at the Old Town Hotel and Conference Center, in downtown 
Scottsdale Arizona.  This is the same hotel we were at two years ago, 
the former Holiday Inn Old Town, with new owners and name but 
otherwise largely unchanged, in the heart of Scottsdale's restaurant 
and shopping district, a fifteen minute cab ride from the Phoenix 
airport.  For SA'03 room reservations, call 800 695-6995 or 480 994-
9203 and ask for our "space access" rate of $74 a night.  (Our rate is 
available for three days before and after the conference dates.)  To 
advance register for the conference, mail a check for $100 to:

           SA'03, 4855 E Warner Rd #24-150, Phoenix AZ 85044 

Include your name and affiliation (if any) as you want them to appear 
on your badge.  $10 off registration for SAS members (SAS membership 
is $30 a year), include a current email address for Updates if you're 
joining or renewing. 


             Columbia Lost With All Hands - Where To Now? 

The words "tragedy" and "disaster" have been massively overused by the 
modern media, but they still have their moments of sharp accuracy.  
The loss of Columbia with all hands was a tragedy for the family and 
friends of the crew.  Our utmost sympathy goes out to them all.  For 
NASA, the spectacular destruction of the ship was a disaster.  (Quite 
possibly, alas, another self-inflicted one.) 

But for this nation, the abrupt loss of the first Shuttle we ever flew 
to space is an opportunity, albeit a sad and dearly paid for one.  It 
is a chance to realize that we have been stalled in a bureaucratic 
dead end in space for coming on thirty years now, a chance to take a 
serious look at what we've been doing wrong and begin taking the 
painful steps needed to once again get rolling toward the future. 

The loss of Columbia and the investigation getting underway won't tell 
us anything new about NASA.  Possibly we will learn something new 
about reentry aerodynamics and tiled heat-shield systems, but NASA 
will emerge as what anyone paying attention already knows: A long-
established and massively inflexible bureaucracy that does one thing 
more or less adequately: Put a half-dozen people into space a half-
dozen times a year at a billion dollars a mission, in a manner known 
to all who paid attention ahead of time to be risky. 

We want to emphasize that: Risky.  The precise degree of risk 
depended on who you asked - NASA thought it about one chance in two 
hundred and fifty of vehicle loss per mission, while outsiders looked 
at the historical loss rate for expendable launchers and expected 
something more like one in a hundred to one in fifty.  (Keep in mind 
that while Shuttle is partly reusable, the way each flight is put 
together makes it essentially equivalent to a particularly large and 
complex expendable launcher - each Shuttle stack is a mostly 
new/rebuilt machine being flight-tested for the first time.)  But all 
involved understood that chances were we'd lose another Shuttle before 
we finished the Station project. 

The first lesson we draw from this is: Resume flying soon.  Take all 
practical precautions against recurrence of this latest problem - at 
minimum add basic on-orbit TPS (thermal protection system) inspection 
and emergency repair capability - but do not go into a years-long 
standdown.  We have international obligations, we have national pride, 
we knew it was a risky business when we got into it.  Shutting it down 
now would be admitting we're whupped - and we are no such thing.  
Don't take stupid risks, but some risk is unavoidable.  Fly. 

The deeper lesson we see here is something we've been thinking about 
for a long, long time, and that we're working on writing about in 
depth.  For now, the short version:  

Every time NASA has tried to develop new manned space transportation 
since Shuttle, they have failed.  (Arguably, every time since Apollo.)  
Producing at least a backup (if not a replacement) for Shuttle 
obviously just jumped a bunch of places forward in the national 
priority queue.  NASA's latest attempt at this is the Orbital Space 
Plane project, OSP.  

From what we've seen so far, the same NASA tendencies that sank all 
previous such efforts are manifesting themselves again.  Absent a 
serious independent investigation of why NASA has failed so often and 
so abysmally in the past, followed by the necessary radical reforms, 
we have no choice but to predict that OSP too will fail - at best just 
about as expensive and fragile to fly as Shuttle, and more likely 
never flying at all, either way at great expense in money and further 
lost time. 

We'll have a great deal more to say on this in the coming weeks. 


Space Access Society's sole purpose is to promote radical reductions 
in the cost of reaching space.  You may redistribute this Update in 
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 Space Access Society 

 "Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System" 
                                        - Robert A. Heinlein