Some first notes from the 48th IAF Congress

by Michael Martin Smith (UK Space Age Associates)


I have just returned from the 48th IAF Congress in Turin, and think there are some interesting things on the horizon for all of us:

  1. The commercialization of Space is proceeding apace; Dan Goldin of NASA pointed out that 1996 saw , for the first time ever, US commercial space turnover exceed government turnover, comprising 53% of total US space activity. This trend is actually global
  2. The X-Prize , of 10 million dollars to the first private group to launch 3 people into space twice in 2 weeks using a vehicle unaltered except by refuelling, is attracting 16 competitors before the purse is even funded. The opening up of economical space tourism by private venture is now almost upon us- 2 -3 years on current schedules!
  3. Japan is now methodially but resolutely advancing towards fully reusable SSTO by 2010, using evolved H2A and HOPE hardware, to achieve launch costs of less than 1000 dollars per pound, while Lockheed's X-33 SSTO technology demonstrator heads for final design review at the end of this month, and test flight in July 1999
  4. Solar-electric ion propulsion systems are to be flown on NASA's DS1 craft next summer, while Japan's Nereus mission is to use them for an asteroid sample return mission. MY own Humble Space Telescope has been offered a miniature version of the UK-10 ( being developed now) for station keeping and life span prolongation
  5. Costs of interplanetary probe missions are falling, with the real probability of 20 million dollar academic/privately funded missions within a few years, from new launchers and smart small sat. technologies
  6. 1999-2000 should see the first totally privately funded asteroid mission - NEAP - launched explicitly with prospecting and mining in mind, at a cost of 30 million dollars, by James Benson's SpaceDev Corporation
  7. An IAF sponsored World Space Programme workshop to look at reasons ways and means for a 21st century Space sprogramme is soliciting submissions from interested parties. On behalf of SAA, I plan to send in a 3 page ( approx) paper which could find its way onto a draft document in time for the 1999 IAF Congress at Amsterdam

All exciting stuff, I hope you will agree!