Our team participated in a very successful panel discussion about the future of commercial spaceflight, organised by the Common Sense Society. The three panelists – Dr. Tibor Pacher, founder and team leader of Puli Space, László Molnár, author of the Cydonia blog and Puli team member and Dr. András Gschwindt from the Masat project – shared their respective views about this wide topic.
Dr Gschwindt told us about the first Hungarian CubeSat, how did they approach possible backers for the project and the (not very high) success rates of those endeavors. He stressed the importance of reliable communications in space, where distances can be very long, but transmission powers can be very limited. He also pointed out that Masat is the only Cubesat from the Vega launch that actually works as they planned, all the others are either dead or experienced various issues.
Next, Tibor introduced the history of Puli, the GLXP and the current state of our project. He talked about the potential costs – compared to other expenditures – and the possibilities of piggybacking on another team's lander. And as a surprise, he introduced our actual Iteration 2 rover to the audience. This rover, although not space-rated, features the dimensions, weight constraints and engineering solutions we currently plan for our Moon rover. I2 is nearing completion, but you still have to wait a little before we introduce it to the general public.
Tibor presents the I2 rover - but we won't show more just yet.
After everybody had a good look at the rover, we continued with the original topic: commercial spaceflight. László told us about the different types of commercial ventures: launch providers, who sell rockets to customers, and companies who build and operate telecommunications satellites are solid reality right now. Tibor also reminded of GeoEye and DigitalGlobe who sell satellite imagery, for example to Walmart about their parking lots. The next step in the evolution of commercial space is to build spaceships that can fly people to space: however, we have to understand the difference between suborbital and orbital spaceflight. Companies like Virgin Galactic or XCOR work on reusable vehicles that will only fly up above 100 km and fall down (in a controlled way). Reaching orbit requires a lot more energy, about 50 times, hence one has to be cautious to compare those companies to SpaceX. We discussed the business cases, market opportunities and of these companies that range from suborbital joyrides through scientific experiments to space stations that work as hotels. Or the realism of project like mining the Moon or asteroids.
The discussion slowly turned into a Q&A session with people in the audience commenting or asking questions more and more frequently. We finally concluded that commercial spaceflight is already alive and kicking but the future may even be brighter for it – although not necessarily in the ways science fiction envisioned it in the last decades.
We thank our host, Zsófia Göde and the Common Sense Society for the invitation and CNC Media for the recordings and pictures.
Last Updated (Monday, 09 July 2012 16:40)