The University of Central Florida is hosting a space conference that should help position researchers and educators to take advantage of a new generation of commercial space vehicles for suborbital travel.
The new vehicles will revolutionize access to space by providing frequent and low-cost trips. And the future is closer than many think.
Virgin Galactic’s space tourism rocket SpaceShipTwo achieved its first solo glide flight Sunday, Oct. 10, marking a major milestone in the efforts to commercialize spaceflight. Virgin Galactic officials plan commercial flights out of New Mexico, where a spaceport is under construction. At least five companies are building space vehicles that will offer scientists the opportunity to conduct research in space more frequently and in real-time.
To help researchers take advantage of the new opportunities, UCF is hosting the 2011 Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference Feb. 28 through March 2. Registration is now open. More than a dozen corporations and government agencies, including Space Florida, are sponsors of the event.
The conference will provide a forum to learn about the research and education personnel capabilities offered by this new space endeavor. NSRC2011 also will provide guidelines on vehicle design requirements for those interested in participating in space flights.
Researchers involved in atmospheric science, solar physics, microgravity science, planetary science, space life science, space physics, and education and public outreach are invited to participate.
Keynote speakers at the conference include: NASA Associate Administrator for Technology Robert Braun; FAA Associate Administrator for Space George Nield; NASA Ames Center Director Pete Worden; and Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello.
A student competition will include two categories: a proposed experiment to fly in the microgravity environment of a suborbital flight, open to teams and individuals; and an essay on the benefits of suborbital spaceflight, which is open to individuals only.
“The commercial spaceflight sector is excited to work with government, academia and industry to start putting payloads on next-generation suborbital vehicles,” said Bretton Alexander, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, one of the many sponsors of the conference. “The commercial spaceflight industry shares the enthusiasm displayed by the scientific community for the great research potential of these new spacecraft..”
UCF has a long history in space research and is positioning itself to be a leader in this new era of space exploration. It is home to a growing Planetary Sciences Group, which includes seven faculty members. Professors in the group have been involved in a variety of missions from observations of planets via NASA’s Spitzer telescope to such high-profile missions as Stardust, Deep Impact, Pathfinder, New Horizons and Cassini.
The university also is now an Education and Research Affiliate member of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. The federation is an industry association of about 30 leading businesses and organizations working to make commercial human spaceflight a reality.