Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference 2013

Last week, I wrote how I flew to Colorado for NSRC 2013, the conference for all people in the suborbital industry. It was an incredible conference, and arguably the most valuable conference I have been to thus far in my career.

I flew into Colorado Sunday morning, and was blown away by the beauty of the state. Visiting states like Colorado make me realize how geographically "un-dynamic" Florida is.


The poster sessions and reception were held Sunday night. Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado opened with welcoming words, then the reception started. This proved to be a key networking night for me. I met many professionals from all sorts of places, such as NASA, Southwest Research Institute, "twitter" (I met one of my favorite space reporters). I met many students as well, from undergrad through post-doc, whom I spent much of my time with over the next few days of the conference. Sunday night I also had the chance to sit inside XCOR's Lynx mockup! It was pretty cool.
















Monday was the first "real" day of the conference. Dr. Alan Stern started the day off, then Dr. Scott Parazynski spoke. He was very inspirational and cool; not only is he a medical doctor, but he was also an astronaut, and climbed Mt. Everest twice, amongst other things. We also heard a great deal from XCOR Aerospace that day; I learned a lot about what they are doing with the Lynx for researchers like myself.


Monday night there was a public event held by Dr. Alan Stern, as well, talking about the importance of commercial space flight, and it was really great, especially with so many people of the public there and asking questions. One young boy was sitting in front of me and he was so excited by the presentation; it was really heart-warming. 

Tuesday was presentation day for me! I was the last presentation in the microgravity session. Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard Branson's space company, had a good deal of time to speak about what they were doing and how SpaceShipTwo will have plenty of space and opportunities for researchers to fly their experiments. I also heard from Masten Space Systems on their company and their vertical launch systems. Finally was my presentation. After some technical difficulties (and then more technical difficulties), I presented my research. I did well enough to get an offer from Zero G Corporation to help fly my prototype, which was more than I was expecting, so I will say that presentation was successful!

I also met a wolf on Tuesday. No lie.


Wednesday was the last day of the conference. Before hearing from Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos's (the Amazon guy) "ultra secret" space company, I listened to a panel on the research infrastructure at spaceports. This was very interesting to me, as Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Fl is trying to gain spaceport status (and is only a couple miles from where I grew up). Then I heard Blue Origin, and for a tight-lipped company, I was quite impressed by some of the stuff they shared. They showed some really awesome test flights of their New Shepherd vehicle, which are available online here. NASA's Flight Opportunities Program and the Commercial Space Federation also spoke, before the closing remarks and closing "reception". This gave me a chance to say farewell to many of the amazing people I met over the duration of NSRC 2013, but my trip was far from over!

That night, I got to go on a late night tour of Colorado School of Mines, one of the schools I am considering for my graduate studies. Two of the school's most awesome students gave me a really good tour, and I learned all about their metallurgical and material science programs. I was very impressed by both the students and the school, and will definitely be applying when the time comes. 

Overall, my trip to Colorado was extremely successful with the contacts I've made, as well as offers and opportunities presented to me. It was the most beneficial conference I've been to thus far in my academic and research career, and am definitely looking forward to NSRC 2014.


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