I recently had the great pleasure to give a talk (and serve as co-author for a second) at the fourth annual Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC), held this year in Boulder, Colorado.
As a one-of-a-kind collection of researchers, entrepreneurs, spacecraft providers, students, and government representatives, NSRC’s intent is to foster collaboration of a sort that will enable the research world to fully utilize what amount to a fleet of new spacecraft looking to come online within the next 24 months. In all, exciting to be amongst like-minded folks, great to see familiar faces again, and a thrill to forge new alliances.
Two Radiation Take-Homes for the Suborbital Space Community
So, what was I doing there? In brief, on behalf of my spaceflight consulting firm, Astrowright, I made a daring and ill-advised attempt to shove a 40-slide presentation into 10 minutes, with (based on positive feedback) it seems at least a small amount of success. (I wouldn’t have even made such a blitzkrieg attempt unless it was absolutely necessary in the context of my talk.)
The intent? To give a broad enough overview of radiation detector theory so that I had a prayer of communicating to this very select audience two imminent realities of space radiation dosimetry:
- The private/commercial spaceflight world, particularly in the suborbital context, is primed to (mis)use off-the-shelf radiation dosimeters designed for the commercial nuclear world; these instruments will not deliver complete or ultimately meaningful numbers without applying specific scaling algorithms to the results, in essence calibrating them for the space environment. User beware!
- The greatest benefit of bothering to outfit suborbital astronauts with radiation dosimeters might not be to the spaceflight participants themselves, (who would receive in all but the most extraordinary circumstances a practically immeasurable radiation dose). Instead, the greatest effect may be to improve Earth-based low-dose modeling and safety standards, the researchers engaged in which would benefit immeasurably from having a completely new population group to study who are intentionally exposing themselves to low-dose, high-intensity radiation. This is also, *hint hint*, a completely untapped research funding angle (contact me if interested in collaborating – seriously!).
So, there you have it. If not taking advantage of my own firm’s radiation dosimetry services, my message to the suborbital spaceflight world was to at least engage in planning one’s own flight experience armed to understand that accurate dosimetry in the space environment is not something one can just pull off a shelf and slap on the outside of a pressure suit!
Space Training Roadmap
The second talk, which was expertly given by co-conspirator Dr. Mindy Howard of Inner Space Training, involved a task-based assessment of potential spaceflight tasks for suborbital spaceflight participant. The objective there? The development of a spaceflight training “roadmap” to help participants decide which training amongst the many types offered by providers is relevant and necessary for their personal flight goals.
The power to decide which training is or is not relevant to an individual should not, in my opinion, be left up to the spacecraft providers (who may and likely will not have your specific goals in mind)! That’s where our roadmap research comes in.
Please feel free to contact me or Dr. Howard for any additional details along those lines.
Well, the pulse at the conference was that the next twelve months appear to be crucial. With business plans starting to kick in and metal finally being flight tested, I feel as though there are two distinct options for NSRC 2014: It will either be aflood with the excitement borne of the dawn of commercial suborbital spaceflight, or attendance will plummet as cynicism and a fear of perpetual development cycles sets in.
For now, the future looks bright, and that’s good news!
Until next time, NSRC. Cheers!