In a city where glamour and fame often capture the media spotlight, it can be easy to forget that modern rocketry first took root in a dusty stretch of dry riverbed in Pasadena, and eventually bloomed into the most ambitious efforts of humankind to date. Last week, in Downtown Los Angeles, the industry leaders and feisty upstarts who continue to carry that proverbial torch gathered to show-off the current capabilities and bold plans for the future at the Spacecraft Technology Expo.
From May 9th through May 10th, the Los Angeles Convention Center played host to the best and the brightest in orbital and suborbital technology. Although there were bigger and more moneyed players in the space game who took out space at the expo, it was small, but determined suborbital flight provider XCOR Aerospace who stole the floor of the convention with a full-scale mock-up of their Lynx spacecraft, a rocket-propelled reusable launch vehicle.
XCOR’s Lynx remains in development, but should give larger and more financially empowered Virgin Galactic a run for its Branson-backed money by offering flights from its Mojave, CA base of operations for around $90K (a ticket with Virgin Galactic comes in around $200K).
Additional exhibit’s worthy of mention included Sage Cheshire Aerospace’s Red Bull Stratos capsule, built for the upcoming record-breaking skydive of Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner. Baumgartner recently completed a test jump from 70,000 feet and is sure to make more headlines for both Red Bull and Sage Cheshire as he scales up to an eventual 120,000 ft. jump sometime later this year.
Exhibits from SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, Orbital Outfitters, Bigelow Aerospace, and Boeing rounded out the rest of the big names, whose breathtaking technology plans to move human space exploration closer to commercial footing, away from the cash-strapped US government.
My attendance of the Spacecraft Technology Expo came with a note of sadness. This event was promoted by BlackStarr Group, whose founding partner Jacque Saladino was recently hospitalized with serious injuries following a hit and run on April 29th. Sadly, the last email I received from Jacque, on April 27th, was a thank you note for agreeing to cover the expo and final details regarding my press pass.