ISU SSP13 – Week One


What a fantastic start to SSP13!

Throughout the week we were given lectures on a diverse range of topics – from policy rationales for space, astrodynamics, management of space projects, business structures, orbits, electromagnetic radiation, extravehicular activity and disruptive technologies. The summer programme is set to give a great, detailed look of the space sector across a whole host of subject matters.

On Tuesday we had a rather curious “Cambridge Union-style” debate with regards to human spaceflight. This was a great chance for participants to get to know each other through a very dynamic debate. We were each given two minutes to advocate or oppose whether or not we should support human spaceflight. Afterwards “the house” had a vote and all but one supported the proposal to support human spaceflight.


Colleague and fellow space tweep, Remco Timmermans (@timmermansr) makes the case for human spaceflight.

It was a great pleasure to meet once again, former astronaut Jeff Hoffman. Hoffman is a Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT and a visiting Professor at the University of Leicester (where I first met him). He made five shuttle flights:

  • STS 51-D (April 12–19, 1985)
  • STS-35 (December 2–10, 1990)
  • STS-46 (July 31 – August 8, 1992)
  • STS-61 (December 2–13, 1993)
  • STS-75 (February 22 – March 9, 1996)

In STS-61, Hoffman repaired the flawed optical system of the Hubble Space Telescope.

It was great to be able to speak to Prof. Hoffman about his time at the University of Leicester, my alma mater. He told me of his post-doctoral work and how he worked in the X-Ray and Observational Astronomy (XROA) group which is where I did my SURE summer programme. He worked there on several X-ray astronomy rocket payloads between 1972-1975, before he moved to MIT, after which he applied for the NASA astronaut programme.

All in all, we had four lectures by Prof. Hoffman throughout the week, including: “Living and Working in Space”, “The Electromagnetic Spectrum”, “Extra-Vehicular Activity” and “Microgravity”. Fantastic to have such high quality lectures from an MIT Professor and former astronaut. It was great to hear his experiences.


Former astronaut, Jeff Hoffman shares his experiences on the space shuttle.

On Wednesday we had a special lecture by John Logsdon who talked about “John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon”. He gave a great sense of the state of politics at the time (particularly between the US and Soviet Union) and the motivations behind the race to the Moon. Logsdon detailed the moments leading up to the key decisions which led to the conception of the Apollo project which eventually landed a man on the Moon.

We choose to go to the Moon. We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. – John F. Kennedy, September 12th, 1962 


John Logsdon signs my copy of his book “John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon”

On Thursday, we were addressed by Peter Diamandis, co-founder of ISU (among many others*) who delivered a talk on “Creating a world of Abundance, on Earth and beyond”. He noted his TED talk which can be viewed here. As in his TED talk, Diamandis “makes a case for optimism — that we’ll invent, innovate and create ways to solve the challenges that loom over us.”

*Peter Diamandis is co-founder of ISU, co-founder of SEDS, co-founder of International MicroSpace Inc., Diamandis founder of Constellation Communications, Inc., founder of the X PRIZE Foundation, co-founder ZERO-G corporation, former president of Angel Technologies Corporation, co-founder and vice chairman of Space Adventures, former CEO of BlastOff! Corporation, co-founder of the Rocket Racing League and co-founder Singularity University.


Peter Diamandis, co-founder of ISU addressing SSP participants via “Webex”

One rather important part of SSP is our team project (TP). We had to make our choices on Tuesday and these were announced on Wednesday. The various topics are:

  • TP Solar Max (Solar Maximum and Spacecraft Protection) focusing on the effects of solar weather on society.
  • TP AMBIEnT (Affordable Microsatellite-Based Internet Access and Environmental Monitoring) –  focusing on a lowcost microsatellite constellation systems architecture for providing IP (Internet Protocol) connection for various services, including environmental monitoring, mainly for remote locations.
  • TP Coastal (Coastal Sustainability and Offshore Resource and Activity Management) focusing on cost effective solutions based on space integrated applications for monitoring coastal regions of Kenya and Tanzania for sustainable use of resources, and for protection of the local communities from various hazards that occur in the coastal areas.

Fellow UK SSP Participant, SC O’Sullivan (@SineadOS1) addresses our TP group.

I have been selected for TP AMBIEnT and will spend my weeks here focusing on this team project.

From the opening activities on Monday, through to our first lectures on Tuesday, our discussions and debates, as well as selection of team projects, this was a very busy week. I am looking to the remaining eight weeks at ISU for what seems already to be an intensive but informative programme.