Before I get into the text of my article today, I have to comment on Ned Cantwell’s article in yesterday’s paper. Richard Branson is going approximately seventy miles in a licensed sub-orbital human spaceflight vehicle, not to orbit. SpaceX is testing a research vehicle not intended for human spaceflight. Mr. Cantwell, should you want to work for Heather, she is a retired Air Force officer and knows the difference between sub-orbital and orbital flight and between research vehicles and vehicles licensed to carry humans. Please be my guest at the upcoming New Mexico Space Grant Student Launch at Spaceport America on June 21. It is a sub-orbital flight. Besides watching the rocket loaded with experiments to go space, we hope people from PSL and the Mesilla Valley Model Airplane Club will demonstrate unmanned aerial systems technology.
We are coordinating presentations on the education experiments flying on the rocket with the NASA Flight Opportunities Office https://flightopportunities.nasa.gov. While it is still pretty rugged at these launches our volunteers make the event unforgettable. You can register at www.launchnm.com.
Who are the big players? NASA is the big player on this launch again. NASA Flight Opportunities Program put the UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL rocket under contract for this launch. Why? Because it goes to space, and NASA is committed to growing the number of research programs in the country developing flight experiments. Let’s agree what scientific and or engineering research isn’t. It isn’t an opinion. Research may start with an opinion, a problem or a question. A question can turn into a tough problem to define.
What’s the problem? Humans do not live and work in space. Less than ten of us at a time, live and work in space. Spaceport America is a multi-functional launch site. As more tenants start operations at Spaceport America, they will either rely on our locally skilled people or they will bring labor in from Texas, Colorado, Florida and California. These are the states with the largest space economies and workforce. NASA is helping us develop this site to grow our economy of the future. We want to grow the workforce in New Mexico now with New Mexicans.
Developing academic programs that design, build and fly space technologies is a big challenge. I remember when we first developed the ability to teach students how to build robotic vehicles. We had to hire faculty with electronics and communications expertise, then we had to build labs. All the while, we had to create student interest and demand for the classes. Now robotics is pervasive in the engineering curriculum because it has so many different applications in our economy. As more humans go to space from Spaceport America in New Mexico, the national human spaceflight economy will grow.
New Mexico State University is the lead engineering and agriculture university in the state. NMSU and PSL had superior capability in the space industry. Consider we developed the communications systems that allowed the Apollo astronauts to send video signal out to the world when we landed on the moon. Many of those faculty spent the best part of their careers here at NMSU. They educated thousands of engineers who work in the space industry, but most don’t work in New Mexico.
The state legislature has required the universities to increase tuition so students pay a greater share of the cost of receiving a college education. But the state lagged in creating jobs to keep those students here in the state so we, the tax payers, could get return on our investment. Straight out of college, engineers make on average twice the salary of new hires in other sectors of the economy. Spaceport America is an investment that will create return back to the taxpayers.
Some baby boomer engineers are back home in New Mexico and are helping on this launch. Wayne Savage, a civil engineer and NMSU grad is back. Dr. Bill Gutman, from PSL now works at Spaceport America. He always helps. Jeremy Bruggerman, an engineer in his early twenties, is employed at NASA WSTF. He worked on an experiment, while at NMSU, that is being readied to go to space. Behind the scenes, the current student research team will observe how experiments are loaded into the rocket. It will help them perfect the design for flight in two months.
We will have people from NASA speaking, more on the final agenda as we get closer. Our colleagues from Jacobs Technology and Sapphire Energy volunteers will help us with the experiments. Join us and register at www.launchnm.com and see for yourself.