Charles Platt at Space Access ’10

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Charles Platt at Space Access ’10

MAKE Contributing Editor (and author of Make: Electronics) Charles Platt just filed this little report from the commercial space conference he’s covering for us. — Gareth


The Lynx suborbital spaceplane from XCOR

I’m attending the Space Access ’10 conference in Phoenix, Arizona, with the intention of writing about some particularly exciting ventures for a future DIY Space issue of MAKE. It’s a pivotal time in this field. In the words of Jeff Greason, of XCOR, “I’m thrilled and terrified by the magnitude of the opportunity facing the US private space business.” XCOR is already selling rides on its Lynx suborbital spaceplane for $95,000 (a $20,000 down payment required), which is considerably cheaper than Virgin Galactic. I think there’s no doubt that the next step for Lynx will be, eventually, to offer orbital flights.

This year, the Obama administration canceled Ares, NASA’s last significant manned project (which had been initiated by George W. Bush). NASA has been directed to work with private companies, forcing it to take tiny startups more seriously. From the point of view of MAKE readers, rocketry is an exciting field, since almost all the independent companies have been created by people who were active originally in the amateur community.


Tim Pickens working on a 4000 pound thrust engine. (Image from his website)

In a few minutes, I’ll be listening to a presentation by Paul Breed, of Unreasonable Rocket. Breed’s favorite aphorism seems to be: “Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves.” No X Prize for guessing which camp he’s in. Following him this afternoon will be Tim Pickens, who entertains himself by building gadgets such as a rocket-powered pickup truck and a rocket-powered bicycle (for his daughter), but managed to sell his startup company, Orion, to a military contractor named Dynetics (which plans to use his designs to put small payloads
into orbit). — Charles Platt

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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