This last week ended a rather crazy, but rewarding, year for me personally. Just a quick recap on what’s been going on my goofy world over the past year (some dates approximate-my current Journal only goes back to Apr 28th, and I haven’t found my box with older ones):
* Late Dec 2009/Apr 2010 — Was working on a TSTO Air-Launched Nanosat Launcher concept using John Hare’s “Glideforward” reusable first stage approach. Went as far as talking with several UAV companies about the concept. Thought about doing a spinoff company from Masten to pursue this (probably what first got me thinking about heading off on my own). * 1/13 — Posted my “Lunar One-Way To Stay (For a While)” post. I still think that if 1/6g ends up being sufficient to avoid the worst of microgravity damage, that this may be the best way to enable affordable lunar development. * 2/15 — Submitted abstracts for two papers for Space 2010. One was going to be for the Iridium Servicing work that Colin and I have written about. We were going to be using Ian Garcia and a friend of his from The Aerospace Corp to help us with the orbital mechanics part of the analysis. The other paper was going to be on methods for rapidly reducing the risk on propellant depots. Ultimately ended up backing out of both papers. * 2/10-2/21 — Wrote my MHD Aerobraking and TPS posts. * Mid-to-late Feb — Participated on an unofficial NASA/Industry effort on developing a roadmap for propellant depot technology demonstration. * 4/8-4/10 Went to Space Access 2010 down in Phoenix. Was on an advanced technology panel as well as a propellant depot panel. * 4/11 — On the drive home from Space Access 2010, Ian drops the bombshell on me that he had decided to leave Masten. * Sometime over the next week or so, I started thinking seriously about next steps, and decided that I wanted to leave Masten by the end of the year to start my own company. Made the decision while up in Utah visiting my family (and seeing my brother in law Alan graduate from BYU). * 4/28 — I dropped my bombshell on Dave, Joel, Michael and the others that I wanted to leave by the end of the year to start my own company. * 5/1 — Celebrated “May Day” by having my first planning meeting for what became Altius Space Machines. * 5/14-5/19 — Made an emergency trip up to Eugene to visit Tiff’s parents. Her mom had been fighting cancer for several years, and had finally started going into the final stages. Tiff and the boys had been going up for a few weeks at a time on a regular basis already, but we though this might be our last chance to see her. Turns out we were wrong, but it was a wonderful visit, and my last chance to be with her that wasn’t with the whole extended family there. * 5/19 – 6/10 — Worked with a NASA/Industry group on a response to the RFI on the depot FTD mission. This covered a lot of the ground that the previous unofficial roadmapping stuff covered, and also covered a lot of what was going to be in my Space 2010 paper. * 5/20 – 5/21 — Submitted a response to a NASA HLV RFI. At the time it looked like they were actually interested in advanced technologies, so I wrote up info on several promising options, including afterburning rocket nozzles (like Aerojet’s TAN work and some other approaches we at Masten were noodling), pistonless pumps (Flometrics), a high performance, low-cost, all-aluminum nozzle manufacturing technique that Dave and I had come up with, and the MHD-driven electric pump-fed rocket idea that I’m still supposed to blog about… * 5/26 — Months of work at Masten culminated in our picture-perfect in-air relight flight with Xombie! * 6/1 — Ben dropped his bombshell at Masten, telling us that he had taken a job with Armadillo Aerospace. * 6/1 — Came up with the name Altius for the new company. Hadn’t yet thought of the Space Machines bit yet (decided on that on 6/10). * 6/16 — While Ian had formally announced he was leaving Masten back in April, he officially announced he was taking a job back with his old company, Draper. * 6/23 — Dropped the family off at the airport to fly up to Oregon. Interviewed Alex Hreiz, who we ended up hiring to replace me at Masten as Propulsion Engineer. * 6/30 — Submitted our papers for incorporating Altius Space Machines in the state of Colorado. * 7/4 — Had a councilor of mine at church ask me point blank if I had prayed about leaving Masten immediately instead of dragging things out…after getting my answer, I talked with Tiff and decided to make the jump. * 7/5-7/6 — After talking it over with Tiffany over the weekend, I resigned from Masten, effective immediately (I gave my “two weeks notice” worth of work later after they had brought on Alex Hreiz to replace me so I could actually get him trained). * 7/7 — Stopped in the Bay Area on the way up to be with my family. Visited a few places including Ventions’ facility up in SF. Found out about their need for GN&C help on a DARPA contract that allowed me to talk Ian into leaving Draper to join me at Altius. * 7/8 — Arrived up in Oregon for a family reunion with Tiff’s family. Her mom was surprisingly still hanging in there. Had a wonderful reunion with her whole family there. We decided to move out of our place in Tehachapi (why pay rent for a place we weren’t using), and have Tiff and the boys move in with her folks in Oregon to help. * 7/20-8/3 — Packed up the apartment in Tehachapi, and loaded all our stuff into a PODS unit, while simultaneously trying to finish up ASM’s proposal for the HLV Propulsion and Technology Tradestudy BAA NASA had put out. Got the proposal in on time, and got our stuff moved out. Special thanks to Brian Bernhardt, Mike and Sarah Judson, and tons of people in our ward. Tiff headed up to Oregon, and I headed out to Utah. * 7/23 — Invented a “tractor beam”, or at least something that would do the same thing but using existing technology. * 8/5 – 8/9 — Drove out to Colorado to meet with several incubators and try to figure out where I ought to locate the company. It was my first time back to the state since I was 15. Long story short, I fell in love with the Lafayette/Louisville area. I had told my partners that I intended to spend my 30th birthday in Colorado, and I did. * 8/9 — On the drive back from CO, got to talk with Tiff’s mom for the last time. I could tell that the person I knew and loved wasn’t there anymore. * 8/13 — While out in California, doing some consulting work for Tomas Svitek’s company, I got the word that Tiff’s mom had passed away. I decided to head up to be with the family. Special thanks to the Masten guys for letting me punt my “two weeks” notice for a week or so to be with my family at this time. * 8/21 — Participated in a wonderful and touching memorial service for my mother-in-law, Susan Cragun. She was a wonderful person, and of all the “funerals” I’ve ever attended, this was by far the most up-beat and joyful. A celebration of a wonderful person we all loved. Just the way she would’ve liked it. * 8/23 – 9/3 — Spent two weeks at Masten training Alex Hreiz. The guy is really sharp and a quick learner. He’s a great fit for Masten, and probably a better match for what they need in a propulsion guy than I was. While I was out there, I also got a NASA SBIR proposal written for that “tractor beam” idea. Talked a friend into submitting an SBIR proposal for a cool transpiration cooling TPS idea, with Altius as one of the subs. * 9/6 — Had an all-hands strategy meeting for Altius Space Machines. Came up with some clever ways of doing the company that would allow us to both focus as a company while still having flexibility. Came up with our elevator pitch, and roadmapped several of the technology areas that we thought had opportunities for our company. * 9/7 — Visited the lab of the company working with us on the “tractor beam” idea on the way back to Oregon. * 9/9 — My brother-in-law Brady Cragun got sealed to his wife Laura in the Portland Oregon temple today. Got to attend. It was wonderful. * 9/10 — Masten let the cat out of the bag on me having left, by updating their personnel page. Up until now, I had been keeping my departure under wraps so Masten could have some breathing room without the chattering classes going nuts. * 9/17 – 9/18 — Drove down to the Bay Area for my former Masten coworker Ian Moore’s wedding to Breanna Uchityl. It was awesome. Well worth driving several hundred miles. Headed out from there to Utah en-route to CO. * 9/22 — Had our first Board of Directors meetings for Altius. * 9/25 – 9/30 — Spent a week out in Denver meeting with friends, business service providers, incubators, potential customers, etc. Tiff threw her back completely out the day we got into town, and got to spend a night in the emergency room, but the Lafayette Ward was able to help watch the boys while she recovered. * 9/29 — Signed Altius’ first contract with Ventions! * 10/2 — During LDS General Conference, President Monson announced a temple in Urdanetta City, in the Philippines. This was within a long walk of where I spent over half of my mission. * 10/6 — Got the Altius Space Machines blog setup. Still need to get a website that doesn’t suck, but at least the blog is presentable! * 10/12 – 10/13 — Drove the family back to Oregon. * 10/18 — First day on payroll at Altius for both Ian and myself. Drove down to California, to kick of the Ventions contract there in San Francisco. * 10/20 — Visited Masten’s shop and got to see the aeroshell for Xaero coming together. * 10/24 — En route to Colorado, I stopped in Laramie to visit with Bob Steinke (of Speed-Up fame as well as one of the friends who fixed Xoie the night before we won the NGLLC Level 2). His parents were there, and they offered to let me crash in their basement in Lafayette, CO while I tried to find a place for the family, and get some shop space procured. Arrived in Colorado that night. * 10/25 — Found “The Vault”, where ASM is currently located. * 10/26 — Met with the legal firm and the accounting firm that ASM ultimately went with (HRO and Eide and Bailley in case you’re wondering). * 10/29 – 10/30 — Flew out to San Jose for the SSI conference. Participated in a panel on space transportation, presenting a paper on the Top 10 Technologies For Reusable Cislunar Transportation that I had worked on with Dallas Bienhoff. Unfortunately, while we finished the paper, Dallas wasn’t able to get it approved for publication at this time. * 11/2 — After spending the weekend up in Oregon with my family, I headed back to Colorado, signed the contract with ULA for the feasibility study, and signed up with “The Vault” to rent some office space for ASM. * 11/3 — Ian arrived in Colorado! Altius Space Machines felt like a real company all of the sudden! * 11/5 — Did a writeup on Kirk Sorensen’s xGRF Variable Gravity Research Station idea. Flew out to San Jose, CA. * 11/6 — Attended a Nanosat Launch Vehicle competition seminar put on by Team Phoenicia for the newly announced Centennial Challenge. * 11/8 — Found out we didn’t win one of the HLV Tradestudy BAA awards. Turns out that almost twice as many companies proposed as I thought. All told, we did fairly well considering that we were bidding a no-name company with no track-record, no facilities, etc against several of the biggest companies in the industry. * 11/17 — Was on a panel put on by the CU SEDS chapter discussing space policy. Great panel. One of the other panelists was Scott Tibbetts, the guy who founded Starsys (which got bought out by Space Dev and then Sierra Nevada-their group is the one building Dream Chaser here in Louisville). Scott runs the eSpace Center for Space Entrepreneurship, a space-focused incubator in Boulder. * 11/20 — En route to Oregon for Thanksgiving, I went off the road going down Logan Canyon (I was planning on crashing at Mike Judson’s place in Logan, not crashing in the canyon along the way…) No serious damage to the car, trees kept me from rolling into the river, etc. * 12/2 — Invented a crazy-cool microgravity cryo fluid management technique. Hopefully will be testing it early this year. If this works, it will be the freaky-weirdest thing you’ve seen in a long time.
* 12/7 — Met with my new bookkeeper for the first time and got the company’s books in order. It’s nice to get details like this taken care of from the start. * 12/8 — Awesome day! SpaceX knocks it out of the park with their inaugural Falcon 9/Dragon mission. I got to attend Josh Hopkins’ presentation on the “Plymouth Rock” mission concept in Boulder at SwRI (while one of my friends who was sitting next to me was whispering Dragon mission status updates he was reading off twitter). And found out that ASM was selected to negotiate an SBIR contract for my “tractor beam” idea. * 12/13 — Was on The Space Show talking about Altius, Propellant Depots, 21st Century “Tractor Beams”, etc. * 12/16 — Found out my predictions for 2010 were crazy accurate. * 12/21 — Finished our feasibility study for ULA. All told, less than 2 months from contract signed till contract completed isn’t too shabby. Hopefully we can talk about what we did some day. It was pretty sweet. * 12/22 — The day before I was supposed to fly home for Christmas, I get woken up by a call from a landlord with a house to rent that had just miraculously come back on market. Checked it out, price was great, quality was great, and it had a back yard. Signed the papers that night. * 12/23 — Flew home with Christmas knowing that I’d have a place for my family to stay when I got home. * 12/26 — Came up with yet another cool technique for the aluminum nozzle manufacturing technique that Altius and Masten are collaborating on. * 1/3/2011 — Made it safely to CO with my family. Moved into our new place! * 1/7 — My PODS unit arrived safely from Bakersfield. * 1/8 — With help from the ward, got the PODS unit unloaded in about 40 minutes. * 1/9 — Took my family to church with me for the first Sunday in Lafayette.
Despite how crazy this may all sound, it’s probably only skimming the surface on a crazy year. Fortunately though we’re getting settled-in as a family, and gearing up for what should be an amazing year. I’m hoping to get the real blogging underway again pretty soon.