A Mojave rocket company, an asteroid hunter, and a web pundit walk into a conference.  The badge person says, "what is this some kind of joke?"

Okay, we gotta get to space somehow.  Here's what's new in the private space race industry.  What ties these 4 newsbits together is it's all about having fun.

SatMagazine (March 2012) reports
Interorbital Systems (IOS) of Mojave, California, entered 2012 armed with the notification of its selection for a NASA SBIR Phase I award supporting the continued development of the company’s NEPTUNE modular rocket system. The NEPTUNE family of rockets is based on a single common building block: a stand-alone rocket that can be bundled in varying numbers with other identical modules—Common Propulsion Modules or CPMs—to meet any mission requirement.
What is the role of private industry in getting us to space?  Phil Plait writes

And I am strongly of the opinion that private industry is the way to make that happen. The Saturn V was incredible, but not terribly cost effective; that wasn’t its point. And when NASA tried to make a cost-effective machine, they came up with the Space Shuttle, which was terribly expensive, inefficient, and — let’s face it — dangerous. The government is good for a lot of things, but political machinations can really impede innovation when it comes to making things easier and less costly. As many people involved with NASA used to joke: “Faster, better, cheaper: pick two.”

I still strongly support NASA, of course; don’t get me wrong. It should still do what it does best: the things private industry can’t, like breaking new ground. That’s what NASA has been doing in space for 50 years, and now that paved way is being taken up by private companies. I think it’s just that combination of government support and private innovation that will get us to the stars. And for now, just for now, you know what?

Getting to the asteroids will do just fine.

Okay, but how would private industry get us to the asteroids?  Todd Bishop of GeekWire commented after the press conference on Meet Arkyd, the asteroid-hunting robot spaceship

Asked to respond to people who think they’re nuts, Lewicki agreed. “We are nuts, we are crazy. We are doing audacious things.” In other words, world-changing stuff is often considered crazy, or impossible, until someone makes it happen.

This first Arkyd spacecraft will work as a telescope, orbiting Earth and scouting for asteroids. Future installments in the Arkyd line will leave orbit to examine asteroids up close and ultimately mine them for natural resources.

As a side note, as you’ll hear in the video, Lewicki said the name Arkyd has roots in science fiction, but he teased the reporters and wouldn’t say where it came from, telling them that real sci-fan fans would know.

Asteroid mining plan
Okay, but are these isolated cases, or is there a place where private/commercial space entities can meet to collaborate on the space future?  Turns out NewSpace 2012 will be July 26-28 at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara, CA, http://newspace.spacefrontier.org/

The next disruptive innovation is already underway and it is in space.  The commercial space industry is building a new market with efficient business processes, a wide spectrum of technology, and almost prescient investors. It's been said that the first trillionaires will be made through space industrialization and we're going to show how space pioneers are creating new products and profits. NewSpace is undergoing rapid expansion, similar to the Internet explosion of the 1990's, and needs to be filled with revolutionary businesses like yours.
In Space We Trust.

Until next time,
projectCalliope, ionosphere->music