ISEC welcomes Robert “Skip” Penny as a new Director

ISEC is very pleased to announce that Robert “Skip” Penny has joined its Board of Directors effective immediately.  A brief bio:

Robert E. “Skip” Penny, Jr. graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 1970 with a Bachlor of Science degree. Over his 20 year Air Force career, he held a breadth of command and staff positions in NORAD/ADCOM, Air Force Space Command, US Space Command, and Air Force Technical Applications Center retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Upon retirement in 1990, he joined Motorola on the Iridium satellite program. As a System Engineer, he initially provided operations input to the early Iridium system design including authorship of the Iridium System Operations Concept and the Control Segment Operations Concept.  He was a key contributor to initial release and multiple updates to A level specifications and segment interface control documents. He generated multiple Iridium Technical Notes on operations related functions including a probability of collision assessment with recommendations for debris mitigation.

In 2000, he went to work for General Dynamics as Senior System Engineer. He was Network and Communications Integrated Product Team Lead for General Dynamics-Lockheed Martin GPS III System Engineering and Integration Team. He was responsible for system and segment level requirements and resulting design of GPS III’s network of ground and space nodes including crosslinks.

Skip has a Master of Science degree from the US Air Force Institute of Technology. His Masters thesis was a computer simulation that predicted the probability of collision for the US Space Shuttle using a methodology that has since been adopted by AIAA, and many space operators. He also has a Master of Arts in Procurement Management from Webster College.

Skip has a long-time interest in the Space Elevator and was a co-author, along with Peter and Cathy Swan of the just released ISEC Report on Space Elevator Survivability – Space Debris Mitigation.

Skip’s initial focus with ISEC is going to be on designing a plausible Operations Scenario for a Space Elevator system.  To date, this has not been done and it is the crucial first step to satisfy one of our goals for 2011, coming up with a cost of Operations for a Space Elevator.  There have been several estimates generated for the cost of BUILDING a Space Elevator but none, to my knowledge, for MAINTAINING and OPERATING a Space Elevator system.  These costs will, over time, almost certainly far exceed the initial construction costs.

No justification exists (again, to my knowledge) for the oft-repeated statement that shipping cargo to space will be cheaper via a Space Elevator than via rockets.  I think we all feel that this is almost certainly true, but no one is going to build one unless they can have a handle on the actual costs.  And no one can estimate how much such a system costs unless they can first have a plausible, detailed scenario on how such a system might be run.  There are literally hundreds of questions which must be answered and now we have someone on board who has the interest and skills necessary to answer these questions.

More will be posted soon on how Skip plans to go about this; which scenario he is going to adopt, what tools he is going to use to generate costs, how he can make it a collaborative effort, etc.

In the meantime, we’re very excited to have him on our Board of Directors.  Welcome Skip – we’re very glad you’re here!

(Skip is pictured here at last year’s Space Elevator Conference, held at the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond, Washington.  Click on the picture thumbnail to see a full-size version of the picture).