Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Among space engineers

I just returned from the Infotech@Aerospace conference in Rohnert Park. It is small conference (about 300 people), especially compared to the big (~15000 people) JavaOne conference going on concurrently downtown San Francisco. The location of the Infotech conference was wonderful: at the end of Sonoma Wine Country. The evening smooze fest was a nice wine tasting of small wineries (which loosened the tongues a bit).

The conference is organized by American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), of which I am a member. I presented a paper on Standards-Based Plug-and-Play Data Distribution, and the work we are doing with plug-and-play research satellites.

The conference is much different from an OracleWorld, JavaOne or FooCamp. Some differences:
  1. You'll see a lot of gray hair and hear quiet a few stories about building the real-time kernel for the Space Shuttle. Budget cuts must have killed a lot of (young) aerospace companies.
  2. Suits are in. Plus you'll run into the occasional military uniform, both US as foreign military.
  3. You'll find presentators from the big university laboratories at Carnegie Mellon, MIT Lincoln Labs, Jet Propulsion Lab, Utah State University Space Software Lab.
  4. Many of the space engineers run one person consultancies, subcontracted to these big labs and NASA programs.

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