The 1998 Space Flight Mechanics Meeting was held in Monterey, California, February 9-11, 1998. The call for papers appeared in the March-April 1997 issue of the AAS Space Times and in the July 1997 issue of Aerospace America. The call was also placed on the AAS and AIAA web sites. The deadline of September 15, 1997 for abstract submission was informally extended for another six weeks.
Since fewer than expected abstracts had been submitted by the deadline, a limited solicitation was done, and as a result some additional papers were submitted. A total of 114 extended abstracts were submitted for consideration; one was immediately withdrawn. The remaining were reviewed by the technical chairmen and one was initially rejected as not offering a significant new technical contribution.
The papers were divided into 18 sessions with three simultaneous sessions spanning three days. Typically 5-7 papers were placed in each session. After session chairs were assigned, the paper abstracts were sent to the session chairs for their comments. No major changes were made as a result.
Additional withdrawals resulted in 109 papers being included in the program booklet. Four more papers were withdrawn after the program was printed but before the conference started. There were four late withdrawals and three no-shows resulting in 98 papers presented at the conference. Two papers were presented by a non-author with the approval of the technical chairs. Because of the many withdraws and no-shows, there were several "holes" in some sessions. One session had only three presentations. Some of the late withdrawals and no-shows were caused by forecasts or descriptions of severe weather conditions in the Monterey area.
The technical sessions included the following topics: Tethered Systems, Interplanetary Missions I, Tracking and Navigation, Control Theory and Applications, Orbital Dynamics, Mission Analysis, Attitude Control, Interplanetary Missions II, Reference Systems and Simulation, Estimation, Optimization Theory and Applications, Near Earth Mission Design, Space Structures, Comet and Asteroid Missions, Orbit Determination, GPS Applications, Low Thrust Missions and Analysis, and Numerical Analysis.
The sessions chairs were: Arun Misra, Lincoln Wood, Catherine Thornton, Thomas Carter, Shannon Coffey, C. David Eakman, Alfred Trader, Richard Holdaway, Bruce Haines, Christopher Hall, Craig Kluever, David B. Spencer, Peter Bainum, I. Michael Ross, Paul Cefola, Bobby Williams, Robert Melton, and Donald Mackison. In addition, at the conference, Katherine Howell and David A. Vallado substituted for Eakman and Cefola, respectively, as they were unable to attend. The sessions chairs deserve gratitude both for reviewing the abstracts and conducting the sessions and other contributions.
Briefings were held each morning for the day's presenters and sessions chairs. At the briefings authors were urged to submit their papers to one of the AIAA or AAS journals. Paper sales were held each day of the conference. 1416 papers were sold. All but one paper will be included in the set of printed Proceedings published by Univelt for the AAS.
We were able to use or adapt materials from previous conferences, and would be glad to pass on materials to future chairs. Some items have been placed on the AAS web site. We produced our documents on Macintosh computers. Most documents were produced using FileMaker, MS Word, and MS Excel. Most can be read by Windows machines. Materials include:
FileMaker document with the Program format and other options
Excel document with paper, author, session, etc., information
Call for papers
Acceptance letter to authors
Letter 1 to session chairs
Letter 2 to session chairs
Paper cover page
Session summary document
Preface for Proceedings
Some Issues, Lessons, and Recommendations
The process to get the call for papers published in Aerospace America was lengthy, involving official AIAA approval of co-sponsorship and negotiating a price. The process should be started early.
By the deadline for abstract submission, there were not nearly as many papers as expected or desired. Some abstracts came later and some were solicited. Either something should be done so that the deadline is met by most authors, or accommodation must be built in for the late abstracts. Some abstracts arrived about six weeks after the deadline.
Are there enough good astrodynamics papers to support two conferences each year? What is the minimum number of papers needed to justify a meeting? We received fewer abstracts than we had hoped for, and as a result were reluctant to reject any. Should more be done to solicit papers?
The process for accepting/rejecting papers should be improved. Additional review by session chairs might be helpful. We asked for comments from session chairs about the abstracts, but they had little time, and many abstracts were quite brief. Some sort of a database of previously presented or withdrawn papers might be helpful. To the extent that such a database already exists, or is expanded, how can it be maintained and distributed fairly without being a "blacklist"?
There were a number of "early" withdrawals as well as several later withdrawals and some no-shows. We suggest more strongly encouraging serious abstract submittals. Submitters should be confident that they can get necessary approvals and travel funding, and that they can finish the paper. For example, we expected that some foreign authors would have difficulty obtaining travel funding, and indeed they did withdraw.
In the correspondence with authors, there should be more emphasis on their obligation to complete the paper, or to give the chairs early notice of withdrawal. We think there were too many late withdrawals and no-shows.
The extended abstracts varied considerably in length and quality. We suggest more strongly encouraging submissions of appropriate length, with enough description to enable a decision about acceptance.
We recommend that there be guidelines on the number of papers by a single author or co-author to accept. We don't recommend a strict policy, but in one case, for example, an author of three papers withdrew all three shortly before the conference, leaving several gaps in the program.
We recommend that there be guidelines on the presentation of papers by non-authors. The current informal policy seems to be to leave it up to the conference and session chairs, which may be sufficient.
Several authors brought fewer than 50 copies of their paper to the conference. This requirement should be emphasized more strongly.
We didn't pay close enough attention to potential conflicts between papers presented at the same time, and had at least one such conflict. We suggest that both technical chairs and session chairs be alert to conflicts. Session chairs and authors should get an early listing of the complete program and not just their sessions, so that they can advise on conflicts.
The AAS web page was used to post the program prior to the conference and was updated after the conference. Further use of the web page is recommended for the future.
Authors should be encouraged to submit their papers to the AIAA and AAS journals.