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Open Lines, Tuesday, 3-13-12 March 14, 2012

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Open Lines, Tuesday, 3-13-12



Guest:  Open Lines with Dr. David Livingston.  Topics:  An Open Lines program covers a wide variety of topics of interest to the listeners.  You are invited to comment, ask questions, & discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. Comments, questions, & any discussion must be relevant & applicable to Space Show programming. Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of the Space Show copyright. Welcome to this 2 hour 20 minute Open Lines discussion largely driven by listeners calling the program.  In our first hour segment, I listed the usual possible discussion topics which I won’t repeat here. As to be expected, listeners had their own ideas as to what they wanted to talk about though we did address some of the issues I previewed including NASA & the treatment of their chimps in the early space program given that PETA wants to establish a chimp empathy museum at KSC,  NASA budget cuts & the recent congressional hearings, the Defense Intelligence Agency Chinese space program wake up call, & more. The congressional hearings of last week made it to our discusses as listeners focused on what was said by Senator Nelson, Senator Hutchinson, NASA Administrator Bolden, & Dr. Tyson in his short presentation. Listeners also talked about the comments by Texas Congresswoman Eddie Johnson regarding commercial space/crew on the House side. Also in the first segment, Tim called in to inquire about a possible IPO for Space X.

In our second segment, Dr. Jurist called in to express his disappointment at the elimination of funding for the Operationally Responsive Space office/program.  This took us to a discussion about national security space & I asked Dr. Jurist about the Defense Intelligence Agency wake up call regarding the Chinese space program as expressed by their director Ronald L. Burgess.  Somehow we then got off on the topic of the planned retirement of the B-52 in 2040, about 88 years after it became operational.  While Dr. Jurist was talking with us, Tim sent in several email questions for him on microgravity experiments to determine what level of gravity was needed for humans for space settlement & long duration flights.  John Hunt followed with comments about VASIMR, nuclear propulsion, & even fusion powered spacecraft down the road in our future.  Tom Hanson of the Living Universe Foundation called in to let people know they are seeking Foundation board members (www.luf.org/contact).  I then introduced another topic from a current article in Popular Science, a 20,000 mph train to space (www.popsci.com/technology/article/2012-03/all-aboard-20000-mile-hour-low-earth-orbit-express).  This article refers to a newer version of StarTram & this brought in several more callers including Trent from Australia. Other listeners chimed in on the train to space idea as well though most did not take the article very seriously.  I introduced the news that Turkey had agreed to the Moon Treaty & then Terry called in at the end to talk about the X-37C & that it might become a crewed vehicle.

Please post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog URL above. If you want to contact any of our callers, send your note to me & I will forward it for you.  If you want more info on any of the news stories I mentioned, let me know & I will send it to you.


1. Terry in Corpus Christi - March 15, 2012

I heard the SpaceX IPO is still at least a year away. Elon has his hands full and doesn’t want a board of directors to deal with.
On the X-37C, it has a chance of happening if DOD wanted it. It would be a high-priority if national defense was claimed.

Andy Hill - March 17, 2012

I dont know whether the DoD could make a case for a crew transport, there are probably a cadre of people within the military who would like a space force but what could you get them to do and where are they going? There would need to be a military destination in orbit requiring a need for transport.

I cant see other nations being to happy about having a DoD space station flying over their heads, besides it would be pretty vulnerable to attack and not likely to accomplish much more than could be currently with the X-37B vehicle.

As an alternative I could see a need for satelite servicing, repair or maybe de-orbiting but that would probably not be a DoD function.

2. Joe - March 14, 2012

Here is yet another fun comment worth sharing.

They say it costs $60B to build the device to send up cargo at $50/lb of cargo. Let’s look a little closer to these numbers. Ignoring the cost of the cargo containers and the operations to keep things simple, we have $60B+ for $50/ lb of cargo delivered to orbit.

Assuming each catapult operation sends up 10,000 lbs consisting of a 5,000 lb standardized expendable pressurized container and 5,000 lbs of cargo contents purchased at $50/lb of deliverable cargo, once per day, it takes 120,000 days or 330 years with no break for system maintenance just to break even.

That simply results in roughly 600M lbs of delivered cargo to orbit. That simple result is equivalent to 600 ISSss in low earth orbit not to mention the 600M lbs of additional space junk consisting of the expendable cargo containers.

The Romans would have loved this idea.

3. Joe - March 14, 2012

Magnetic levitation indeed works on trains levitated above a supporting structure that transmits the overall weight to the ground. Expanding this proven concept to space travel is quite a stretch, however.

Their posit, mentioned in the linked article, runs flat in my book; like a tire blowout at 80 mph. The biggest barrier to space bound catapults is solved in one confusing short-sighted sentence in paragraph 3 of the enclosed article link. Not worth repeating. If it were for real, the person writing the article would never have written about it since it would be classified as a trade secret by the company building it. Ok, if you simply ignore paragraph 3 and move on, you immediately run into the potential physical damage incurred while being catapulted into space using 200 million amp electromagnets. It is not G (acceleration factor) related but more precisely related to the trauma to your blood circulation system in near proximity with super magnets.

What do you suppose physically happens to your blood circulation system and brain while being catapulted at 20,000 mph through a high voltage, high amperage, electromagnetic field? I don’t know. Are you willing to do it right now and be the first to ride up there? The point is no one knows what happens to the human body exposed to such an environment because that extreme environment does not yet exist.

Don’t forget, your red blood cells contain iron and iron is attracted to magnets. When you see cranes lifting tons of iron materials using a giant electromagnet on the Discovery Channel, do you ever see a person standing underneath it when the voltage is verified as turned on? Have you ever seen the Myth Busters do a show on what happens when you try to lift a dead unbutchered animal with one of these gyzmos? I think not. Now, multiply that energy millions of times and try it to ignore it even then. They say it takes 200 million amps to go 20,000 mph. Ignoring these highly potential physical repercussions means you are a special person that is very inclined to already have a 10 year subscription to Popular Science.

Unfortunately, some of these types of magazines sell a lot of fun and popular ideas that are not possible or practical. Just pure fun reading; especially for people who like to dream. Have you ever noticed that nothing in these types of magazines is geared toward popping someone’s bubble, i.e., the hope that the idea has merit? They simply keep hope alive. I heard this saying many times in many ways over many years and the bottom line is this concept sells impractical products and makes the idea promoters more wealthy than you, I, and others, put together.

Ok, ignoring ever sending people into space in this thing, what about sending cargo into space? Well, for one, you can’t make the container or any contents from ferrous metals since doing so would jeopardize the cargo’s integrity inside the tunnel as well as at its destination. This constraint is likely to substantially increase the cost to make the pressure sealed container and cargo such that it defeats the original purpose of the device in lowering the cost to space and ultimately become cost infeasible.

Nice try, guys and gals! I’ll pass on buying shares in the company(s) that someday get contracted to build such a device. Most established companies will likely pass on bidding on it to avoid any potential damage to their established business reputation.

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