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Robert (Bob) Zimmerman, Monday, 4-30-12 April 30, 2012

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Robert (Bob) Zimmerman, Monday, 4-30-12


Guest:  Robert (Bob) Zimmerman.  Topics:  Space X static test, Congress & commercial crew, Planetary Resources & space property rights.  You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and 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. We welcomed Bob Zimmerman back to the program to discuss today’s Falcon 9 static test, Congress & commercial crew, and the Planetary Resources announcements of last week.  Visit Bob’s website for more information, http://behindtheblack.com.  During the first segment, Bob talked about congress and its proposed treatment of commercial crew including down selecting the companies, reducing funding, and moving to the FAR instead of remaining with the Space Act Agreement.  Bob got lots of questions about markets in space and why commercial companies need government money in the first place.  In this segment, we also talked about the Falcon 9 static test today and its relevance for congress.  Bob targeted SLS for discussion. As you will hear, there was not much support for SLS among those of us listening to today’s program.

In the second segment, we talked about the Planetary Resources venture announced last week.  Part of our focus was on the 9″ space telescope, its likely uses and resolution.  We talked about it for asteroid finding and Earth imaging – with serious reservations.  Bob suggested that the real business for the company was in selling the space telescopes to customers wanting that product or service as the mining was still a decade or so out into the future.  In talking about the telescope, we discussed pointing, stability, resolution, being placed on the Moon, and less than ideal light coming from the asteroids.  In talking about space telescopes, we discussed Hubble and the JWST.  In other space news updates, Bob talked about Orbital moving Antares to the pad for its testing and there is an article on his blog about it being seriously over budget: www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/orbital-sciences-development-costs-increase-371291.  Another topic we discussed was the Chinese political system and its turmoil, also its economy and how this might impact their space program.  Bob had much to say about this as well as India and its space program which he said might prove to be the dark horse in space development.  Toward the end of this 2 hour 8 minute program, Michael Listner called in to talk about legal issues for Planetary Resources in their resource extraction stage of development, plus property rights, the Outer Space Treaty and even the impact of the Moon Treaty. Bob and Michael had a spirited debate about these issues, including the potential influence of the Moon Treaty and international customary law which Bob completely dismissed.  Michael has an excellent article on the subject at www.spacesafetymagazine.com/2012/04/26/commercial-space-leap-earth-orbit-legal-implications/.

Please post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog. You can reach Bob Zimmerman through his website.


1. Andy Hill - May 3, 2012

I’m not sure what I think about cutting NASA’s commercial crew budget, if you give them more money how likely are to spend it on getting things done? I suspect that all that would happen is extra layers of management and oversight would be inserted in the program.

Down selecting to one company now seems like a stupid thing to do, generating a number of providers would mean that when crew contracts are bid on companies can’t name any price they like. This would not only apply to NASA but ESA as well (who would probably buy flights) and possibly Biggelow. ESA might be able to launch Dreamchaser on Ariane.

I would also advocate different types of crew vehicle, at the moment choosing only those that launch on an Atlas V would result in another single point failure if a problem developed with the launcher.

I agree that SpaceX is likely to continue with Crewed Dragon even without NASA funding but I think that Boeing would as well if they see SpaceX selling a service and making money. SNC would not continue as I don’t think they could fund it without NASA.

SLS’s days are numbered, with every commercial success it is harder and harder to justify. Even using it as a means to retain engineering skills is becoming less meaningful as the engineers who have actually built something that has flown retire or go to commercial companies that are actually bending metal. If it lasts long enough to see a Falcon Heavy launched I will be extremely surprised. I suspect it will be cancelled next year.

2. Joe - May 1, 2012

Bob is right.

SpaceX is never going away whether they suceed next week or not. They built some remarkable engines FROM SCRATCH ON THEIR OWN DIME. Its what happens when true engine designers, who created the intellectual property of the ultimate export controlled devices, get bored sitting around not designing new engines on fully mature rocket programs. Naturally, they leave and get hired by companies like SpaceX who want to make money from anyone in the world that want to get to space.

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