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Charles Pooley, Sunday, 7-15-12 July 15, 2012

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Charles Pooley, Sunday, 7-15-12


Guest:  Charles Pooley.  Topics: Microlaunchers, LLC, focusing on the means to achieve space development, not the end result, and his action plans for launching microlaunchers. 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 Charles Pooley back to the program to discuss his Microlaunchers concept in detail.  You can follow along and learn more about the program from visiting www.microlaunchers.com.  Charles started the discussion with his comments on the NANOSAT Challenge and the logo design winner.  From there, he directed us to his website and began talking about the initial project, the ML-1 launcher.  Charles spent most of the first segment talking about his Microlauncher plans.  Callers asked him about the technology, RC airplanes, liquid fuel motors, amateur launches, FAA AST rules, his three stage design, and even his having wanted to use irrigation tubing for his launchers.  I asked Charles for his time line for getting Microlaunchers off the ground and he talked about this on and off for the entire discussion.  Funding idea were tossed around, including the use of crowd sourcing and Kickstarter.  The Small Sat Conference came up with lots of pressure on Charles to attend.  Guidance systems and ITAR came up and there was more discussion about FAA AST launch rules, range fees and tracking.

In our second segment, a listener called in to suggest that Charles start writing articles for The Space Review and use social media including Facebook and Twitter.  A listener asked about tracking and data collection for his rockets, and more comments came in directing Charles to learn & start using Twitter to help get the word out about his ideas.  I then asked Charles to give us his step by step action plan.  In response, he outlined the first four or five steps of his plan.  Charles got more feedback for the usage of Twitter & social media and then Charles took us through ML-1 through ML-3.  Near the end of the show, Charles was asked about Google Lunar X Prize as compared to his model. He had much to say about this comparison.  We talked about N-Prize and Charles offered us a good summary of the Microlaunchers concept for his closing comments.

Please post your questions/comments on The Space Show blog.  You can email Charles at ckpooley@microlaunchers.com  Follow him on Twitter at Charles Pooley@microlaunchers.


1. Andrew Tubbiolo - July 19, 2012

Charles you really think up too many reasons not to do it. When peope offer you real help, like I have, you always turn it down and move the goalpost further down the line. You said you have a Serline mill and lathe. Get those operational. Start making parts you can make. Fly your parts on amateur rockets to start flight qualing your parts. Otherwise I suggest a new path. Write up how you think OTHER people should do things. Because you are not going to do it with your present attitude. What you are saying boils down to this … I (Charles Pooley) am smarter than you all. You all are dumb and caught in a loop from which you cannot escape and really open up the space age. Now, give me the things I need in a very specific order to a very specific quality, or you are not worthy of my efforts… That’s what you sound like. Then when people offer you help where you have to put out some real effort, you back down. I’ve in the past even offered for you to mail me your machines and I’d convert them to CNC for you. You even turned THAT down! What gives?

Change your schtick. Just be open and say that you want others to do this, this, this and this. You have to realize how it looks after all this time of screaming from your wilderness about how opening the fronteir should be done. It’s almost been a decade….

Charles Pooley - July 19, 2012

Replying to both of Andrew’s comments:

July 17 1st paragraph: A lot of time has been spent estimating the various weights of parts, and by working down from the requirements for the 3rd stage it still looks like the GLOW for all 3 stages might be about 120 kg.

An early version of the 3rd stage engine will be tested first, in the shop (sea level thrust about 1 kg) to attain a C* over 1700, of 1800 possible with O2/propane.
Being larger, the 2nd stage engine performance will probably be higher

The mass of the 1st stage will then be adjusted to carry the 2 upper stages to over 100 km, with the staging to occur at 60-70 km. This is to be tested under the current FAA amateur rocket limits.

“…enslavement to margins” Each of the parts is being designed separately and will be made to meet a weight objective. If one part has trouble being made to the earlier estimate it can be made up by adjusting other parts or increasing total mass. So there won’t be “200 parts coming in at 2g heavier”. Only some will and attention can be focussed on those.

Then what constitutes a part? A 2.5g RC servo will be counted as a part (5 each in 2nd, 3rd stage).

July 17 2nd paragraph: 10 inch swing lathe will be acquired after there’s a leased building to put it in. I already have too much stuff in storage. The 10″ swing assumes 8″ diameter tanks for the first stage–largest diameter of any part of “ML-1”. Should I go to the next larger diameter of irrigation tubing, 10″, then a 12″ swing lathe.

The means for coupling the first stage sections is to be done by 5 fabricated Marman clamps. Each section of the stage can be modified separately.

July 19 comment: Not thinking of reasons not to do it. Thinking of sequence of things to be done. Like not acquiring the large lathe til there’s a place to put it.

What can be done in an apartment without risk eviction is too limited. So the first and largest component is the shop to do it in, near where I live.

The rest of your comment borders on being insulting.

2. Jim Davis - July 18, 2012

“…but that by engineering something small and inexpensive enough something can happen that will not happen in the current expensive systems for exploring space.”

But, Mr. Pooley, what exactly is that “something”? What service can a microlauncher provide that a current launcher cannot or what service can a microlauncher provide less expensively than a current launcher?

The only service that you have ever mentioned is the sheer joy derived by launching a kit rocket (once). How many people are actually interested in doing this?

Current systems are expensive but their payloads (communications, weather, imaging, etc) return immense value. Even in these tough times no one suggests giving these things up as “unaffordable luxuries”. That kind of talk is reserved for manned space.

So what kind of value do microlaunchers provide that justify their costs?

3. Roland - July 18, 2012

Charles, regarding the shop space. Buying a lot is cheaper than renting space. I did a search for lots in Vegas and found 7000 sq ft for $7900. Find a lot that suits you and scrounge building materials and get started.

As Jim Davis comments on the microcomputer analogy. That one does’t fly. No similarities whatsoever as far as I’m concerned. Doesn’t make any sense at all.

All the best from Holland.

Charles Pooley - July 18, 2012

if this is duplicate, sorry. had a password problem

Shop space idea–never thought of that. Will look into it. But wouldn’t it be complex, and maybe more expensive than leasing a building? A lot will need a building on it. Even those steel prefabs aren’t cheap. I helped some in putting up tow of those in Calivornia. Huge amount of work. Or pay someone a lot to put it up. Then permits of varioius sorts may be needed. Then cost of utilities hook-up (there’s a flap about water in Clark County that has to get smoothed over). Then the risk I’d forget a step, get a stiff fine for forgetting doorknobs having to be xx.xx inches above the ground…

The time all this takes may create a bias toward a ready to occupy building. Las Vegas or Pahrump.

Microcomputer analogy: That analogy was and still is the core, the basis, since the first presentation of the idea about October 1995.

It’s not that rockets and PCs have things in common. It’s that, by scaling a computer or launcher to below some critical size and cost a tipping point takes place. With a thing that is technically a computer, costing an affordable amount, communities of interested suddenly came together and the rest is well known history.

It was the point that this can work for space exploration. The degree of available technologies and the present “Mainframe Era of Space Exploration” is analogous to that for computers.

That is the central premise, and probably a minor faction of those who see it agree and like the idea. Maybe only 1%. This will be done by those who agrtee and not by those who do not.

Maybe 1/1000 of those who agree will like the idea enough to join. An early stage plan is to work toward entering the Nano-Satellite Challenge then offering a Cubesat launch service using the first version of launcher.

4. Andrew Tubbiolo - July 17, 2012

Charles Pooley is the proverbial old man in the desert of the New Space Movement. Everyone knows him and his mantra. His mantra has some merit. He also implies a open question that I hope someone carries out an investigation to answer. That question is, “How small can a launch vehicle be?”. What is the smallest launch vehicle to place payloads into orbit about the Earth. My own technical opinion of the numbers Charles quotes is that he is operating in the realm of enslavement to margins. Consider the not so simple task of manufacturing parts for your system. It’s very easy for parts to come out heavier rather than lighter. Lighter parts designed to margin already, tend to fail before they meet operational specifications. Heavy parts have a better chance of meeting operational specification. Integrating addition of mass over an entire microlauncher that maxes out at say 5 kg to LEO means that all the overweight errors cannot integrate in such a way as to bite into payload of the vehicle. If your payload is small, your margins of integrated error are small. A mcirolauncher manufacturer has to control the mass of their parts to the sub gram level. There will be hundreds of parts on a mcirolauncher. Say there are 200 parts each coming in 2g heavier than spec. Integrated over 200 parts that’s 400g. That means someone making a microlauncher will have to control the weight of parts down to the level of a paperclip. The biggie will be engine performance. When your payload margins are so small so are your engine performance margins. By aiming your payload at such a small mass, variables that can normally be ignored may come in as significant as the classical parameters. As any pilot knows, takeoff runs are much shorter during cold dry mornings than hot humid afternoons. When your margins are so narrow, I could see the possibility that a microlauncher could be somewhat sensitive to the weather in its ability to conduct its mission. However it’s still a fascinating question, “How small can a launch vehicle be?”. I hope that Charles makes some progress. If not I hope someone else picks up his work.

As a side note. I began constructing a machine shop in my own garage 8 years ago. Starting from scratch (as you must) is long drawn out process. When I first heard Charles on The Space Show in 2005 I thought his ideas had merit until I started to spread sheet his numbers and running 2d simulations of ascents to orbit. Charles and I have been in contact over these issues since and I enjoy talking with him at Space Access in Phx. For years I have tried to push Charles into the direction of obtaining big industrial grade machine tools. It warmed my heart to hear Charles say on The Space Show this episode that he needs a lathe with 10″ throw. For years I’ve been trying to tell Charles that he needs big machines, that desktop class machines will not work give him the results he needs. Finally, ‘The Old Man’ listened. For anyone else looking to explore the realm of a microlauncher in the garage environment. The tools are available, affordable, and with conversion to computer control you can have a first class 1980’s grade machine shop that while slow, will get you the ability to machine metals and plastics to the precision needed for such work. You will become an expert in moving machines that weigh 3200 lbs or so. You will become an expert in electrical requirements to drive 2+ hp electrical motors, not to mention, you’ll become a machinist. And at 2AM on Sat mornings you’ll get insights into economics, history, labor, and business practice as you watch nearly raw metal only 2 or 3 steps from the mine turn into advanced manufactured parts. You’ll never look at en-situ resource utilization the same way evern again. It’s a learning experience any and all space cadets would cherish. I hope Charles makes the plunge one day. For that matter I hope more space cadets do as well.

5. Jim Davis - July 16, 2012

This was an odd show to listen to. I took away two main impressions.

The first was the emphasis on the analogy with microcomputers in the 1970s. I think Pooley might want to try coming up with a sales pitch that makes no reference at all to microcomputers. The constant reference to microcomputers sounds too much like a mantra that tries to conflate rockets with computers like a sympathetic magic spell. A sharper focus on the benefits of microlaunchers without reference to microcomputers is indicated.

Secondly, the whole program gave the impression that Pooley is almost pathologically risk adverse. Asking people for time and money while at the same time objecting to the expense of a trip to Logan, Utah just seems perverse. One almost gets the impression that he is perfectly content with the status quo and doesn’t want anything to upset it.

Charles Pooley - July 18, 2012

I answered the first paragraph in the reply to Roland.

Focusing on benefits: The presentations (and Lulu.com book if ever written) have all been structured in 3 parts: Why, What, How.

Why: the core premise, same as from the beginning. The analogy is not is some similarity between computers and rockets, but that by engineering something small and inexpensive enough something can happen that will not happen in the current expensive systems for exploring space.

Microlaunchers is more about triggering a social revolution than a rocket revolution (the rockets are of a standard design, just smaller).

What: some ideas being aired publicly for early design ideas. The first stage of the “ML-1” is to be based on a 300 kg rocket that was partially built, engin tested in 1995.

Other study, preliminary designs for subsystems such as the laser data transmission are to show the general technical direction, ideas of the form of the early implementations of Microlaunchers. Most of the site is about that.

How: Several initial pathways that may be followed early on. Which will be depending on opportunity, conditions at start. For example the Nano-Satellite Challenge with the $3 million prize money may attract team members. Then, the launcher developed for this can be the basis for a Cubesat launch service. The same launcher is to be capable of sending to escape the first experimental spacecraft.

…risk averse. The expenses for trips to Smallsat and the like would be in advance and considerable. I have to spend very carefully for now. I have to see a probable direct benefit to going. I’ve been told that going will be a major benefit, in a general sort of way, but not in any specific way.

I will probably go, but when this is further along.

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