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Open Lines, Tuesday, 8-21-12 August 22, 2012

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Open Lines, Tuesday, 8-21-12


Guest:  Open Lines with Dr. David Livingston.  Topics:  Space policy, STEM, Curiosity, Mars Society Conference, SLS, heavy lift, sequestration, & more.  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. As I started the first segment of this 2 hour plus Open Lines program, I identified some news items suggesting that some listeners might be interested in discussing them.  Not so.  Our first caller, Patrick from Quebec, debriefed us on the Mars Society Conference in Pasadena, the Curiosity landing & JPL as well as some of the main conference keynote speakers.  You can see the videos of all the keynote speakers from this conference at www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL57B8D5FFF5B55A62. In telling us about the conference, Patrick focused in on the talk given by Elon Musk.  Later, Patrick mentioned his visit to the largest ground based optical telescope on the East Coast, the Megantic Observatory.  Charles Pooley called in next to continue to raise issues about the NASA Nanosat Challenge.  If anyone knows anything about it, do let us know.
We started the second segment with a call from Brett in Philadelphia to talk about his efforts in STEM and student space outreach.  Check out the website he talked about regarding “How to be a Rocket Scientist or Aerospace Engineer” at www.squidoo.com/how-to-be-a-rocket-scientist-or-aerospace-engineer. Your suggestions on additions to his lists are welcome.   Our next caller, Doug from S. California, offered us some comments from the recent program featuring Chris Carberry and humans to Mars.  He talked about going back to the Moon but as part of a mission to Mars.  He also talked about the Carberry comments regarding the upcoming 50th anniversary of when we left the Moon for the last time, suggesting we turn it into a positive statement for the future.  In addition, we talked about the viral JPL video, “We Are Nasa And We Know It” at www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFvNhsWMU0c. Our next caller was John from Atlanta.  He responded to my request that listeners tell us if they thought space would make it into the presidential campaign as an issue. John did not think it would but check out his comments on this subject.  John also took issue with an earlier caller pertaining to Elon’s comments regarding rocket reusability, Falcon Heavy, a reusable Falcon 9, and SLS.  Our next topic was sequestration and I talked about the report by Dr. Fuller at George Mason University which details job losses in all states in DOD and space related work if sequestration is allowed to take place.  You can download this excellent study/report at www.aia-aerospace.org/assets/Fuller_II_Final_Report.pdf. As we were drawing to a close, both John and Doug called back to clarify statements and positions spoken about earlier in the program.
Please post your comments on our blog.  If you want to email anyone who participated in our discussion, send your note to me and I will forward it to them.


1. NASA wants feedback about Nano Satellite Launch (NSL) Challenge | RocketSciRick - November 2, 2014

[…] this post by me was also submitted as a comment to Thespaceshow’s Blog for the date of August 21.  David Livingston, the host of The Space Show, ran an Open Lines call-in program.  Charles was […]

2. NASA wants feedback about Nano Satellite Launch (NSL) Challenge « RocketSciRick - August 24, 2012

[…] this post by me was also submitted as a comment to Thespaceshow’s Blog for the date of August 21.  David Livingston, the host of The Space Show, ran an Open Lines call-in program.  Charles was […]

3. Rick Kwan - August 24, 2012

I am sporadically following the Nano Satellite Launch (NSL) Challenge that Charles Pooley mentioned. As he has mentioned, it is one of the NASA Centennial Challenges that is run out of the Office of the Chief Technologist.

NASA has put out a two-part questionnaire regarding the NSL Challenge. The parts are directed at separate audiences: (1) nano-satellite users/builders and (2) potential launch service providers. The purpose seems to be to ascertain the desires of users/builders in terms of their mission needs, and figure out what sort of contest will help drive launch innovation toward fulfilling those needs.

Announcement of the questionnaire is found on the Federal Business Opportunities site (https://www.fbo.gov) as Solicitation # NNH12ZUA001L.
Title: Request for Information – Centennial Challenges Nano Satellite Launch (NSL) Challenge. This, in turn, takes you to the questionnaire at:

Responses should be returned to Dr. Larry Cooper at NASA HQ. The deadline is September 10.

I think anyone who has a nanosatellite/CubeSat design on the drawing board should respond. I wonder just how many nanosat projects are actually in planning.

As for my personal views on nanosat launchers…

I favor having on-demand nanosat launch service for 1U thru 3U payloads, where “on-demand” means something on the order of a couple of weeks. We cannot do this today.

We also put major constraints on nanosat designers. As it stands now, I see basically two ways to get nanosatellites into orbit. (1) Be a secondary payload, where the primary makes the rules and can bump you off, and you go only when the primary is ready to launch. (2) Go to the ISS on one of the supply missions (e.g., NanoRacks) and get pushed off the station; you will have to show that your payload will not endanger the ISS or its occupants if anything goes wrong. In either case, you have to show that you are not going to put an investment of 10s or 100s of millions of dollars at risk; the primary has every right to grill you and make you jump through hoops.

The way out of that is make the nanosatellite the primary payload, or at least ride with a few other payloads of equal perceived value. That is, you need a nanosatellite launcher. I think this is a critical enabler to get non-space commercial businesses to take advantage of space.

For a commercial company to do research work in LEO (I’m thinking materials or biotech) you need a short development feedback cycle. A company should be able to design an experiment, get it launched, obtain data, redesign the experiment, and go again in 2 or 3 months. With anything longer, the team needs to find alternatives to get or supplement results, or get reassigned to other work until an experiment has flown. At that point, it gets very difficult to make a business case for going to space on a regular basis.

4. quantumg - August 23, 2012

Dave, stop saying “Falcon 9 Heavy” .. they dropped the nine from the name 18 months ago! Say it with me “Falcon Heavy”.

And for everyone who wants to cite Falcon Heavy as reason to cancel SLS – I feel for you, but how about actually waiting until SpaceX has flown it first?

5. DougSpace - August 23, 2012

In listening to the recording of the show, I noticed that John Hunt called with a response to some of my comments. The way that we can improve in our understanding is for the back-and-forth dialogue between us all and I appreciate The Sapace Show giving us the forum to do that. So I welcome John’s comments. (Hopefully John, you are reading this comment).

Both John and David seemed to be suggesting that the Falcon Heavy (formerly called the Falcon 9 Heavy) was at an unknown state of development. I really don’t think that that is a fair description.

It is important to understand that the Falcon Heavy is basically three Falcon 9 cores in the same way that the Delta IV Heavy is composed of three Common Booster Core. Just like the Delta IV Heavy benefitted from the previous development and launch experience of the single launches of CBCs, likewise the Falcon Heavy’s first launch will be standing on the shoulders of the Falcon 9 core’s experience. Falcon Heavy is NOT an entirely new rocket by any stretch of the imagination.

As for it’s state of development, those Falcon 9 cores have launched successfully three times in a row, and…

Los Angeles Times, July 12, 2011 – “SpaceX is making $30-million bet on rocket at Vandenberg. The Hawthorne company is set to break ground on a launchpad and hangar at the Air Force base for its Falcon Heavy, which would be the world’s most powerful rocket”.

Elon Musk is a very successful businessman. He’s betting $30 million of his own money developing the Falcon Heavy launch pad and so he obviously believes that it will be successful. I sure wouldn’t want to bet against his track record. He has set a launch date for the Falcon Heavy of late 2013 (mid to late 2014 would be my guess).

So, I don’t think it is unreasonable to believe that the Falcon Heavy will be available at around the time that it is needed.
Now, as for the lunar lander needed to deliver the equipment to the lunar surface, true, it does not exist now. But we have a successful history with lunar landers, Masten and Armadillo are demonstrating small-scale capability at pennies-on-the-dollar development costs, and JSC is building a larger Morpheus Lunar Lander. Development of the lander should just be a normal part of the Lunar COTS programs. I would like to draw your attention to the Xeus lunar lander joint project between ULA and Masten (http://hobbyspace.com/nucleus/index.php?itemid=35695). A variant of this sort of lander could be the reusable lunar lander that a cis-lunar infrastructure would be based upon.

John Hunt pointed out that you need equipment on the Moon to be able to mine the water. Of course this is true. But it does not necessarily take a decades-long infrastructure development program. Assuming the development of a full-sized lunar lander, I believe that between 12 and 14 tons of equipment can be delivered to the lunar surface. That’s the equivalent of 10 normal cars. It is reasonable to believe that all of the equipment necessary for initial mining operations could be delivered in the first mission (e.g. 2 lunar sats, 2 excavators, 1 hauler, 2 Robonaut 2s, solar panels, solar oven, distiller, electrolyzer, and assorted equipment). Some of this equipment (e.g. Robonaut 2s) are largely already developed. Others (e.g. excavators) have been demonstrated but need to be developed full-sized as part of a Lunar COTS program. The others (e.g. distiller, electrolyzer) may not be developed but easily could if funded reasonably. None of this is particularly “fanciful”.

There does need to be a prospecting mission but it looks like NASA is already thinking along these lines:

John Hunt stated that I was saying that the SLS would need to be cancelled before the Falcon Heavy could be built. That’s not my position. Again, the Falcon Heavy is based upon the Falcon 9 cores. There are already something like 20 NASA and 20 commercial Falcon 9 launches on SpaceX’s launch manifest. So Falcon 9 is not vulnerable to cancellation like the SLS is (commercial launches on SLS manifest = 0). And since Falcon Heavy is based upon Falcon 9, then Falcon Heavy will benefit from the spaceX’s capacity to build the Falcon 9 cores. The business model for the Falcon Heavy is (if I understand correctly) DOD satellites and probably GEO sats. It’s entirely possible that the Falcon Heavy will be profitable for SpaceX.

Although it is my personal position that the SLS is actually unnecessary given the reasonable expectation of Falcon Heavy’s probability and capability, I don’t believe that it is necessarily necessary for SLS to be cancelled for a Lunar COTS program to proceed. If the SLS were to continue, eventually our current commercial programs will eventually come to an end thereby opening up the budget for a somewhat more extended Lunar COTS program funded at the same rate as our current NASA commercial programs. But, if SLS were to be cancelled earlier, then the development of the lunar lander and lunar surface equipment could start earlier and move along faster. That’s my perspective.

John Hunt stated, “Everybody thinks that you can do these Moon missions with manned spacecraft with little rockets”. My position is that you can do the initial extraction of volatiles from shaded lunar regolith without the need for astronauts on the Moon. If something breaks down (and it certainly will), the Robonaut 2s will have some chance at conducting basic repairs. What cannot be repaired can be left to be repaired later when the astronauts arrive and so the equipment is not lost permanently. And, in the next cargo delivery, you deliver an extra piece of whatever equipment broke down. With time, you will gain enough experience with the lunar lander that you will be able to send the astronaut repairmen in a way analogous to the Dragon cargo capsule eventually being able to deliver astronauts.

Once enough volatiles are being produced to refuel the landers and deliver ice-derived fuel, then in fact, you don’t need anything larger than a Falcon Heavy because a true heavy lifter is needed because of the mass of fuel needed for fast Earth departure.

So John, if you are “all for getting water from the Moon”, then here are my suggestions of how it could be done by taking the next logical, reasonable steps to do just that.

But I’m not an aerospace engineer…so I’m open to correction 🙂

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