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Open Lines, Tuesday, 5-21-13 May 22, 2013

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Open Lines, Tuesday, 5-21-13


Guest: Open Lines with Dr. David Livingston.  Topics:  Our discussion covered wide range of timely topics per the below summary.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information.

We started our 2 hour 3 minute Open Lines discussion with a five minute recorded interview with Sarah Cruddas in the UK regarding the UK astronaut Tim Peake who is now scheduled for a mission to the ISS.  Sarah told us about the impact of Tim being the UK’s first government funded and supported astronaut.  You will clearly hear her excitement about this and for sure you will understand the very positive impact of this in England along with national British excitement.  Way to go England and congratulations from The Space Show!  You can find out more about Sarah’s reporting, space, science & film work at www.sarahcruddas.com. Our next caller was Mark Longanbach from Star Systems to tell us about the Hermes spacecraft and their efforts in developing a suborbital spaceship for tourism and cargo.  We also talked about crowd funding and Kickstarter with him.  Next, Nelson called in to talk about the need for long term NASA goals and he outlined his concept for bringing the space community together and making the most out of tight budgets, assets, technology, and capabilities, all in support of repositioning our space program for doing great things in the future. Nelson requested feedback on his idea so post your comments on The Space Show blog.  Nelson’s blog can be found at www.aviationweek.com/UserProfile.aspx?newspaperUserId=219284.  Kelly called next to talk about the upcoming 20th anniversary of DC-X and he compared back then to now.  As you will hear, Kelly saw more positive things back “in the day” than today.  He talked about today’s commercial space industry, NASA, SpaceX, commercial space, etc.  We also talked about the planned commercial Mars missions, the asteroid & lunar missions.  I’m sure you will find his comments interesting & thought provoking.

In our second segment, Tim said Rossi and his E-CAT were validated by a third party.  He then took issue with much of what Kelly had to say, especially around SpaceX and the emerging commercial space industry.  We also talked about the proposed NASA-Bigelow Aerospace project and I read the NASA PR announcement about it on air.  Later in the second segment, Charles Pooley called.  He wanted to talk about the NASA-Bigelow announcement and he said he also disagreed with Kelly, especially regarding SpaceX.  While Kelly was critical of the SpaceX engine design, Charles said it was an excellent design and he told us why he thought so.  I chimed in my support for SpaceX as I think they are doing a very good job and have solved inflight problems in an impressive way.  Also in this segment, we talked some about what constitutes a commercial mission.  I suggested today’s emerging industry is a hybrid but in the end, the companies behave as commercial companies. Pooley also talked about a Scaled CATO engine failure. He later sent us emails which I read on air that described the problem, then Charles called back to explain what I read.  Another topic I mentioned included the problems with the Kepler Space Telescope.

Post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog.  If you want to email any of the callers, do so through me.



1. Kelly Starks - May 23, 2013

To more clearly state my position comparing how out future in space is looking much dimmer now then 20 years ago

Mid 90’s


· DC-X was proving to offer tremendous cost and operability improvements (3000 times fewer labor hours per flight, over 10 fold direct launch cost reduction, 24 turnaround times)

· DC-X’s DC-3 SSTO shuttle follow-up was so far along, the reviewers said the designs had the catalog numbers of all the parts and components.

· Big firms were arm twisting NASA to adopt (at guaranteed really big savings to them) CATS like RLVs from the DC-X, to Venture Star.

· New space firms were trying to develop Blackhorse derived space planes, other low cost RLV’s. Lots of newspace firms (Beal, Rocketplane, Kistler, Roton, Scaled Composites, etc.)

Market projections

· Huge satellite clusters of dozens to up to a hundred sats each, were in development and would require a lot of launches.

· The SDI design of 60 laser battle platforms the sire of a pair of buses would need 50 flights a year just for servicing – more to construct.

· Tourists surveys were projecting huge demands to orbit and suborbital.

· Major industrial production markets, and orbital research were projected or stated by various major corporations.

Prestige programs

· NASA was projecting huge expansive on orbit research on the ISS.

· NASA was sketching out (as directed) low cost return to the moon programs deployed and recovered by orbiting shuttles.

So it all looked really bright for our future in space.

Now 20 years later


· NASA destroyed DC-X, spun X-33 to a technology demonstrator and used it to “disprove” the concept of RLVs or low cost launchers. Paying L/M a $billion extra in a contract to not demonstrate SSTO capacity, and just demo technologies. Air Force was locked out of investing in RLV’s. The rest of the market seems indifferent. So all the major aero firms drop their RLV / CATS projects.

· NASA demands and gets shuttle not replaced by any lower cost/high safety craft – but a much higher cost, lower safety, retro Apollo Constellation/SLS design.

· DC-X all but forgotten.

· New space firms mostly shut down. SpaceX is fielding a retro Soyuz style system with very pour current reliability records. Some argue it’s a bit cheaper, others (like congress) that it’s much more expensive. No one seriously argues its revolutionary. All advanced space craft projects NewSpace programs are dead and the community argues the 1950’s era designs are the best that technology would allow.

Market projections

· The huge commercial satellite clusters of dozens to up to a hundred sats each, were canceled. Iridium was scaled down, the others canceled, SDI in work as a “Brilliant Pebbles” system that wouldn’t need any significant launcher capacity..

· Tourists to the ISS started reflying one guy after only a couple flights, and at current price points may only be a handful of people.

· Major industrial space dev projects abandoned, or now invalidated due to advances in competing technology.

Prestige programs

· NASA orbital research: Shuttle discontinued. ISS research largely reduced to some testing of advanced life-support systems.

· NASA Doesn’t officially talk about moon or Mars manned missions. Robot probe program is dramatically downsized.

2. DougSpace - May 23, 2013

I wasn’t free at the time of the last Open Lines but I just got done listening to it and wanted to share some of my thoughts about that NASA-Bigelow announcement.

It seems to me that Bigelow isn’t going to be having oversight over other companies or be in a broker position for future operations. Rather, its agreement with NASA is for Bigelow to produce a report for NASA. When that report is turned in, that SAA is over. Specifically the announcement said, “Bigelow will deliver its analysis by the end of this year”.

My take on what’s going on is that NASA is cognizant that there are any number of possible public-private partnerships between NASA and commercial companies for activities BEO in which both NASA’s exploration goals are helped and the commercial companies would develop new revenue streams.

The ideas are numerous. For example, a transportation system that takes NASA astronauts to a EML station could also be used for circum-lunar tourism. A system to bring an asteroid back to the Earth-Moon system for mining might also do the same in order to give astronauts flown on an Orion experience with in-space operations. Manned lunar surface mining operations could also be of benefit to NASA by practicing off-Earth planetary surface operations in preparation for an eventual Mars mission.

Bigelow is an interesting choice to do this write-up. Their inflatables could be used at LEO, at an L-point, on the lunar surface, and even on an Inspiration Mars-type mission. Yet Bigelow (as far as I know) has no serious competitor for inflatable habs. So choosing them isn’t playing favorites. Yet Bigelow has some degree of relationships with Boeing, SpaceX, the IM people, and potentially the Moon exploring and mining companies. So I think that NASA wants the commercial companies to suggest possible partnerships and it has chosen Bigelow to help organize the commercial companies suggestions for such partnerships.

3. Jim Davis - May 22, 2013

I had a few problems with the call from Nelson (from Oregon, if I remember correctly).

He made a comment along the lines of “space advocates have a more accurate vision of the future” and followed it up with another to the effect that “we know there will be colonies on the moon in a hundred years”. Both comments struck me as more than a little arrogant although they are all too common among space advocates. Space advocates have no better track record of predicting the future than any other group and I can think of no better way to demonstrate that than to look at what space advocates in 1963 were predicting for 50 years hence. And no, we don’t know that there will be colonies on the moon in a hundred years. For all we know the idea of colonies on the moon will seem as quaint and amusing to the world of 2113 as the notions of cities on the sea floor covered by transparent domes seems to us today. Assuming one’s personal convictions to be established fact seems like a poor way to craft space policy at the national level.

I was also mystified by his idea that a consensus would be easier to reach if we focused on very long range goals, a hundred years hence. I am under the impression that that is what most space advocates are in fact advocating. The problem, of course, is that most space advocates, have entirely different visions of the world 100 years from now. Advocates like Spudis and Zubrin spend entirely too much effort on long range goals, in my opinion. Musk, who Nelson seems to dismiss, although he certainly has long range ambitions, has achieved much greater success by focusing on the near term and adjusting priorities as needed.

All that said, Nelson seems to have put a great deal of thought in all this and I hope that after his Space Review piece appears Dr. Livingston can have him on as a guest.

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