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Darren Charrier, Tuesday, 5-5-15 May 6, 2015

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Darren Charrier, Tuesday, 5-5-15


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Guest:  Darren Charrier.  Topics:  Darren’s SEDS projects for a 3D printed engine, lunar lander, 6U cubesat communications unit, HE3 lunar mining & more.  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. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.  For those listening to archives using live365.com and rating the programs, please email me as to why you assign a specific rating to the show. This will help me bring better programming to the audience.

We welcomed UCSD freshman aerospace engineering student Darren Charrier to the show to discuss his UCSD SEDS projects including building a 3D rocket motor and a 6U cubesat communications center for their lunar lander. Make sure you see the video of his TED talk, www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9umkenQDoY.  In the first segment of our 1 hour 27 minute program, Darren started off explaining his interest in space, the Moon, and mining lunar HE3 to solve energy problems around the world.  He also explained why he decided to attend UCSD over other aerospace engineering schools.  We then got into the specifics of the three SEDs projects being worked on at UCSD by Darren’s team, the 3D printed rocket motor which was an existing program before Darren came to UCSD, plus the lunar lander and the 6U cubesat lunar orbiting communications satellite needed for their lunar lander.  The group intends to ride share to the Moon but it was too early to announce anything specific about that.  The timeline is by Darren’s graduation from UCSD in approximately four years.  We also learned that the 3D rocket motor will enter the competition later this summer in Green River, UT (we usually do a Space Show program on this event once the winners are known), plus their 6U cubesat bird will be entered in a NASA competition.  Darren was asked about his team and the UCSD administrative support for their projects, plus he was asked for specifics regarding the 3D printed rocket motor including its performance specs.  Darren talked about fuels that will likely be used by the 3D motor plus they may use a version of it to propel the lunar lander which they want to make a soft landing on the lunar surface.  Abut the lander, I inquired what it would do on the surface.  He said they would be pleased if it accomplished the soft landing plus survived a lunar day.  They want it to call home and take photos.  Our guest received several questions about the UCSD SEDS chapter as well as SEDS on a national level.  One listener asked him if they had ITAR issues, especially with foreign students.  Don’t miss his response to this question.  Bill called from Chicago to talk about Darren given he knows hm.  We learned much about this young, inspired student and future industry leader.

In the second segment, I asked Darren if he wanted to carry out his lunar plans as a private company or with government. He wants to be a private company with the government as a customer.  We also talked about Darren’s larger set of plans for the Moon including his starting a lunar landing business, servicing lunar tourism, additional mining over and above HE3 and more.   When asked about going to Mars, he said the path to Mars was through the Moon.  He supported asteroid mining but thinks it is far from being ready now and the path again goes through the Moon.  Doug called to ask more questions about the 3D motor and mining HE3 on the Moon. This latter subject was a major part of the Part 2 discussion with listeners as there were many questions about mining HE3, fusion development, HE3 on Earth, and even seriously using thorium rather than trying to develop lunar HE3 resources.  John from Ft. Worth called in on this and suggested using lunar HE3 for advanced spacecraft propulsion from the Moon rather than bringing it back to Earth.  There was plenty of listener interest in the fusion-HE3 discussion.  Returning to asteroid mining, Darren said one of his goals was to mine asteroids but that it was still a very long ways off.  He said “mine the moon first!”.  As the show was ending, we talked some more about thorium here on Earth, appropriate conferences for Darren to attend and he gave a shout out to his team members.

Please post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog  You can reach Darren through me.



1. ericmachmer - May 7, 2015

Ice extracted from lunar craters will not be competitive with fuel launched from Earth on reusable rockets costing fifty thousand dollars.

15 tons of high quality fuels trucked from massive sophisticated refineries in Houston then launched for $250,000 on Falcon 9s in Brownsvile will _always_ outcompete ridiculously expensive fuels cracked from water-ice extracted from lunar craters using as of yet non-existent multi-billion dollar technologies. In fact, the ability to launch tons of fuels from Earth to LEO on reusable rockets may delay the development of fuel depots and in-space resource utilization for decades. This should concern us.

When Musk achieves reusable rockets, development of all near Earth resources may be delayed from any cislunar source – even unfortunately asteroids with their superior concentrations of ore and favorable zero g environment. This ironically however provides a reason for taxpayer support of asteroid retrieval: private/public research partnerships operating on an asteroid in Earth orbit “owned by U.S. citizens” (NASA) could jump-start technologies humanity will need to develop asteroids. Humanity needs access to asteroids long-term. Asteroids – not the moon – will fuel a billion-fold increase in our industrial base. Despite the huge disparity in initial cost-competition with launches from Earth, government subsidized R&D on an asteroid placed in an elliptical orbit around Earth could advance for-profit Free World leadership of in-space resource utilization by decades.

More on Musk’s $250k rocket check out this YouTube clip (only a mere minute and thirty seconds of your time 😉

Please read Zubrin’s “Entering Space”, John Lewis’ “Mining Space”, and O’Neill’s “High Frontier” for the superiority of resources from asteroids rather than the moon….

B John - May 9, 2015

15 million dollar a realistic minimal F9R per launch cost figure, if all works out as planned. They don’t reuse the upper stage and they need refurbishment and lots of fixed investments on the ground. And even if they reuse a first stage ten times, that still adds one tenth of the production cost of a first stage per launch. You can’t count only the market price of fuel per gallon.

ericmachmer - May 9, 2015

Hi John, just out of curiosity where are you getting this $15 million per launch from?

Of course less than $1 million for 15 tons to LEO is optimistic, but Musk expects over a thousand launches per Falcon. This doesn’t seem such an outrageous improvement since the baseline is tossing $60 million rockets into the ocean after one launch – and the innovation here is exponentially improving automation tracking Moore’s Law rather than a critical physical issue. We “recycle” high temperature combustion engines for operation over hundreds of thousands of miles. A rocket only burns for less than two minutes over a few hundred miles. It seems the problem is programming an algorithm capable of landing rockets upright more than anything else.

Why not anticipate old Falcon 9s in Brownsville shuttling water filtered from the Gulf of Mexico for use as shielding on Mars cyclers until they are launched thousands of times, like 18 wheelers driven 800,000 miles until obsolescence?

B John - May 9, 2015

First of all, I’m just filtering online experiences through my puzzled brain, I’m not a physicist who has calculated this myself. If I had been, you’d read this in a paper I published in Nature or something. So please bear with my mistakes! The $15 million per launch I’ve been convinced of (for the moment) by reading endless arguments about it, mostly on the expert’s site nasaspaceflight.com . The cost comes mostly from sacrificing the upper stage (which is done for good reasons!) plus some cost estimates for refurbishment and ground operations. Not including any development cost or any monetary ROI.

Today SPX charges $60+ millions per launch. Price is not cost, but that’s the number which is visible, just as $400 million or so for launching the D4H cannot really be all costs, but mostly profits. The Russian $210 for three astronauts to the ISS is a useful benchmark today.

In order to get down to $0.25 million per launch, which would mean a 99.6% operating profit margin given their already today leading low price, is maybe something which the aliens on Neptune know how to do. On Earth however we’re all still clueless about how to do such a thing (outside of banking).

The Falcon 9 will never launch a thousand times. SpaceX will in a few years replace it with some new rocket, if they keep their spirits up.

And I am btw all in for Mars cyclers! Regardless of launchers. Designing a Mars mission without reusable Earth-Mars transfer spaceship, which obviously must be a Mars Aldrin cycler (unless some clever orbital mathematician has some new idea), would be to imitate the unsustainable Apollo program mode.

Every step further into the infinite darkness should leave a trail of breadcrumbs in order to be sustainable, otherwise we the followers might get lost.

2. B John - May 6, 2015

I wonder, if in 40 years from now when he finds that no one has gone to the Moon and no mission is planned to do so, and fusion power still is unexisting with or without helium-3, how he thinks that would affect his motivation to go on. And that is simply extrapolating conservatively from what has happened in the last 40 years. (I do rain on parades which go to nowhere, because all participants do better if they go home instead.)

B John - May 6, 2015

Fusion reactors using helium three mined on the Moon and exported to Earth, sounds like the obviously practical way forward for space exploration. Precisely what we need to focus on right now. (Did he mention Star Trek?)

3. Jim Davis - May 6, 2015

This was an interesting and entertaining show. The overall impression I got was that young Charrier is taking on way too much, way too quickly. I hope he can avoid the usual danger of a broken spirit and cynical outlook.

In some respects he reminds me of Jon Goff who also had grandiose plans at that age but managed to adjust his expectations with maturity without losing his optimistic outlook.

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