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William (Bill) Harwood, Tuesday, 6-9-15 June 10, 2015

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William (Bill) Harwood, Tuesday, 6-9-15


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Guest:  William (Bill) Harwood; Topics: Space news, policy, & notable events now & throughout our space history.  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 Bill Harwood of CBS Space News back to the show for this 80 minute discussion.  During the first segment, I asked Bill for a bit of his personal history going back to when he first started doing space news with UPI.  Next, I asked him what over the years has impressed him the most regarding space activities.  Don’t miss what he had to say about this as multiple space events were on his list.  In addition, I brought up the Planetary Society success with LightSail, their solar sail demo project.  Bill talked about the mission, what is planned next for a larger, more lasting solar sail project, and the fact that The Planetary Society funded the $4.5 million cost from contributions by Planetary Society donors.  Also in the news was the NASA “flying Saucer” which was really the demo of a new landing system for Mars using a huge (the largest ever) supersonic parachute 100′ across.  Bill went into detail on the mission, even how it got tagged a “flying saucer” which he said was the responsibility of the media.  Listener Robert sent in an email asking for Bill’s position on the Moon-Mars debate.  Bill talked about benefits from both positions but did not share his personal preference as he wanted to stay strictly with reporting the news, not offering an editorial.  That said, his discussion of the debate and the pros and cons of each side was most interesting.  We talked some about planetary missions but honed in on New Horizons and Pluto. Also mentioned was the upcoming Europa Mission, then listener Carolyn asked him what he saw for human spaceflight over the next few years.  Ben wanted to know if the private sector could take us back to the Moon.  Bill had much to say about the emerging commercial industry but in the end suggested that the costs were so high along with very high risks that government would be the one to do it for a long time to come.  Don’t miss what he had to say about both costs and risks.  Russia and their hardware issues came up, then we had quite a discussion on commercial crew, not fully funding it, and continuing to pay the Russians rather than getting the job done with American providers.  John from Ft. Worth gave us a call to talk about the SpaceX subsidies for Falcon 9, wondering if the price of a Falcon 9 launch was the true launch cost or a subsidized cost.  John and Bill had an interesting discussion on this with a few added comments by yours truly.  John also used the time to repeat his position that going to the Moon was essential before going to Mars and that SLS was likely a place holder for labor and technology until we have a different space policy with different space leadership.  Bill talked about variables and lots of unknowns, including wild cards from China and other sources that could end up driving U.S. space policy and progress.


In the second segment, we talked about public private partnerships citing SpaceX as a good example of such a partnership.  That said, Bill talked about the need for the commercials to have a destination such as the ISS for their goods and services but that is harder to realize with planetary missions.  He said their needed to be something to do with the means to do it. This brought us to a space infrastructure discussion and the possible role of the government in building and paying for space infrastructure, especially to support industrial growth.  Bill then address risk in much more detail.  This is a discussion you don’t want to miss.  We talked vehicle safety, Virgin Galactic, deep space missions, and much more.  Barbara in Chicago asked Bill about frustrations and how the frustration level has changed over the three plus decades he has been covering space news.  Bill took a few questions about the ISS and the potential closing of it in 2024.  He was asked if we were in a space race with China and did not realize it.  Carl inquired about the Indian space program, then Bill talked some more about the CST-100, the Dragon, remodeling the ISS for Independent Docking Adapters for the two vehicles  and he even responded to a question about Dream Chaser.  More was said about the ISS, plus he told us he met a person at NASA who was in charge of figuring out how to deorbit the ISS which weighs about 900,000 lbs. and moves at 5 miles a second.  This is in advance of a probable 2024 termination date.  In his closing comments, he said the public needed to let Congress know about their support for space.  He also reminded us that space was dangerous, costly, and very risky.  Before the show ended, I asked if he had seen rockets blow up on the pad.  He had and he shared a few stories with us.


Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog above.  If you want to email Mr. Harwood, you can do so through me.




1. Ken Lundermann - June 25, 2015

I always enjoy listening to what Bill has to say and appreciate his well-informed yet detached perspective. With regard to the most recent show, I have a question about the statement that whatever the exploration program is, a heavy-lift rocket is needed. What’s the basis for this?

I can certainly see that for some programs, heavy lift is needed. But suppose you just want to go back to the moon or to a near-earth asteroid? Zegler & Kutter of ULA (2010) and Spudis & Lavoie (2011) have published archectures for returning humans to the moon that don’t require heavy lift. Hell, even Mr. Heavy Lift himself, Mike Griffin, testified testified before the House Science Committee in September 2011 that the Chinese could go to the moon using their Long March V — which is in about the same class as the Delta IV Heavy.

And even for Mars, Spudis & Lavoie suggest, as does Geoff Greason of XCor, that would could make propellant for the journey on the moon. If you did that, the mass of the Mars expedition to be lifted from earth might not be very large at all (in most architectures, most of the mass is propellant…).

So whence the sentiment that, whatever the program is, heavy lift is needed?

PS I’d be happy to provide specific references to or copies of the studies and statements mentioned above, as well as other in the same vein.

2. jimjxr - June 11, 2015

The SpaceX subsidies talk makes no sense, even the LA Times article didn’t mention much about SpaceX subsidies (it mainly focused on Tesla and Solar City), the only one they can find is the subsidies for the new launch site at Texas.

There is no hidden government subsidies to SpaceX. While SpaceX is a private company, any government subsidies are public knowledge, we know what the government gave to SpaceX (basically COTS, CRS, Commercial Crew, plus some launches), so if you think SpaceX is taking subsidies, you should be able to tell us what it is.

The idea that a Falcon 9 really costs $100M is absurd, if that’s the case SpaceX would be losing $240M in the first half of 2015, where did they get the money to cover this loss? Out of thin air?

SpaceX’s cost advantage is very real, and NASA knows this back in 2011, see Appendix B of this report: http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/Section403(b)CommercialMarketAssessmentReportFinal.pdf, I reproduce the important part here since it’s very enlightening:

For the Falcon 9 analysis, NASA used NAFCOM to predict the development cost for the Falcon 9 launch vehicle using two methodologies:
1) Cost to develop Falcon 9 using traditional NASA approach, and
2) Cost using a more commercial development approach.

Under methodology #1, the cost model predicted that the Falcon 9 would cost $4.0 billion based on a traditional approach. Under methodology #2, NAFCOM predicted $1.7 billion when the inputs were adjusted to a more commercial development approach. Thus, the predicted the cost to develop the Falcon 9 if done by NASA would have been between $1.7 billion and $4.0 billion.

SpaceX has publicly indicated that the development cost for Falcon 9 launch vehicle was approximately $300 million. Additionally, approximately $90 million was spent developing the Falcon 1 launch vehicle which did contribute to some extent to the Falcon 9, for a total of $390 million. NASA has verified these costs.

Matt - June 12, 2015

Musk did invest 100 million of his own money. Some amount as Air force alone invested in SpaceX in a very critical time for the existence for the company just by buying a test flight of the Falcon 1 rocket (in 2008 or so). I assume that saved SpaceX.

It is possible to hide direct subvention by such an order. I heard much about huge in terms of value “under the table” support for SpaceX by NASA and Air Force during development phase, but I have no number. It shall also no forgotten that SpaceX did used much of TRW (via Tom Mueller) and NASA rocket engine technology.

Andy Hill - June 19, 2015

I Bet whatever subsidy SpaceX did or didn’t get would pale into insignificance compared to those obtained by Boeing and Lockheed when they developed Atlas and Delta.

3. DougSpace - June 10, 2015

When David asked Mr Harwood about a public-private program to the Moon Bill responded with a couple of points:
– There’s no destination for such vehicles,
– What would the companies go on to do to then make a profit?

At the last Space Access Conference, I asked Dennis Stone the question of whether there was anything in law, regulations, or policy that would prevent a NASA program of establishing a cis-lunar transportation system prior to the establishment of an EML or lunar base. His answer, “No”. Dennis is the program integration manager for NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program. Now, agreed, it would make the case easier if such a base already existed. But if one considers inflatable habitats, there’s no particular reason why one of the first payloads that the participating companies could deliver to destination couldn’t be an inflatable. Suddenly, one has a destination for cargo and crew. It’s really not a difficult concept.

As for how the participating companies would be able to transition to market revenue. First of all, realize that NASA had a strong incentive for companies to provide it with transportation whether or not those companies are generating separate market revenue or not. Consider Orbital Sciences and their explosion and stand down. Thanks to NASA’s funding the development of two launchers, there is hardly a hiccup. SpaceX continues to deliver while Orbital gets back on its feet. That sort of redundancy is worth the cost. And recognize that, to my knowledge, Orbital is not making any market revenue with the Antares apart from NASA. Apparently, Orbital considers NASA business sufficient to continue. Also, consider that NASA isn’t going away any time soon. That business is a legitimate “market” for companies to serve for a very long time.

But finally, different people have come up with a long list of potential market revenue streams for cis-lunar and lunar transportation beyond the NASA anchor tenancy.

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