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Keith Henson, Sunday, 12-2-12 December 3, 2012

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Keith Henson, Sunday, 12-2-12


Guest:  Keith Henson.   Topics SSP using laser rockets to lower the cost of space access.  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 welcomed Keith Henson to the program to discuss the use of laser powered rockets for launching space powered satellites to help eliminate the use of fossil fuels as well as lower the cost of space access.  To assist in your following our discussion, check out this laser rocket graphic at http://bit.ly/Uj9Vw9.  Also, Keith has several related published articles on the OilDrum blog.  You can download and read his articles at www.theoildrum.com/search/apachesolr_search/keith%20henson. Finally, our guest has permitted me to upload his recent PPT conference presentation to The Space Show blog, “Laser Propulsion and Space Based Solar Power.”  Please be sure to check out this presentation by visiting our blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. During our first segment, Mr. Henson talked about the need for low cost energy and said that by using laser rockets and his SSP ideas, the cost for electrical power generation could be as low as 2 cents/Kwh to GEO.  We spent a good portion of our discussion debating Keith’s assumptions behind the 2 cents/Kwh.  I referenced my costs per my PG&E invoice and other listeners emailed and called in regarding their electrical costs per their utility bills.  Keith has asked for people disagreeing to let him know where he may be going wrong so please post your comments on our blog and Keith will respond. He said several times that he wanted your critique and comments.  Many listeners as well as myself pushed him on his assumptions, wanting more factual information on how arrived at his conclusions.  He has this information pending publication with the British Interplanetary Society so for the moment, its under pre-publication boycott but as soon as Keith clears it, I will post his material on the blog and announce it on air. Later in our initial segment, we talked about the laser rocket being a weapon. This discussion sparked lots of listener participation. We also talked about SSP for insitu use rather than power beaming back to Earth.  Keith brought up the new developments with Reaction Engines out of the UK. Here is there recent press release in case you missed it: www.reactionengines.co.uk/news_updates.html. Listeners did call in to tell Keith that SSP did not make sense for a variety of reasons, including not closing a business case, with or without laser rockets.  Jerry offered such comments as did Charles. Also, without consent, AT&T installed call waiting on the toll free line. I finally figured this out & edited out several of the comments & my complaint.  The matter should be resolved for all toll free calls moving forward but about 1hr 30 minutes into the program, you will hear a rough edit where I removed the call waiting rants.
     In the second segment, we continued debating Keith’s costs plus his ROI assumptions. Fusion came up for discussion as well as already existent successful powered sat beamed energy back to Earth.  Toward the end of our program, Keith talked about his target of reducing dollars per gasoline by using laser rockets and SSP.
      Please post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog above. Keith can be emailed at hkeithhensonATgmailDOTcom.
Laser Rockets & SSP

Dr. Jason Cassibry, Tuesday, 10-9-12 October 10, 2012

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Dr. Jason Cassibry, Tuesday, 10-9-12


Guest:  Dr. Jason Cassibry.  Topics:  A technical description and the potential of fusion propulsion.  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 Dr. Jason Cassibry to the program to guide us in our discussion of the potential for fusion propulsion.  At times, this was a very technical discussion.  To assist in following it, I have uploaded to the blog his published paper delivered at the AIAA Joint Propulsion Conference, “The Case and Development Path for Fusion Propulsion.”  In addition, below are the URLs for several articles on fusion propulsion that Dr. Cassibry shared with us: www.uah.edu/news/items/10-research/2501-slapshot-to-deep-space#.UDrKn-iPVuY;
www.popularmechanics.com/science/space/rockets/the-big-machine-that-could-lead-to-fusion-powered-spaceships-9450996; http://io9.com/5921673/nuclear-slapshots-could-propel-a-spacecraft-to-mars-in-just-weeks; www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=23442
and http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/10/zpinch-nuclear-fusion-pulse-space.html.   Dr. Cassibry started out by providing us with a working definition of fusion propulsion.  We talked about nuclear propulsion as well and the overall state of development for fusion energy.  I asked Dr. Cassibry if in their economic projections for fusion propulsion, they considered the political and policy impact on fossil fuel pricing and supply availability.  As you will hear, generally such factors are not included in their studies though he concurred with me that such policies can strongly skew the economics one way or the other.  Several calls came in on a wide ranging group of associated topics.  We talked about the main fusion fuel, lithium deuteride, magnetic nozzles, and the use of a nuclear fission reactor to start the fusion propulsion unit.  Z-Pinch technologies were defined and discussed.  As the segment drew to a close, I asked about funding sources for this research and we learned that most all of the funding is from public sources.

In our second segment, more listeners called in regarding insitu resource usage, nuclear propulsion to start the fusion unit, and the power consumed for all of this.  We talked about using fusion propulsion for a Mars mission and what it did for travel times.  Jason also put forth a suggested time line and path to follow to operation in perhaps 25 years, depending on funding.  More calls came in with fuel questions, vibration impact, G force acceleration, thrust, and more.  Another topic discussed was fusion propulsion for the launch vehicle.  We then compared some real mission travel times such as Cassini, Voyager, and New Horizons, asking what the transit times would have been like using fusion propulsion.  As we were ending the program, I asked about the students entering aerospace engineering at UAH, both the undergrad and graduate level, plus the gender mix of the students.  There appears to be strong demand by the students to study these fields at all levels.  In conclusion, Jason suggested that we could look for breakeven with fusion in about ten years, maybe less.

If you have comments/questions, please post them on The Space Show blog.  Dr. Cassibry’s faculty page at UAH is www.mae.uah.edu/faculty/cassibry.shtml.


Cassibry et al case for fusion 072812

Dr. Jordin Kare, Sunday, 5-20-12 May 20, 2012

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Dr. Jordin Kare, Sunday, 5-20-12


Guest:  Dr. Jordin Kare. Topics:  Beamed energy propulsion updates.  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 Dr. Jordin Kare back to the program for beamed energy propulsion (BEP) industry updates.  Be sure to visit his website for more information, www.lasermotive.com.  Our discussion started out by referencing two recent BEP studies involving NASA. The first, the Beamed Energy Propulsion Study was completed last year and was a joint study with DARPA.  The newer study which is still being finalized is the NASA Ride The Light Project.  As you will hear, these studies suggest technical feasibility but call into question basic economic questions such as is BEP worth it and who will pay for it.  Dr. Kare and I then engaged in an interesting discussion about the NASA cost estimation compared to Dr. Kare’s cost estimation.  I urge you to listen carefully to this discussion.  You may find as I and others did that it explains a lot regarding economic challenges to our current space programs. A listener as Jordin about the costs for a laser demo project.  Jordin then estimated costs depending on the type of demo project involved.  Also, Jordin was quick to point out that the economic conclusions of the studies were not the kiss of death as I suggested so again, listen attentively to what he has to say about this matter.  Ben emails us wanting to know how laser beamed energy works.  Jordin then described the basics of BEP, requirements for the beam to always be hitting the rocket all the way to space, and many factors related to laser launch.  We talked about the hydrogen fuel, the need to be in a cloud free location, and the theoretical limits to a BEP system.  Basic ISP was discussed and Jordin compared to BEP to traditional chemical rockets and different fuels.  BEP is about twice the ISP of a typical chemical rocket.  Dr. Kare described the three schools of thought and approaches to BEP, and as the segment ended, he responded to a question about the space elevator concept.

In our second segment,Alice asked about the ease in getting federal grant money for BEP projects and we learned its not easy.  A listener asked for a basic explanation of power beaming so Jordin took us through the power beaming and wireless power transmission concepts.  We talked about near term commercial projects using lasers and here, Jordin directed us to his company, LaserMotive, as they are involved in several commercial projects unrelated to space.  This is another interesting discussion, don’t miss it.  A caller asked how the laser beam is kept aligned with the rocket as it accelerates to orbit.  He also asked about problems resulting from the wobble.  I asked about laser launch for HSF, launch abort issues, and a listener asked about the laser frequencies used.  Other subjects included the military use of lasers, migratory birds, & thin film solar panels. As our program ended, Jordin was asked look at laser launch over the near and intermediate term plus if it could be used for sea launch.

Please post your comments/questions for Dr. Jordin Kare on The Space Show blog above.


Dr. James Dewar, Sunday, 2-12-12 February 12, 2012

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Dr. James Dewar, Sunday, 2-12-12



Guest:  Dr. James (Jim) A. Dewar.  Topics:  Nuclear Thermal Rocket (NTR), changing paradigms to use the NTR from Earth launch, nuclear economics.  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 Dr. Dewar back to The Space Show to further discuss the Nuclear Thermal Rocket (NTR) and his paradigm changing approach to use the NTR to launch from Earth rather than using it only in space.  During this nearly 2.5 hour discussion, Dr. Dewar makes the case for the NTR based on probable economics, the previous history associated with NERVA, and the assumed benefits flowing to private companies engaged in public private partnerships along the lines Dr. Dewar described.  In the first segment, Dr. Dewar started out describing the existing barriers to using the NTR to LEO rather than only in space, plus he referred us to his 29 page introductory paper which is available on The Space Show blog for your download and review.  During this segment, we fielded many listener emails and calls wanting to discuss the NTR ISP, possible fuels, testing, and legal issues impacting the use of the nuclear rocket. Michael called and talked about the discussions for a new treaty, the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) and how that would adversely impact using the NTR.  Dr. Dewar talked about treaty issues over the years and suggested that treaties are not that easy to establish in this era while suggesting that they could also be modified.  Near the end of the first segment, questions about thorium came up as did questions about additional commercial uses for the nuclear engine here on Earth. 

In the second longer segment, we talked about winning over the public and the media.  Charles Pooley called in with a set of questions and we talked about reentry vehicles, highly enriched uranium, and more.  Jim described a Titan missile accident in Arkansas as an example of the safety controls even in a very large explosion.  Another listener asked about cooling and Jim told us about pulse cooling.  Dr. Dewar’s air launch idea was brought up again by another caller andMarshall sent in an email inquiring about the nuclear engine replacing coal in our terrestrial power plants to make electricity.  I asked Dr. Dewar about risk assessment for the nuclear rocket and reprocessing given terrorism, etc.  He said the reprocessed material would be carefully guarded but also weighed against the environmental risks associated with burying waste, burning it, or even dumping waste in the ocean.  Dr. Dewar was asked about using the nuclear rocket only in space rather than attempting to use it to launch from Earth.  He compared using it only in space to the Pony Express. Don’t miss his full response in replying to this question.  Later in this segment, I asked Jim for his first step in advancing the NTR.  He said the first step was to get people talking about the subject.  Tom called in and also wondered how to get people to rally to the cause.  Near the end of the program, Jim talked some more about potential economic benefits along with secondary commercial products such as heat pipes.  As our program was ending ion engines came up as did Vasimr.

Please post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog.  If you want to contact Dr. Dewar, send your note to me for forwarding.

To download and read Dr. Dewar’s paper, see below:

A Technical and Economic Introduction to Nuclear Rockets

A Technical Note on Nuclear Rockets-1


Dr. Steve Howe, Tuesday, 1-24-12 January 25, 2012

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Dr. Steve Howe, Tuesday, 1-24-12


Guest:  Dr. Steven Howe.  Topics:  space nuclear power for power & propulsion systems, & radioisotope power generators. You are invited to comment, ask questions, & discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments, questions, & any discussion must be relevant & 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.  You will want to follow the websites along with our guest:  http://csnr.usra.edu/index.html &  www.usra.edu.  If you are interested in the CSNR 2012 Summer Fellowship Program, you can learn more & apply no later than March 9, 2012  from CSNR at  http://csnr.usra.edu/2012_summer_app2.html.  We welcomed Dr. Howe to the program to discuss space nuclear power.  We started out with an overview of both the Center for Space Nuclear Research & the Universities Space Research Association.  Dr. Howe then told us that they were working on nuclear rockets with the Aerojet Corporation, focusing on a new fuel form away from based on tungsten.  During our discussion, he had much to say about this fuel, its advantages, & its testing.  He also talked about ISP & thrust to weight ratios.  He was asked about testing & we learned they plan on doing ground tests at the Nevada Test Site.  Listen to why their tests will be different from earlier nuclear rocket engine tests & how they are expelling the exhaust into the ground.  You will hear There is no radiation, only hydrogen which bleeds into the rock strata.  We also talked about public concern for nuclear power in space, then we shifted our focus to a nuclear rocket mission to Mars.  Dr. Howe told us about the three year Mars mission but also said with a nuclear rocket a one year mission would be possible.  We also talked about the costs for developing the nuclear rocket as well as the possibility of other countries doing it before the U.S.  Next, we talked about the use of uranium & even the possibility of thorium, including why thorium is not useful for weapons. One listener question asked about the Mars Direct method & insitu resource utilization.  Dr. Howe supported the use of insitu but suggested it for later trips as it might be too risky for the initial trips.  He then described their Mars Hopper project which will certainly interest us all.  As this segment ended, we talked about using the nuclear rocket for going to the Moon & for a lunar & even Martian habitat. 

As we started our second segment, Dr. Howe was asked if QuickLaunch could be useful.  Dr. Dewar sent in a clarification note about U-233 as a byproduct of  thorium & why its a problem for weapons.  In talking about a lunar habitat, Dr. Howe told us about the NASA Fission Surface Power Program (FSP).  We also talked about using the new tungsten fuel for habitats.  He told us about the Nuclear Thermal Mars Sample Mission Study that compared the nuclear rocket to Delta IV launches.  Listeners asked about Vasimr & our guest was asked to clarify for us the differences between nuclear electric propulsion & nuclear thermal propulsion & why the latter is preferable.  Dr. Dewar sent in another note to talk about Y-12.  Later, much was said about plutonium & its pending shortage.  Make sure you hear what Dr. Howe had to say about this looming shortage. Near the end, Dr. Howe mentioned his efforts with Hbar Technologies, LLC, suggesting that possibly using these nuclear advancements for medicine, specifically cancer, might be a driver for space applications. As we concluded, Dr. Howe told us about his books on Kindle & the consolidated all in one book, “Earth Rise.”  Here is the Amazon URL & remember, if you buy it using this URL, Amazon contributes to The Space Show: www.amazon.com/Earth-Rise-ebook/dp/B005LD3LYS/ref=onegialeafou-20

Post your comments/questions on the blog URL above.


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