Broadcast 3349 Dr. Joel Sercel

04 Aug 2019 Dr. Joel Sercel
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Guest:  Dr. Joel Sercel;  Topics:  Updates and news for Momentus, their water plasma propulsion system, lowering space access costs, the small sat industry, policy and much more. 

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We welcomed back to the program Dr. Joel Sercel, CTO of Momentus.  Our program today was just short of 100 minutes in two segments.  Additionally, we experience cell phone and other noise plus some cell phone voice modulation.  We apologize for these audio issues.  We started our discussion with Dr. Sercel by inviting him to introduce us to Momentus.  For a good part of the first segment, Dr. Sercel did just that, talking about their water plasma propellant system, the commercial market being targeted by the company, and the company goal of being a type of orbital shuttle for small sats.  Our guest took the opportunity to fully describe the Momentus vision and program during today's interview.  I urge you to listen carefully to understand just what Momentus is doing and how it can be a huge game changer in the developing and emerging commercial space industry.  I also suggest you follow along with the various Momentus rides that are and will be offered.  Check them out at their website:  https://momentus.space/rides

Joel talked about their missions, especially the new El Camino Real Mission which he described in detail, including telling us the story regarding the mission delay due to the government shutdown earlier this year.  You can read about this mission here:  https://momentus.space/2019/01/14/our-first-mission-el-camino-real-is-ready-to-fly.  Joel explained why they named the mission as they did.  For those of you not familiar with the historic El Camino Real "highway" in the early development days of California, I'm sure you will find this interesting and the analogy our guest provided with the early if not the first California highway to what Momentus is striving to open up as a space highway. 

Joel was asked many listener questions plus he received multiple phone calls during our interview.  I asked our guest if his device which attaches to the rocket and then the payload attaches to his device adds much mass to the mission and the payload. Don't mis what he had to say in response to this question.  Joel described the big smallsat market and noted its growth from 2012 to projects of 1500 annual smallsat missions by 2023. 

Joel shared much technical information with us, including information about Delta-V.  Another point he made was the potential to launch missions from the ISS.  Don't miss what he said about this near term capability.  Listener Jack asked him about competition from the developing dedicated small launchers coming to market. Joel explained how they were partnering with these companies and working in harmony with them.  Listener Ben wanted to know about ITAR and his water plasma propulsion system given they were part of a Russian mission.  Before the break, listener Jock asked about Agile Engineering since Joel had mentioned it several times.  Our guest spent some time describing what was meant by this type of engineering system. 

Before the first segment ended, Ft. Worth John called with questions about the specific impulse using water as a fuel.  Don't miss what Joel said in response to John's question as he instead focused on Delta-V.  He also talked about MET and other in space propulsion system.  Chemical propulsion was mentioned but listen to what he said about raising water temperatures from 2,000K to 6,000K in their system.

We started the second segment with a question from Dr. Doug regarding the Mini Bee project with TransAstra.  Here is a link to a story about Mini Bee so you can learn more about it:  https://www.transastracorp.com/news.html.  Joel talked about their having won man NIAC awards for their proposals stating that he was actually a five times NIAC winner. 

Bill called from Raleigh to ask about the commercial operating timeline for Momentus.  As part of his response, Joel talked about the Momentus capital acquisition program which had so far brought in about $33 million to the company with a great lead investor out of Wyoming.  Joel also said the company was growing and hiring.  Listen to how he describes the types of positions Momentus is hiring for from interested candidates. 

Luis from Venezuela sent in a note asking about on orbit refueling and the ability to refuel with different types of propellant.   Don't miss Joel's reply.  I asked Joel about the actual market demand and what the 5 and 10 year plans were for Momentus.  Another listener asked our guest about his technology helping to further space settlement and human spaceflight.  Don't miss what Joel said in reply to these questions.  You might be surprised by the answer. 

Kim called from Mexico to ask Joel questions bout the videos on the Momentus website.  The question came up about restarting Momentus engines so Joel talked about their systems engineering, multiple engine restart capabilities and once again mentioned Agile engineering.  Don't miss his engineering discussion as he covered much of the space industry going back to Apollo regarding engineering technology and advancements over time. 

As we were nearing the end of the program, Doug sent in another note asking Joel where the resources in space would come from.  Don't miss what our guest said in response to this question.  As we neared the end of the show, we started a summary by talking about Joel's assessment of the present and future business market for Momentus and smallsats.  Listener Jackie got in a last minute question asking if Joel and Momentus engaged in space policy lobbying.  Joel had much to say on this topic, especially on the need for some regulation to avoid chaos but not so much regulation as to interfere with business and market growth.  He said they support and participate in policy/regulation making discussions with both the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and the Small Sat Alliance. 

Please post your comments/questions for Dr. Sercel on our blog for this show.  You can reach our guest through the Momentus website or me.

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