Broadcast 3734 Phil Bracken

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Guest:  Philip Bracken;  Topics:  Launch services, orbital transfer vehicles, advantages of working with a launch services company, space traffic management, launch vehicle agnostic and more.

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We welcomed Phil Bracken of Spaceflight, Inc. to the launch to discuss their launch services business, orbital transfer vehicles, the launch service industry, space traffic management, customer service and relations and much more.  Be sure to visit their website, https://spaceflight.com.  In starting the program, I asked Phil to introduce us to both Spaceflight the company and the launch services industry.  While we anticipated a 60 minute program, this program went the distance at 91 minutes.  This early discussion of the company and the industry was a major part of the first half of the program.

One area that Phil zeroed in on was the company Sherpa project which you can see at https://spaceflight.com/sherpa.  Phil explained the role of an orbital transfer vehicle, plus he talked in detail about each of the three Sherpa versions.  Mostly the differences have to do with range, capability and propulsion  You can see the details about this on their website.  Several email questions did come in.  One listener wanted to know of transfer in LEO was constrained by physics and if so, how.  Listen to how Phil answered this questions but yes, orbital transfer is constrained by physics which impact economics, mass and lots of other areas.  Another question was asked about the vehicles Spaceflight works with and does their OTV work with all launchers, even the international launchers they support.  Phil said they work with some international launchers, he named a few, plus he said Sherpa could be deployed with any launcher. 

Fremont John called the OTV working with various companies such as the new company, Astra at https://astra.com.  Phil's answer was that they would work with Astra and others.  Our guest then mentioned the large amounts of capital flowing into the industry right now.  As a result of another question, Phil said that Spaceflight had been acquired by Mitsui & Co., Ltd. and Yamasa Co.  He then addressed the advantages stemming from the acquisition.  Following this short discussion, James asked if there was OTV competition.  There was and is and our guest discussed it so don't miss this part of our discussion.  We then took a call asking about Sherpa and deorbiting satellites, capturing them or helping to deal with orbital debris issues.  Once again listen to how our guest responded to this questions.  It seems like these additional capabilities will become even more important of the near term and future working with Sherpa. 

I asked Phil if he was familiar with equatorial launch and referenced an article on it by Rand Simberg as he mentioned it the last time he was a guest on TSS.  See http://www.transterrestrial.com/2021/05/26/earths-natural-harbor if you want to read what Rand wrote about this back in May of this year.   This discussion was followed by a few emails from Stan wanting to know if a customer could switch launch vehicles late in the game.  The answer was yes, Phil stressed the company flexibility and their company being launch vehicle agnostic.  Phil went on to discuss the Sherpa modular design which aided in flexibility.  An email from Tony inquired about launch services beyond LEO.  Our guest said they could support such missions but listen to the specifics of what he said about BLEO.  Later, I asked him about company preference between government and commercial customers.  Once again, don't miss how he evaluated each set of customers and what he said about their dual approach.   Another question came in about the company R2A avionics. 

Listener Paul took us to the subject of space traffic management.  This was a big subject and important part of the discussion so don't miss it. Space traffic management is a growing concern in the industry.  I then took the liberty to ask our guest for five year, ten year and beyond plans.  Phil had much to say, specifically regarding their goals over the next five years.  After Phil finished talking about company timelines and goals, he was asked by Randy in Phoenix for the difference between an OTV and space tug.  Don't miss his reply.  Before ending the program, a listener wanted to know Phil's favorite launch vehicle.   He said the Titan Centaur.  Be sure to listen why.  He mentioned a few other current vehicles but no hints, just listen.  As part of his summary, Linda in NM asked if Spaceflight had a crash dept. for accident and loss notification similar to what airlines have if a plane goes down.  Don't miss her full question and his response.  Before ending, Phil, at the request of listener Kelly, provided us with his contact information and company email address.

Please post your comments/questions for Phil on the blog for this show.  You can reach Phil through me or his company per the above website.  In addition, he gave out his company email address on air at the end of the show.

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Phil is the VP of engineering for Spaceflight’s launch services group

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06 Aug 2021 Philip Bracken
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