Broadcast 3554 Mark Bray

  • The Space Foundation Conference

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  • The Space Foundation Conference

The Space Foundation Conference

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Guest:  Mark Bray;  Topics;  SLS, advanced propulsion materials, Starship, testing, NASA, commercial space, heavy lift, Public Private Partnerships, spaceflight timelines and more.


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We welcomed back to the show Mark Bray for a two segment 1 hour 50 minute discussion on a variety of topics including SLS, Starships, advanced materials for propulsion, testing, and more.  As I have previously done, I will summarize most of the discussion by repeating the tags and key words here as they mostly follow the order discussed during the show.  I will then highlight parts of the conversation that stood out for me and that were dealt with by callers and those emailing in questions.


Tags/Key Words:  NASA, Marshall Spaceflight Center, SLS, commercial space, heavy lift, SpaceX, Starship, Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos, advanced non-metallic space materials for propulsion, spaceflight challenges, Public Private Partnerships, testing, non-metallic materials, efficiency, effective, a short commercial spaceflight history, U.S. Congress, funding, SLS criticism, Vision for Space Exploration, Ares rocket project, testing, national interests compared to commercial interests, Artemis, Starship vs. SLS success timeline, innovative technology, aviation testing history, technology reliability rating, F-22 reliability rating, fight jets compared to commercial jets, safety factors, markets for SLS and Starship, hypersonics, ISS, leaving SLS core stage in orbit for settlement, ablative materials, NASA NSPIRES System, SLS and Starship advanced material.


A major theme of the program which Mark started discussing early in the first segment was the R&D, the testing programs regarding advanced materials for propulsion, including non-metallic materials, and product safety.  His focus on testing and safety were with us for the full program in both segments.  In fact, Mark took us through a bit of early aviation safety and testing history to help make his points for advanced rocket, materials, and propulsion testing as being indispensable and essential.  For sure you want to hear what he had to say on these topics and programs, many of which he and his team work on at Marshall.


SLS criticism was brought up throughout our program.  Mark talked about the part that congress plays, the previous Ares project,  personalities involved and more.  He did refer to government programs as a type of welfare by being more interested in jobs and spreading the work through multiple congressional districts instead of maximizing efficiency.  He even related it to his earlier run and loss for congress years ago.  

SLS John called to talk with Mark about Starship as an alternate launch vehicle.  He focused the different approach for a lunar lander with Starship versus SLS and Orion with a specific lunar lander going to the surface of the Moon.  Don't miss their extended conversation and what Mark said about the SLS timeline for the Moon compared to the Starship timeline.  You might be surprised by his commentary.  This discussion led to Mark sharing early aviation testing and materials development history with us. Mark also brought up the testing reliability rating.  He explained how it was low for rockets and spaceflight but higher for aviation. He explained that to get a higher number, the materials need to be heavier and stronger but that adds mas and complicates getting off the ground.  We talked fighter plane compared to commercial aviation reliability.  Knowing that our caller had worked on F-22, I asked John about the F-22 reliability rate.  Don't miss what he said about fighters in general compared to other types of aviation.   This led to talking about materials and then SLS materials.  Mark added in interesting history going back to Henry Ford, plus standardized testing methods as being essential.

Gene from Pasadena gave us a call to ask about there being any interest in  NASA or peer interest leaving the SLS Core on orbit for a habitat.  Mark said no, then I asked Gene why he kept bringing the question up thinking he might get a different answer he liked. This led Gene providing us with an interesting reply to my question don't miss it.  After more Marshall testing commentary by our guest, I read an email from Sharon in Kansas City wanting to know about testing and materials development outside the United States with other national space agencies or with the international industry.  Mark did reply though he was not that familiar with international activities in the areas we had been discussing on today's program.  Regarding testing, once again I shared my old White Sands experience at their materials compatibility testing facility plus Mark mentioned similar testing centers at other NASA locations.

Before we ended the program additional topics came up for discussion.  Tom sent in a note from Denver wanting to know about lander tests and new materials. Mark commented on the many different types of new materials being used for SLS and other hardware.  He pointed out that some of the changes were a result of years of changes in various laws and regulations such as the EPA and OSHA. 

Mark offered us a summary addressing timelines, some politics, market needs for commercial space and the need to do far more launches a year than the 90 (give or take) launches we have been average a year.  Mark said a commercial market would be substantially larger than that so he doubted we truly had a commercial market at this time. He said that government was till the primary customer.

Please post your comments/questions on our blog for this show.  You can reach Mark Bray through me with my Space Show email address.





SLS, advanced materials for propulson, testing and more

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07 Aug 2020 Mark Bray
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