Broadcast 3374 Lars Osborne, Daudi Barnes

The Space Foundation Conference

13 Sep 2019 Lars Osborne, Daudi Barnes
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Guests:  Lars Osborne & Daudi Barnes;  Topics:  Agile Space Industries, space propulsion systems, unique fuels and rapid testing plus much more.

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We welcomed both Lars Osborne and Daudi Barnes to the program for this one segment 61 minute new and unique space propulsion system and testing discussion.  Make sure you visit the website for Agile Space Industries, www.agile.space.  Additionally, if you have time you can do searches for their AMPT, thrusters, MON-25 fuel and much more.  Lars was a presenter at the recent Space Access Conference in April 2019 regarding storable propellant hypergolic rocket engines and more.  We started our discussion by asking our guests to introduce us to Agile Space Industries which started with a brief historical backgrounder to the company through today.

Daudi Barnes started the introduction and quickly talked about creating the Advanced Mobile Propulsion Test (AMPT).  The success of this test (product) led to the creation of their company.  As you will hear, AMPT was based on lowering costs, speeding up and doing fast testing (shortening or getting rid of delays), more affordable pricing, and using 3D printing.  We spent time talking about AMPT in the early part of the program but our guests referred back to it frequently due to the critical importance of testing.  Testing was an important theme throughout our discussion.

Our guests talked about their role with almost all the companies working to provide lunar landers for the Artemis project.  Make sure you listen to all of this discussion, including mention of the companies doing lander work on their own.  Keep in mind and you will hear it frequently during the program, that Agile has as a goal to lower the cost point for more affordability along with shortening the time it takes to plan, schedule and do testing. 

Much of our early discussion addressed advanced propellants and why Agile can do so much with MON-25 when others seem to incur more challenges.  Learn why Agile has important advantages over other competitors when it comes to advanced space propulsion systems and thruster.  As for MON-25, it was a true centerpiece of our discussion.  Our guests described the properties of hypergolic fuels, the importance of lowering the freezing point, plus there was a significant focus on MON-25 and mono methyl hydrazine (MMH) bipropellant thrusters. 

Additional questions came up regarding the actual size of the commercial market for lunar lander thrusters given Agile was formed as a commercial company.  Some listeners asked questions suggesting the market might be too small or thin so they wanted to know about additional commercial markets available to Agile.  Both our guests had much to say about the markets and opportunities but they were also clear that since Agile had not yet proven any of its products with actual flights, the lunar lander market provided opportunities to show that they had proven flight flown technology and hardware.  This was an important part of our discussion so don't miss it.  Before moving on to other topics, our guests were asked about international market opportunities and just how they might be impacted by ITAR.  Again, don't miss what they said about business opportunities outside the US and the ITAR regulations.

Linda sent in an email asking about on orbit docking and the use of their thrusters/propulsion system, MON-25 for say an O'Neillian space colony.  Our guests talked about the space shuttles, docking, and satellite maneuvering, all of which required thrusters.  They see all of this as a potential lucrative market, especially with AMPT, their success and advanced development with MON-25 propulsion systems. 

Another topic explored was the hiring and growth opportunities for Agile.  Our guests talked about hiring and who they were hiring.  If you are interested, make sure you hear all of what our guests had to say on their hiring and future plans.  At one point I asked if they hired fresh hires out of college.  The answer was yes.  This line of discussion led me to ask our guests for their 5 and 10 year plan for Agile Space Propulsion.  Both our guests explained their goals, their approach and what they see ahead not just for their company but for the industry.  In fact, they would not be so positive for accomplishing their company goals and objectives were it not that they believe the industry they serve to be very bullish and to remain bullish into the future.  What do you think about the future for the industry and market being served by Agile?  Post your thoughts on our blog so we can see how you see things in this segment of the space industry. 

As we were nearing the end of the program, orbiting propellant depots came up. Both guests were very supportive of them.  With a little pushing from me, they said their were technical challenges but most of the problems were political. I asked about boiloff so don't miss what was said about this issue and the demo on it not so long ago.  As for the political challenges, they did not want to talk much about space and engineering politics but they did reference a recent article on the subject by Eric Berger:  See https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/08/rocket-scientist-says-that-boeing-squelched-work-on-propellant-depots

Our guests were asked about their propellant system and ISRU re the lunar surface or even down the road on the surface of Mars.  Both gusts responded that ISRU was challenging with conventional propellant due to nitrogen which they said was rare in the solar system.  Their system would be off in the future for now.  In reverting back to market opportunities for Agile, the defense industry was brought up and referenced.  I asked for several defense applications that interested Agile and our guests complied, citing several types of defense related projects.  Don't miss part of the discussion. 

Earlier in the discussion, our guests were asked how the cancellation of Artemis and the lunar return program would impact the company given their focus on lunar landers.  As we were nearing the close of the show, Ben in Atlanta asked about the LEO satellite constellations and possible FCC rules limiting these satellite constellations.  Don't miss what was said about potential FCC rules in this area and their business.

Testing was one of the last topics talked about though it had been brought up several times in the program.  Lars and Daudi once more explained the need to test and why they thought it was essential.  They listed a few recent projects that testing might have helped, the SpaceIL lunar lander and the recent Indian lunar lander mission.  Listen to what they said about testing and the advantages to the customer with their AMPT service.

For concluding comments, our guests not only talked about their advanced technology work such as 3D printing capabilities and MON-25,  but also their culture.  They stressed the need to have an innovative culture working as a united team in sync with one another.  Be sure to hear all of their closing comments.

Please post your comments/questions for this program on our blog for this show.  You can reach both Lars and Daudi through me or Agile Space Industries.

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Lars reports on Agile Space Propulsion

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