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Guest: Dennis Wingo; Topics: Starship, returning to the Moon, commercial space and space mining economics and challenges, much needed in-space vehicles, Mars, returning to the Moon, U.S.-Russia space relationship and much more.
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We welcomed Dennis Wingo back to the show for a 70 minute wide ranging commercial space 2022 assessment. Once again, note the tags and key words (repeated below) as they do a very good job of summarizing in order our multiple discussion topics. We took two listener calls with many more supporting listener emails.
Tags and Key Words: Dennis Wingo, Lunar return, Starship, SpaceX, Elon Musk, transformational, expansion of commercial space, Starship flight rate, Artemis, SLS, NASA SpaceX confidence level, regulatory challenges for Starship, FAA using caution regarding Starship launches, Starship explosion equal to Hiroshima, Starship optimized for LEO, human spaceflight challenges BLEO, in-space cruisers need, five year timeline, Blue Origin rockets, space tourism, reusability, price is different from the cost, canceling SLS, Dr. Jim Dewar, nuclear propulsion, nuclear propulsion brief history, nuclear upper stage, challenging space mining and solar system development predictions, Dennis comments on stupid wars, international competition, the use of international partners for space projects, China and the Moon, commercial space development overall risks, nuclear power in space, fusion development, Space Solar Power for grid applications, Wingo's SSP plan for the Pacific Ocean, Starship impact on SSP, U.S. Russian space relationship in light of potential war, DOD side of space development, naysayer movement, Starship impact on naysayer movement, mining the solar system challenges, inflation and rising interest rates on commercial space, SPAC assessment.
We started our discussion by my asking Dennis if the new year, 2022, would be the year we start making serious progress toward returning humans to the Moon. Would it be a year of the Moon? Dennis said it would be but it would largely depend on Starship. Dennis then took us through a brief history of how new technology changed things in the past, almost overnight as he was supporting his statement that Starship would be and was transformational. Dennis included a few examples over history including the development of the steamship, metal ships, the airplane, the transcontinental railroad to mention a few. Listen to how he used these advances to lead into Starship. Let us know what you think of this analysis by posting your thoughts on the blog. Dennis summarized this initial part of our discussion with comments such as the expansion of space commerce was read, Starship would and needed to fly regularly and he mentioned the increasing NASA confidence in Starship. Dennis then talked particulars about Starship capabilities, we discussed flight rates suggested by Elon and then Dennis talked about SLS. He plugged the private sector and suggested we look no further than Dragon flying real missions, the Boeing capsule still not flying, the same for Orion. This was his plug for the private sector, private capital and capitalism. Comments anyone?
The first email was from our friend Todd in San Diego asking about the possibility of government regulations derailing Starship development. Dennis thought the FAA was doing proper due diligence in making sure Starship would work correctly. He talked about the populated area, about explosions of large rockets in history and what they would mean for the area of their launch, then he said Starship, if exploded, would equal the force of a Hiroshima bomb. He also said sometime in the future there would be a Starship explosion and the FAA had to get it right and was paying attention to all of this which Dennis supported. Don't miss all of what Dennis had to say on this subject.
Dennis spent much of our discussion talking about Starship. One part of the discussion focused on his saying Starship was optimized for LEO, not a trip to Mars. He explained his answer so do listen to it. He said what was needed was an in-space cruiser. He talked extensively about such a vehicle, said he and others had plans and then later on said that there might be a 5 year or so timeline until we see such a vehicle emerge. He then explained the probable relationship of Starship to this new space cruiser vehicle.
I asked Dennis for his thoughts on space tourism. He was impressed with Shatner flying on the Blue ship and talked about additional markets with private space stations serving as destinations and more such trips by SpaceX such as Inspiration 4. He thought suborbital would have a market. A few times during the show he was asked about Blue and their rockets, possibly even competing with SpaceX. He said he was hopeful that they would be developed but they were not even close to that yet. We then took a call from Marshall who picked up on earlier comments from Dennis about Starship being a paradigm shift event/cause. In their conversation, both Dennis and Marshall talked reusability and said it was absolutely crucial going forward for Starship and other launchers. He then told us a story about a previous event with Ms. Shotwell on a panel with other launch company reps who were all but laughing at her on F9 reusable commentary, before reusability was established with the F9. Dennis made a comment about who got the last laugh. Dennis also made a point of mentioning that there was a difference in the price as compared to the cost as this was being confused when people were talking about launch costs.
We got an email from a Tucson listener suggesting SLS would be cancelled but asked when. Dennis suggested it would go forward, fly later this year, but then the success of Starship would render it obsolete. He thought SLS might be the very last giant rocket ever built by the U.S. government. I asked him about the smaller launch vehicles which were still ELV rockets. He briefly mentioned they had a different purpose, market and customer so they were not looked at the same way as the bigger rockets.
Dr. Jim Dewar called us because our conversation came up on nuclear propulsion. Jim had much to say about nuclear rockets, the Nerva history and the hope for change given the current DARPA project looking at nuclear power for space in a new light. Dennis supported what Jim was talking about, shared his own nuclear rocket Nerva history and supported the call and the need for nuclear space propulsion. Don't miss this discussion as both agreed that nuclear would be a much needed game changer.
Dr. Phil from Canada sent in a string of emails about the next part because Dennis started talking about space mining and opening the solar system up to resources and using mining on Earth as an example for part of what he was talking about. Over the three emails that Phil sent us, he disagreed with the Dennis view and simply did not see space mining happening until it was cheaper to do something in space than Earth. I read all three of his emails on air and Dennis, during the last part of the show, responded to all three of the emails. Let us know what you think by posting your thoughts on our blog.
Between the Phil emails and the mining discussion, Dennis was asked about inflation and rising interest rates. Listen to what he said, especially about rising interest rates and our national debt. Both Dennis and I talked about government printing presses running out of control. Dennis referenced the need for across the board new leadership more than once. He also brought up risks investing in SPACS, noting that they were selling below their IPO value. If you are a SPAC investor, you might want to comment on the blog considering what Dennis said about them. Dennis got in some comments about the unknown of getting involved in a stupid war. This was especially relevant when I asked him how he thought our space relationship with Russia would be impacted by the events in Ukraine. Listen to what he said as he might surprise you. He then got in some comments of concern about China and their program and our need to get on the ball to maintain our lead and western values in space.
Before we ended the discussion, Dennis was asked about SSP. He was generally supportive, talked about his experience with it and his idea for an SSP receiving station in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and why. He pointed out the risks of big rectennas near cities as they would probably interfere with important already existing communications.
Dennis summarized the discussion by again calling out Starship and what Starship capabilities would mean for humanity, space development and commercial space. He said he hoped to resume writing soon but the best way to follow him was on Twitter where he does some of space history commentary with Twitter commentary. He also said he was busy getting a payload ready for going to the ISS. He talked about this project several times during the program so listen for it.
Please post your comments/questions for Dennis Wingo on our Space Show blog for this show. You can reach Dennis through me or his business, www.skycorpinc.com.