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Guest: James Bennet; Topics: Space policy, commercial segments, financial stability for the space industry, the importance of US space leadership and more.
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We welcomed Jim Bennett back as our guest to discuss space policy going forward, financial stability for the space industry, various policies and programs, commercial space including investment and much more. Our guest called to our attention an article he wrote with Jeff Greason on June 5, 2019. The article, "The Economics of Space: An Industry Ready to Launch" can be found at https://reason.org/policy-study/the-economics-of-space.
Our discussion started with our talking about changes in the space industry being a great disruption by the maturing of the launch industry and more. During this substantial discussion, notice what our guest said about launch costs, especially looking forward by five to ten years. He talked about the GEO success, referenced historical comparisons, policy, the accomplishments of Mr. Musk and SpaceX, Starlink and more. Jim spent time talking about policy makers and the educational challenges facing us as we move forward. He graded administration from Bush to Obama (mainly with the help of Lori Garver), to Trump with Bridenstine along with Dr. Scott Pace. He also talked about SLS which came up in the discussion later on. Another topic was the regulatory regime and how that might be influenced in the new administration. As part of this discussion, Jim mentioned the FAA investigating the SpaceX SN8 demo flight.
Commercial space and industry leadership was a solid topic of discussion on this program. Our guest mentioned Elon but also the leaders of many of the startups and entrepreneurial companies. Not all was rosy going forward as you will hear when he mentioned areas of skepticism. Listener Becky sent in a question from Salt Lake City asking about possible commercial space activities with china. Jim brought up the Chinese goal to be a leader in space but said the US was the space leader and it was important to maintain the leadership. He had much to say on this topic so don't miss his commentary. Another brief topic focused on the economy. He mentioned a few economic reforms laws passed in the Obama administration that were constraining commercial activity, then he advocated space property right and supported The Artemis Accords. He said there would be no reform of the OST and that we needed to continue to block approving the Moon Agreement. In his property rights commentary he did some comparison with terrestrial property right.
Phil in Canada sent in a note to inquire just how confident Jim was regarding LEO manufacturing delivering a money-making product or process. Be sure to hear Jim's reply as it might surprise you. After replying to Phil, SSP was discussed and again, our guest voiced some definite ideas about this technology and its use here on Earth and in space. Listen to what he said about the ISS and SSP power beaming. This conversation led to a nuclear propulsion discussion which included fusion. Kim was our next caller asking about people being a strong driver for space development. Kim and Jim had a good exchange on this subject which included the use of robots in space with people. Other topics included bitcoin mining, then Jim suggested that space tourists would be a biomedical research experiment. Listen to his explanation of that concept.
Our second segment commenced after a few more final first segment comments. Ft. Worth John was our caller on the topic of small fusion companies for in space travel. John and Jim had a good fusion discussion. Tim from Huntsville called to inquire about a thorium reactor and a company he knew about, Thorolon, putting such reactors on barges to mitigate objections to the reactors. Following Tim's thorium comments, the issue of political clout came up regrading anti-space groups.
I asked our guest to summarize the discussion. Jim again said it was wait and see with the Biden administration and space. He thought Artemis could continue but with delays. He said the same for the Space Force but said it would move slow with its plans and deployments. Our guest mentioned the possibility of punishing taxation which could be detrimental to commercial space. A few other economic issues were mentioned, he talked about London as an alternative financial center for space investments. He mentioned commercial space U.S.-New Zealand activity. We took a final email question from Dr. Doug wanting to know if we would revisit SLS based on the success of Starship.
Please post your comments/questions on our blog for this show. You can reach James Bennett through me.