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Guest: Dr. Dan Durda; Topics: Commercial suborbital flight, suborbital science research, suborbital companies & more. Please direct all comments and questions regarding specific Space Show programs & guest(s) to the Space Show blog which is part of archived program on our website, www.thespaceshow.com. Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.
We welcomed back to the show Dr. Dan Durda to update us on commercial suborbital science research and space adventure (tourism) flights. During the first segment of our 90 minute program, Dr. Durda first talked about the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) BORE microgravity payload experiment which recently flew aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard space vehicle April 2, 2016. The BORE experiment, otherwise known as the Box of Rocks Experiment, was explained by Dr. Durda plus you can read about it at this SwRI web page: www.swri.org/9what/releases/2016/bore-microgravity-payload.htm#.Vyi3OTf2ZD8. In learning about BORE, I asked how much zero g time the experiment had and what was typical for a commercial suborbital flight. His answer might just surprise you.
Dr. Durda then addressed suborbital flight with Virgin Galactic, XCOR, and Blue Origin. Several listeners wanted to know when each company would go operational with their flights. Another listener wanted to know the approximate mix for science and tourism flights. Then later in the segment we talked about other experiments, Saffire-1 and Strata-1. If you Google those two terms, you can find the NASA websites for the two projects.
Before the first segment ended, Helen asked if our guest was caught off guard by the advanced Blue Origin condition as exampled by their accomplishing reusability and then flying their rocket over again. Helen said that since Blue was not that public in their announcements lots of people were caught off guard by outstanding Blue achievements. Don't miss what our guest said about this but for the most part, he suggested that since they were working with the company, they had a good idea of just how advanced they were with their flight programs.
In the second segment, we talked about the potential of simple life on small asteroid like o objects. When asked what he meant by life, he said "geologic" life. Listen to his explanation. We then talked about exoplanets, finding some that are in their star's habitable zone, then how we study those items plus what we can learn about them. In the context of this discussion, we talked about the use of different kinds of telescopes, including the upcoming JWST.
Listener John sent in a note about the recent show with Dr. Seedhouse plus his upcoming book on XCOR. Our guest was very familiar with Dr. Seedhouse and his work. I also asked about the possible revenue mix between space tourism revenue as compared to science revenue. Our guest provided a comprehensive answer to this specific set of questions but based on what is known so far. Thus, about all one can do at this point is speculate.
Another topic was the competition among SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic. Dan had much to say about this competition and importantly, how it might change in the future as the commercial revenue starts to flow. This topic was a result of my asking if he thought all the suborbital companies would survive or if once the businesses started operations, we might see some failures. You might be surprised by what he said about this idea.
We discussed and promoted the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference to be held in Broomfield (somewhat near Denver and Boulder), CO from June 2-4. Check out the event at this site: http://nsrc.swri.org. Having been to one of these conferences, I can certainly recommend it. Note the programming and also you can make all your reservations and sign up for the conference through their website.
Before the segment ended, Beth sent in a question asking about the quality of research and differences given the operational plan for each of the three suborbital companies. Dan had much to say about this as well, suggesting researchers would be able to pick the type of flight that was best suited for their research project.
Please post your comments/questions in the comments section for this archived show on TSS website. You can reach Dr. Durda through his SwRI website, www.boulder.swri.edu/~durda. You can also reach him through me.