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Guest: Dr. Henry Hertzfeld; Topics: An analysis of today's launch industry, commercial space, competition vs. partnership, economic issues and 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. For those listening to archives using live365.com and rating the programs, please email me as to why you assign a specific rating to the show. This will help me bring better programming to the audience.
We welcomed back to the show Dr. Henry Hertzfeld. During the first segment of our 1 hour 20 minute broad ranging discussion, we first discussed the launch industry in detail. I asked our guest if the higher than usual number of launches in 2015, about 82, was sustainable. As part of this discussion, he said that commercial launches were approximately 25% of the total number of launches. In addition, he pointed out that a number of the launches involved small satellites resulting in a high number of payloads given the mass of the small satellite but not necessarily more launch vehicles given ride sharing and other factors. The heavy lift part of the industry was and is the most profitable but there is very little to no elasticity in this market. It has not been price sensitive which he said was not changing. You do not want miss what he said about these issues so listen carefully. Reusability was also discussed and here our guest provided us with a good economic analysis with lots of unanswered questions - so far. One set of those unanswered questions dealt with why we are not yet seeing an abundance of new space opportunities resulting in more launches, even with lower launch prices by SpaceX. Regarding reusability, he said we would likely see other benefits from it besides just lower pricing.
Our next topic focused on the recently passed into law "U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act," specifically the part of the law that focused on space resource exploitation, commonly referred to asteroid or deep space mining. We spent most of the balance of the first segment discussing this subject, bringing to bear various points of view and perspectives. It was a good discussion, don't miss it. Our guest did say that it was unlikely resources would be returned to Earth as I asked him to comment on the "trillion dollar asteroid" concept which is heard all too often. First space use of resources will probably be lunar water for fuel along with other possible resource usage but only for insitu space development. Before leaving this discussion, I asked Dr. Hertzfeld what he thought the impact would be on the companies involved in deep space mining programs and their quest for new investors. Do not miss what he had to say about attracting capital and investors to these projects.
Prior to the close of the first segment, listener Oscar in Tucson asked Dr. Hertzfeld for his take on college students in general given the recent protests, comments by some students, even Ivy League students about watering down or eliminating the First Amendment, and the need for "safe spaces" Dr. Hertzfeld said he had not seen or experienced that type of behavior but he only teaches graduate students and graduate students are in their classes for a purpose and are very motivated. I supported his statement given my experience teaching graduate students at UND and guest lecturing at other universities.
In the second segment, a listener in Salem, MA asked about the impact of the 2016 presidential campaign on space policy and if any candidates would offer a comprehensive space policy as part of their campaign. The simple answer was no but you do want hear all of what Henry said on this subject. BJohn asked about ISRU and Mars, then I brought up the subject of space settlement with out guest. Dr. Hertzfeld had much to say about space settlement but to get to the bottom line, he questioned the purpose of any space settlement today. He said their needed to be an economic reason or national interest reason for the space settlement, just as there has been for all terrestrial settlements throughout history. Our guest indicated that a good story for space settlement was not yet evident.
I also asked our guest if the cubesat industry might suffer from excess development leading to a shakeup in the industry or a bubble with several players not making it. Our guest did not think so, at least not at this time. He said there were only two main players in the industry but that would change. Also, many cubesat players come from universities and are educational projects. Henry offered us more in this discussion so don't miss it.
Bryan emailed a good question about the private companies and would they compete with one another or form partnerships. Don't miss what Henry said in response to Bryan's question. I pointed out the joint venture participation by many companies in expensive and risky oil drilling operations, suggesting this might be a role model for the deep space industry as they actually start doing projects.
Near the end of the show, I asked our guest, an actual economist by profession, for his thoughts on the impact to the space industry of rising interest rates on the national debt. We discussed the U.S. national debt, interest payments, what has happened historically with high debt, tools available to the government to use in shrinking the national debt, and just when and at what levels it might start impacting discretionary budget items including NASA.
The final question was mine and I asked about the students studying space at GWU. I wanted to know if the trend was for more students or less, if the program was sustainable and what the student base was like in terms of their long term planning, seriousness in the program, all of it. Henry had very interesting things to say about students, then we went to his concluding remarks which focused on the space industry doing dramatic things with more to follow. He was confident new markets and opportunities would be opened up by the processes in play today.
Please post your comments/questions on the comments section of this archived program at www.thespaceshow.com. Don't forget to log into your Disqus or social media account to make your post. You can reach our guest through his GWU Space Policy Institute website or me.