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Guest: Dr. Robert (Bobby) Braun; Topics: Colorado and the University of Colorado space, science, engineering and human spaceflight development opportunities, Mars EDL, advanced propulsion and more.
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We welcomed Dr. Bobby Braun back to the show to discuss his new academic position with the University of Colorado in Boulder (UC Boulder) regarding space science, engineering, R&D and much more. During our one segment one hour program, Dr. Braun provided us with a good overview as to why UC Boulder has become known as The Space University. Our guest both described and talked about many academic programs in place at CU for undergrads and grads, plus he talked about actual space projects CU researchers work on or have had a part in re development and operations. In one instance he talked about trained students having an opportunity to actually drive a rover. Note that the key word here was "trained."
Other topics up for discussion included a return to the lunar surface, Mars, settlement and the development of human spaceflight. Our guest talked about the CU participation in these areas of R&D, plus he said his own research interests in Mars EDL (entry, descent & landing) continued. A listener sent in a question about advanced propulsion including nuclear propulsion and more esoteric interstellar propulsive concepts. Dr. Braun said that research in these fields was determined by funding, usually from the federal government. He also talked about their being a clear need for more innovative advances in propulsion. He was asked if the private sector could manage the funding needs for advanced propulsion. Don't miss what he said in response to this question, especially when he talked about what it might take to remain on the cutting edge of research and development.
Later, I asked our guest what he thought was the intersection between engineering, physics and astrophysics. This proved to be an interesting short topic so don't miss what he said. He also talked about how CU Boulder was organized with a Department of Aerospace Engineering and Science combined together to specifically address issues raised by my question. I asked about other physics and astrophysics department at the university which he said were there but they were directly organized under the science departments, not within the aerospace department.
Landing larger payloads on Mars came up as I mentioned the InSight Lander narrowly missing a 12" rock which might have completely skewed the InSight project had it landed on the rock. Bobby then addressed advances in Mars EDL, specifically supersonic retropropulsion. On this topic he had much to say, especially regarding SpaceX, the Falcon 9 first stage landings, and the atmospheric conditions where the Falcon 9 goes to supersonic retropropulsion which he said was very similar to the Mars atmosphere. Don't miss this discussion. Also mentioned were the supersonic parachutes used for the landers and rovers but could not be scaled up for the large human mission payloads. Later our guest mentioned with regards to supersonic retropropulsion, our TRL was about a 6. He mentioned that he had seen some of the internal SpaceX data on the first stage landings and it was very impressive.
Another listener said she had high school students interested in space and wanted to know the best type of prep courses to take for a program such as the one talked about at CU Boulder. Math and science dominated the prep classes one should take. Next, we talked commercial missions and joint missions with one coming up with the UAE and the fact that CU faculty was involved in active missions, even the new Osiris Rex mission. National security space was discussed in this context along with other robotic space projects.
As our program was drawing to a close, we talked about what CU Boulder does for general public outreach regarding space development. Listen to all of what is done to facilitate this type of a dialog with the general public, both in Colorado and around the west. Another listener sent in a note asking about the technology lead time for a product to eventually reach the consumer market. Don't miss how Bobby responded to Don's question. Before ending our discussion, we talked about high altitude balloon research and flight projects, the Colorado Space Grant Consortium and hypersonic R&D going on at the university.
Please post your comments/questions for Dr. Braun on TSS blog page for this show. You can also reach our guest through his CU Boulder faculty page.