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Guest: Doug Messier; Topics: NewSpace, Commercial Space and Space Policy for 2020, suborbital and orbital tourism, China, 2019 events and more.
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We welcomed back to the show Doug Messier of Parabolicarc.com for a two part 98 minute discussion on all things space for 2019 and 2020. Once again I used the break between the first and second segments to read our sponsor messages. After that, Doug started our discussion by focusing on Virgin Galactic (VG), their finances and having gone public last year plus their suborbital flight plans commencing this year. Doug took us through VG economics regarding the suborbital market, going public, ticket sales, the company valuation and future industry pricing with the hope that ticket prices will decline to help enlarge the industry. We also talked about the definition of space, the VG altitude and why, the mass of SpaceShip2 and more. Doug went over their recent demo flights and their plans to start commercial operations with Sir Richard being on the first commercial VG flight. Listener Jock in Denver emailed in questions about safety, we talked about SEC issues for a public offering and various risks involved in suborbital flight.
Doug had a few words to say about Blue Origin but he also said not as much was known about their plans. He talked about some very big projects Blue was involved in and said he did not think suborbital was their priority at this time. Our guest was then asked about either Boeing or SpaceX doing orbital tourism with their human spaceflight vehicles. Doug talked about their next flight, the Boeing docking test that still needs to happen and more. Listen to what he said about each and the time line for starting human spaceflight with their capsules.
Doug had much to say about returning to the Moon and Artemis, especially the 2024 timeline for the US to set foot on the Moon. We spent time on this subject so don't miss it as our guest had much to say about the return to the Moon program. He then mentioned that 2020 would be a year for commercial human spaceflight with the two suborbital operations and the two orbital. In addition, he said 2020 would be a Mars year given the total of Mars missions planned for the year. Don't miss what he had to say about the Mars missions planned for 2020. Before going to break and my reading the sponsor messages, Doug talked about SLS, the Chinese Long Marc 5 rocket and Chinese launch plans including the Moon and Mars and the buildout of their space station which he said would be about the size of Mir.
We started the second segment with Doug telling us that the number of launches for the year was slightly less than in 2018. Doug then focused attention on the Chinese program. In addition, he talked about the small launchers entering the market. Doug mentioned several of the small launcher companies including RocketLab, a Virgin company and Firefly.
The US Space Force was discussed in some detail but our guest was unsure as to what it might look like given the relationship it will have with the USAF. Doug mentioned India's satellite shoot down test, Russian and Chinese concerns. Doug brought up the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress from December 2019. You can read his Parabolic Arc article on this at www.parabolicarc.com/2020/01/08/links-to-recent-posts-about-chinas-space-program. The subject of Civil Military Fusion came up as well. Both Doug and I talked about this with regards to Chinese students in the west, their undisclosed work with the PLA and national security issues. I pointed listeners to my recent show with Australia's top space security person, Dr. Malcom Davis from Jan. 7, 2020 which you can hear at https://www.thespaceshow.com/show/07-jan-2020/broadcast-3443-dr.-malcolm-davis. Dr. Davis and I discussed the topic of Civil Military Fusion in some detail.
Doug returned to discussing suborbital with Blue and VG. Listener Karl asked him about Boeing and SpaceX selling commercial space tourism seats. We also talked about NASA possibly buying more Soyuz seats as a backup to get to the ISS. Perry sent in a note asking Doug's opinion on Tic Tac. After discussing these topics, I asked Doug if he thought NewSpace was in a bubble.
Regarding commercial and NewSpace being in a bubble, Doug had much to say. We talked about the current trend and level of activity being sustainable or might there be a shakeout in 2020 or soon after 2020. Part of my questioning focused on continued student enthusiasm for commercial and NewSpace. Doug brought up about the problem of overcapacity. Don't miss all of what he said on this subject.
Listener Brenda sent in a note asking him about Interorbital since both the company and Doug are in Mojave. Doug did not know much about the current activities of the company but he did bring up news about Stratolaunch, their sale and the focus of the new company and plans. He also described seeing the one and only (so far) Stratolaunch test flight. Don't miss his description and impression given the size of Stratolaunch.
Doug offered us closing comments. He talked more about Firefly, Virgin and other companies mentioned during the interview. Please post your comments/questions on our blog for this program. You can reach Doug through The Space Show or his site at www.parabolicarc.com.