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Guest: Tim Cash: Tim went over the known details for the initial Starship demo test from April 20, discussing potential problems, possible remedies and rocket modifications. Furthermore, Tim talked about his passion in detail, space solar power. Starship modifications and the potential impact on lunar and Mars timelines were also discussed as was the rocket's acoustic damage at launch to the engines and the pad.
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We welcomed to the show for the first time, Tim Cash, a Lead Systems Engineer from Northrup Grumman to provide us with an overview analysis of the Starship demo aborted launch from April 30, Thursday. For those of you who recognize Tim, he regularly comments on the Howard Bloom email list plus the power-satellite-economics group. The Space Show appreciates Tim coming on The Space Show at a late date and time to help us understand the Starship demo launch and what might be next for SpaceX and Starship.
Tim began our discussion with some analysis he did for reliability of the F1 engine for the Saturn V reliability. Tim worked out the reliability rate so listen to him describe the process on air, then he tells us how he worked out a comparison percentage rate for Starship and the 33 Raptor booster engines. In summary but without the details, the F1 engines on the Saturn V had a .95 reliability factor. For Starship's 33 Raptor boosters to equal the F1 reliability rate, Starship would have to be at .968. Again, go through the process with Tim as he does tell us how he got to those numbers. Next, he talked about physical flight testing using test stations as compared to methodology of flying, testing, redesign, flying again and repeating until the system is where it should be. Let us know what you think of Tim's flying and testing comments which have been based on the Musk approach to flying, testing, failing, rebuilding and learning. In addition, he suggested Starship have a pull away or escape/ejection set of rockets so it could get away from a failing booster and come back to Earth in usable form. He thought it should have a similar escape system to Dragon but that would be a big redesign component for Starship. Next, he mentioned the old Soviet Union N1 rocket with lots of engines that failed at launch as he said, five times. Tim then commented that Starship redesign from the Thursday demo would probably not be minor and likely a big deal.
Timelines were discussed for Starship, our return to the Moon and Moon landing program and onward to Mars. Tim said that 2025 for the Moon was way too soon to happen as did our listeners. At the end of this mini-discussion, Tim said he would not be surprised if we got to the Moon after 2030 and Mars maybe a decade or more later. He offered up that Mars was really hard. Tim got a comment about the SpaceX employees at Hawthorne cheering with the rocket's destructions. He thought that was comical but since success had been previously defined as clearing the launch tower, he understood the low bar. Fremont John called to comment that the employees were cheering due to all the great data that the Starship demo will offer up the company for coming back with the final working Starship rocket. When Tim mentioned the FAA being involved in the investigation, others expressed concern about that and it was agreed that the FAA would likely cause some sort of delay but FAA investigates all aviation and rocket accidents so nothing really unusual about the FAA being involved in any Starship investigation.
We received a few emails with news saying there were multiple engine failures during the demo flight, maybe as of air time, up to 9 failures. I read a post from one of the newsletters about the number of refueling flights Starship would need for the Moon and I asked if any group, SpaceX or another, had started working on in-space refueling. That was another factor pointing to much longer timelines that most of us would like.
Tim has had a passion for space solar power so in the time remaining, we turned to him for his insights. He said it was a passionate topic and one of his passions. He mentioned the work of Gary Barnhart and later he was asked about the work of John Bucknell with his company. Fremont John posted a video by Bucknell of his technology plan on our blog for this show. Tim did say that he thought there was more of a market for SSP in space than on Earth. He specifically mentioned satellite repair but also terrestrial rectenna issues which he talked about in some detail. Don't miss his rectenna comments and analysis.
Listener Tony from Pasadena brought us back to the Starship topic. He sent us a photo of the pad damage from the noise which was a major problem. The Starship water suppression was insufficient and the noise problem might very well have damaged the engines which then ruined the flight. Tim, having expertise in noise abatement, had much to say about the Starship acoustic signature and said it would not be easy to abate that much sound even with better water suppression and flame control. He suggested that might cause some significant modifications for those units still on the assembly line. Don't miss what he said about this.
Before signing off, he got another question about SSP providing base load power on Earth. He did not think that would happen but he did support nuclear power for Earth and for space. Todd asked him if he saw progress finally happening with nuclear for Earth and space. Tim indicated it was an uphill battle. Before his short and excellent summary, I asked him how he valued space. He said it was extremely important, also for security and that it was being undervalued. You do not want to miss his concluding comments and what he said about the value of space.
Please post your comment/question for Tim on our blog for this program. You can reach him through me or his many newsletter addresses.