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Guest: Clay Mowry; Topics: Evolution of commercial launch and satellite industry, transformational changes, volume to orbit, mass, fairing size makes a difference, commercial space stations, BLEO commercial applications in cislunar, space hotel economics and more.
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We welcomed Clay Mowry back to the program given his last appearance on the program was June 3, 2014. Back in the day Clay was a frequent guest and a go to person for industry perspectives on issues of the day which mostly focused on the use of heavy lift as compared to using lower cost multiple launches with smaller rockets. I suggest you use the Space Show website search box in the upper right corner and listen to his past shows as that will help you gain some valuable perspective on just how far the commercial launch and satellite industries have evolved over the years. As you will hear Clay talk about issues and the transformative happenings in the industry, you will also understand how Clay has moved in parallel with the rapid transformation of technology, innovation in these industries. For the first part of today's program, we talked with Clay about these industry changes and his adaptability to them.
As we moved on from the first part mentioned above, I again want to draw your attention to the tags (repeated below for your convenience) as we addressed many topics with varying analysis, fielded multiple listener phone calls including the last call of the day by Dr. Doug which I think you will find most interesting. More about that later in this summary.
"Tags: Clay Mowry, 30 years plus in commercial launch & satellite industry, says now is most exciting time, increased space public awareness, transformational industry, evolutionary industry growth, government to commercial, NewSpace, material sciences, 3D printing, electronics, mass to orbit, Starship, reconsidering delta-v, space tugs, regulatory advancements, space manufacturing, on orbit manufacturing, NanoRacks, Star Lab Commercial Space Station, docking, ISRU development, NASA CLPS program, Edge computing, power needs for space, Dr. Zubrin examples, private capital inflow records for commercial space, commercial space stations, Science Park model, Airbus and Star Lab, India commercial station work, impact of the 8 meter diameter fairing, mission designing for larger volume, transitioning from 4 meter to 8 meter fairing, significant added value, space hotels, Hilton, space hotels economics, five year time line projections, 10 year time line projections, the government customer subsidy for private stations, commercial LEO stations survivability without government subsidy, commercial payload BLEO and in cislunar space, technology, innovation, and mission design changing variables."
One matter that stood out for me was just how much the launch industry moved from arguing about heavy lift with SLS or the old Ares 5 vs. multiple smaller launch vehicles that would have lower cost launches but more of them. Today's issues focus on the capability of super launchers like Starship and New Glenn. Also, instead of mass to orbit, missions are looking at and running the numbers on volume to orbit. In addition, we are seeing a potential transition from a 4 meter fairing to an 8 meter fairing which will be a game changer. Clay discussed all of this in his detailed sharing of the methodology used for analysis, conclusion making plus he addressed the growing trends. I believe this was one of the most significant takeaways from this program.
Jumping ahead, commercial space stations were a big part of the program. Clay is part of the Star Lab program through his company Voyager Space Holding but he talked about the competition including private stations from India, plus new stations from Russia possibly as soon as 2027 plus China. One thing I learned from the recent Anatoly Zak Hotel Mars program was that Russia was looking at using the polar orbit for its station. Should this be correct, it would have some unique market potential not available to the typical orbits being sought and used by the private stations. While this was not part of the discussion with Clay, I did want to bring it up in this part of the discussion.
Earlier I mentioned a late program call by Dr. Doug who suggested that the government as a customer for the private stations might actually cause many of the privates to go under if their customer base or subsidy shrinks or is ended. This might be especially true if for example Starship can serve as a station BLEO. Clay addressed the possibility of this happening but he also talked about their station being based on the Science Park Model, plus he talked about the terrestrial science park developers working with them to incorporate that expertise into their private space station. It was a most interesting call by Doug with an equally interesting response by Clay. I don't think he convinced Doug that the risk to the privates would be minimal but time will tell. For sure don't miss this part of our discussion.
While shorter in duration, the commentary about the launch industry moving from the 4 meter fairing to the 8 meter fairing and what that might mean for the industry was excellent. What do you think about the trend toward the 8 meter fairing? Let us know by posting your thoughts on our blog. While at it, if you were around 20 years or so ago and remember the launch issues of the day, the development of the small sat industry and now you see trends moving in different directions, we would like to hear from you regarding this transformative industry. Along these lines, before we ended, I asked Clay for his views on the industry both five years and ten years out from today. Listen to his thoughts and predictions. What would your predictions be for the industry five and ten years out from today? We would like to hear from you so do post your considerations on our blog for this show.
Please post your comments/questions on the blog for this show. You can reach our guest Clay Mowry through me here at The Space Show or through Voyager Space Systems.