Broadcast 2651 Phil Smith

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  • The Space Foundation Conference

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The Space Foundation Conference

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Guest:  Phil Smith; Topics: Space tourism, launch industry, cubesats, market analysis for the space industry & relevant segments.  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,   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   

We welcomed Phil Smith back to the program to discuss market and industry analysis for space tourism, the launcher industry, cubesats and much more.  During the first segment of our 1 hour and 49 minute program, we started off discussing space tourism.  First, our guest put the space tourism industry into economic perspective as part of the overall $324 billion space industry.   We then talked about suborbital space tourism, the unveiling of the Virgin Galactic SS2 Unity a few days ago, plus the potential of the industry.  While our guest did have things to say about Virgin Galactic, XCOR, and Blue Origin, The Tauri Group does not pick winners.  Our space tourism discussion, including market and economic analysis, took the better part of the first segment.  However, we also talked about orbital tourism and the impact on space tourism industry growth by lowering prices per questions asked by Dr. Doug when he called the show.  Included in the price discussion was the probability of lowering prices and by how much given venture capital and ROI pressure on many of the companies.  One thing our guest pointed out was that they showed the tourism part of the industry being larger than the research side of the industry using the same vehicles. 

Listener David asked if Blue Origin's recent success might impact Virgin Galactic plans and if so, how and by how much.  He also wanted to know the longer term impact Blue might have on SpaceX.  In winding up our suborbital discussion, Mr. Smith said two things had happened to change the outlook for the industry. First, hardware was now flying even if only under experimental licenses.  The second big thing was the large amount of investment in the industry by non-space players though it was unclear if this was sustainable money.  Our guest also said "Big Data" was getting most of the investment.  He provided us with examples of this and a clear definition of big data. 

Regarding the launch industry, he said 2015 was a good year with 86 orbital launches though most of the launches were government.  GEO satellites was the largest share on the commercial side and they were the largest revenue producers.  He talked about a possible glut in launch vehicles with 60 such vehicles in operation or being produced on a global level.  While smallsat and cubesat launches were increasing, he also talked about cluster or constellation launches which means lots more satellites on one launch which would have the result of lowering the number of launches but possibly launching more satellites.   Before the segment ended, George from Boston asked about forecast track records along with the Tauri Group track record.  Our guest provided us with examples of track records, including one dating back to early Air Force fusion energy studies.  He said Tauri Group track records were proprietary for customers requesting the information.

In the second segment, we heard from Dr. Doug about their published reports.  As you will hear, many of their reports are available on their website,  Go to the Space & Technology group and scroll down to select a report of interest to you.  Doug and Phil talked about public-private partnerships for which our guest had much to say.  One of his points was that the verdict was still out regarding proving up the business model though it was looking like a very successful business model so far.  One of the outstanding issues will be the sustainability of the business model with commercial customers.  

We discussed the commercial launch industry in more detail.  Phil  included global players such as Arianne and the Russian rockets plus of course ULA and SpaceX with the Falcon 9 and the Falcon Heavy which he said was an open question since it has not started flights and operation. 

Amanda sent in a question about presidential politics and space policy in a new administration.  Mr. Smith said that space would not likely show up in the presidential race and after that it depended on the president.  Our guest talked about budgets and the budget cycle.  He then cited the NASA Roadmap to Mars as a phased in example of dealing with budget issues.  I asked Phil if we had ever had a president who did not support NASA and wanted to shut it down.  He said no but presidents do change space policy. Here he cited President Obama and Constellation. 

Sandra from Seattle asked our guest about science fiction and kids liking the sci fi better than the reality of space given movies and TV shows.  Phil had much to say about this given his experience as a docent with the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.  Don't miss his comments.  He also told that that for the Air and Space Museum, he thought space was a bigger draw for kids, maybe because it the exotic nature of space.

Space advocacy and long term visions came up.  He supported both when asked for his views of the industry 5 and 10 years out into the future.  He also talked about space art so don't miss this important discussion.  He also tempered his support with the need to be reality based.

Pamela sent in a note asking about space settlement. He said The Tauri Group had not tasked it but said he had thought about it.  One of the key questions was how to sustain it.  He spoke about how hard space was and how costly it is so during our discussion on this topic, he questioned the sustainability of settlement.  He had much to say about going to Mars, footprint missions to Mars, and even retirement on the Moon or Mars.  This is a mini discussion you want to hear. 

Before the show ended, BJohn inquired about cubesats and secondary launches.  Phil summarized some of his earlier comments regarding the developing cubesat industry and small launch industry.  Again, don't miss what our guest had to say about this growing part of the commercial space industry.

Phil offered us important closing comments.  He urged us to temper our enthusiasm and not to dismiss how hard space is for all aspects of the industry.  I urge you to take note of what our guest said in his final show comments for today.

Please post your comments/questions on The Space Show comments section for this archived show.  You can reach Phil smith through me or through the Tauri Group website.





launch vehicles, CubeSats, NASA’s Mars plans, emerging markets

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22 Feb 2016 Phil Smith
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