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Guest: Jeff Greason; Topics: Advanced propulsion, beamed propulsion, electric vehicles, cost factors, launch markets, nuclear propulsion, Tau Zero Foundation, Electric Sky and more.
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We welcomed back to The Space Show special guest Jeff Greason for a two segment 89 minute comprehensive discussion regarding advanced propulsion and beamed power for space launch, aircraft and other vehicles/missions. Jeff talked about the Tau Zero Foundation concerning advanced propulsion and his own new company, Electric Sky (see www.el-sky.com. We started our discussion with launch vehicle basics and history through the current time including reusability. Jeff explained why it would make a difference to shift the power from mass of the onboard fuel in the rocket's first stage to beamed power from the ground. The savings in payload mass would mean lighter missions or even more payload capacity at great cost savings. Jeff spent a good portion of the first segment talking about this, answering listener questions, explaining challenges for human spaceflight and other missions, plus reporting on the state of the market and the technology for doing this.
In addition, we talked about developing cislunar space, flagship missions, and the pros and cons of nuclear propulsion. As part of the nuclear discussion, Jeff explained some of the market considerations which actually get in the way of closing business cases so nuclear R&D propulsion moves slowly at best. Don't miss all of what he said about market considerations, especially for nuclear propulsion and its capability. At one point he suggested nuclear propulsion feasibility would increase if we could double the performance of the nuclear rocket.
In talking about advanced propulsion and human spaceflight along with robotic missions, Jeff suggested that the technology was stagnant. He said it was mostly chemical propulsion which we have maxed out or solar electric. In his comprehensive advanced propulsion comments, he suggested possible alternative propulsion systems including the one he is working on with his Electric Sky company. Let us know what you think by posting your comments about this discussion on our blog.
Later in the first segment, Jeff had much more to say about Electric Sky and their research and model. Once again he made the business and economic case for not having to carry the mass of the fuel (power and energy) with the payload on launch. By using his beam-powered concept which he explained, the first stage could be minimized. Listen to the details of this, the description of the beam wave and post your comments on our blog. For those of you listening to this program that attended the April Space Access Society Meeting, Jeff made an excellent presentation with graphs and images explaining the basics of Electric Sky.
Listeners as well as myself asked multiple questions about the beam. We wanted to know things like the range, does it have to follow the vehicle all the way to space, what about weather or clouds and wind, plus more. Jeff described the testing and the company plans, plus the reason for starting small with small UAVs. At one point he suggested that by using beam power on launch, there would be a substantial cost savings over a traditional first stage. Don't miss all of what he said on this subject.
Listener Josh said that we hear lots about advanced propulsion but we don't see much reality from it. He wondered why. Jeff spent significant time responding to this question. He talked about bias, politics, technology, and much more. It is a discussion you do not want to miss as I am sure many of us have had similar thoughts to the one Josh expressed with his email.
Listener Lee said he was at recent conferences where anti-matter propulsion was talked about. Jeff talked about the two anti-matter concepts and the presentation regarding anti-mater propulsion at both Space Access and ISDC. The ISDC speaker will be a guest on The Space Show on Oct. 20th. Jeff thought anti-matter propulsion had potential and was exciting. The Space Show will start following developments in this area after our Dr. Jackson guest on Oct. 20. Another idea Jeff talked about were plasma magnets which he described with excitement.
In the second segment, we zeroed in on beam power. Jeff did a deep dive into the subject, talked about launch vehicle size, power requirements, physics, and noted beaming researchers of recent history. He talked about lower frequency range rather than beams going for heat. At one point while talking abut supersonic speeds, he mentioned that while not very efficient, one could beam power to propellers for supersonic flight. Listener Henry then sent in a note asking Jeff is there was any reality to the Green New Deal claim that we could use electricity for air travel. Jeff said it was viable and was part of their business plan. We spent quite a bit of time talking about electric air travel compared to jet engines, Jeff compared efficiency with electricity to a conventional jet engine, then talked about hi speed and even supersonic advantages uses electricity. We also talked about backup storage batteries for reserves, all weather operation, and more. Jeff went into power plant economics which factored into the discussion of an electric jet for crossing the oceans. This was a fascinating and important discussion so pay attention to all of it.
Jeff offered closing comments and again mentioned that Tau Zero Foundation was a nonprofit and that we could support it by going to their website, https://tauzero.aero. Electric Sky has a website, see www.el-sky.com.
Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog for this show. You can reach Jeff through me or the above mentioned websites.