Broadcast 3106 Tom Risen

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  • The Space Foundation Conference

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  • The Space Foundation Conference

The Space Foundation Conference

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Guest:  Tom Risen;  Topics:  The Space Foundation's Space Symposium, USAF space defense & reorganization, space traffic management, sky taxis, Europa Clipper Mission, Bridenstine, large rockets & more.  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 Tom Risen to the program for this 2 segment 90 minute discussion on a wide ranging set of topics starting with an overview of the recently completed 34th Space Foundation Space Symposium,  Tom talked about the meetings and presentation with the USAF officers and the program with Dr. Heather Wilson, Secretary of the USAF.  Tom talked about the warfighter and the space domain, the Air Force program to reorganize strategic command, space and satellite activities, the pilot shortage facing both the Navy and the Air Force, and more.  He talked about rapid satellite replacement, GPS, and the Dept. of Commerce taking over space traffic management for the future.  Tom said there was a focus on jamming satellites but he also said it appeared that for now the AF was in a defensive mode.  Other topics brought up in the first segment included talks by Vice President Pence and Dept. of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.  Tom missed their programming to go to a nearby Lockheed satellite manufacturing facility which he discussed with us.  The side trip included conversations about potential new lunar habs, GPS satellites, and more on rapid replacement of military hardware if necessary.

Tom was asked about NASA's lunar plans between going back to the surface of the Moon, the orbital LOP-G, or something else.  I asked Tom to clear up the NASA rhetoric as it was very confusing, plus the budget issues confuse matters more since NASA is not funded for all of their rhetoric.  Tom corrected me on the use of the word rhetoric, instead suggesting that we were talking about excessive NASA promises.  Our guest did talk about making a lunar lander, long timelines, and the use of the SLS for their lunar missions.   This led to questions and answers with Tom regarding SLS missions EM-1 and EM-2.  Don't miss what he had to about SLS and the EM1 and 2 missions.

Next, we turned our attention to the subject of the Sky Taxi.  Tom has an excellent article on this in the January 2018 issues of Aerospace America, p. 38.  Tom described a sky taxi, the probable way one would work and the most likely target market.  Regulations were an obvious concern.  The sky taxis would be automated, no pilot on board.  Our guest also talked about the engineering, batteries and many of the challenges.  He also said they were an evolution past drone technology.  In addition, we learned of an FAA-NASA student going on which will be available later this year.  Several listeners had questions for him including Linda.  She compared them to driverless cars which she said people did not like giving rise to market issues and concerns.  Don't mis Tom's reply to Linda's email comments.

Marshall called us to talk about the sky taxi, asking which was easier, the drone or sky taxi or self-driving car.  You might be surprised by what Tom said in his reply to Marshall.  Our caller also focused on the regulatory issues and concerns, then he asked about the high cost of proposal writing for funding and if Tom knew about this issue.  Make sure you listen to all of the conversation between Marshall and Tom.  Marshall did thrown in a few comments about the growing use and high cost of self-driving tractors for farming.

In the second segment, we took a call from John in Ft. Worth.  His first question for Tom was about the Russian claim of having a nuclear powered cruise missile.  Tom had much to say on this, including comments made a the Space Symposium by General Hyten suggesting that the US has observed some of these tests and is aware of the Russian project.  John and Tom then started discussing hypersonics for weapons and commercial use, low yield and short range nukes being developed and other military concerns.  Tom said the military speakers were stoic and seemed to be taking all these issues very seriously.  When asked if the Russian - US political differences were impacting our space program, he said no.  He also pointed out that we cooperated with the Soviet Union in space during the Cold War and what is going on  now is not as bad as it was during the Cold War.  John completed his call suggesting that Russia might be able to do nuclear propulsion easier than the US.  Listen to his comments and what Tom said in response to them.

The Europa Clipper mission was the next subject of our discussion.  Tom wrote an excellent article on this mission in th April 2018 Aerospace America edition, p. 34.  One of the things I pointed out on air about the article was the excellent analysis chart and graph showing the mission launcher trade options for using SLS, the Delta 4 heavy, or the Falcon Heavy as the launcher of choice for the Europa Clipper mission.  This information can be found on page 38.  I strongly recommend all of you get the article and check out the launcher trade choices for the Europa Clipper mission.  I believe one could easily apply this information to other missions.  We did spend time discussing the mission, the lander, lander timelines, the ocean, why there was an interest in searching for life on Europa, plus the overall congressional and NASA interest/support for the Europa mission.  As our discussion was nearing an end, Tom focused on the SLS Em-1 and Em-2 proposed schedules.  In response to my question, he said the actual Europa Clipper satellite hardware was being constructed and would be ready for launch in 2022.

As our program was drawing to a close, I asked Tom about the Senate confirmation hearing regarding Bridenstine for NASA administrator.  Tom described the process and explained why Bridenstine was controversial, especially among the Democrats.  Overall, industry seemed OK with the choice of Bridenstine.  Tom was asked by listener Paul if Scott Pace was at the symposium and if he thought Pace was the right person for the job.  Tom said yes but don't miss all of what he said in response to Paul  Before the program ended, Tom was asked about both Blue Origin and SpaceX at the symposium.  He said both were there in force so listen to what he said about them and what they had going under their names at this major space event. 

Before the program ended, in his closing comments Tom talked enthusiastically about the NASA R&D going on regarding a new generation supersonic transport plane.  We briefly talked commercial markets for a new supersonic transport, and reducing the sonic boom to what is called a "sonic thump."  We will likely do a supersonic transport R& D program with Tom and others later in the year.

Please post your comments/questions on our blog for this show.  You can reach Tom Risen through me or through Aerospace America.




Aerospace America reporter, lots of new & interesting topics to discuss

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24 Apr 2018 Tom Risen
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