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Guest: Dr. Tom Matula; Topics: Spaceports, space business parks, commercial space trends, commercial space terrestrial infrastructure, large commercial rockets vs. government rockets and much more.
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We welcomed Dr. Tom Matula back to the show to discuss commercial space trends, spaceports throughout the US and the need for commercial space business parks. Please review Tom's Power Point Presentation which has been uploaded to the blog for this show as we followed it for major parts of our discussion given our focus on spaceparks and spaceports. Tom began our two segment 86 minute discussion by talking about the status of today's commercial space infrastructure and the fact that most launches, including commercial launches take place in Florida. He commented that the Eastern Range (as it is known), badly need updating and improvements. From here, Tom talked about the first-wave of US spaceports which seemed to represent man local attempts to get in on what many saw as a potentially lucrative and growing commercial space industry. Listen carefully to his evaluation of the first-wave commercial spaceports, their status, markets, cash flow, and even their business. Please let us know what you think by posting your comments and thoughts on our blog. Tom mentioned several specific spaceports or pending spaceports, assessed their status and likelihood of becoming operational or a commercial success. He also spent considerable time talking about the SpaceX Texas spaceport under construction which is known as the Boca Chica Spaceport. Tom was critical of this particular spaceport while he strongly suggested a look at and an acceptance of using Matagorda Island along the Gulf Coast of Texas as a spaceport. Tom spent considerable time throughout our discussion talking about the advantages of Matagorda Island but when pressed, he indicated that as of yet there was no interest in using it as a spaceport. I asked if he had been in touch with SpaceX or anyone else about using it as a spaceport and the answer was no.
Other topics for the first segment included high altitude balloon launch sites, the need for business partnerships with government, the potential of other first and second-wave spaceports, and what services could be offered regarding Earth markets for a space business park. This was an interesting discussion so don't miss it. When talking about the commercial industry, our guest had much to say about the contributions by both SpaceX and Blue Origin to the commercial industry. Part of this additional first segment discussion focused on commercial industry ROIs which Tom suggested be derived from Earth markets and business activities related to space such as rocket motor testing and other R&D projects.
For the second segment, we started out with a BJohn email inquiring about various sectors applicable to smaller scale businesses and the potential of small space business projects. BJohn also asked about the potential for space exploration without tourism and the military to be a successful commercial industry. Don't miss what Tom had to say about exploration.
Part of our second segment discussion center focused on what Tom suggested was trending in the industry. Our guest addressed the potential for small markets and the use of the Falcon Heavy with small sat ride along capability. Tom addressed commercial markets that he thought might be overlooked.
Tom had much to say about the SpaceX BFR and some challenges including dealing with the acoustic signature that will be made by the rocket. He did say the BFR/BFS would be a gamechanger for the industry. In addition, he talked about the Raptor engine, launch pad possibilities and more. Tom then returned to talking about SpaceX and their Boca launch site. He also mentioned the former role of the DCX.
An additional topic brought to the surface in this segment was international competition. Tom talked about China, Russia, and ESA. He then returned to saying that FH would be a game changer to LEO. Tom offered closing comments that were focused on urging spaceport management to look beyond launch markets to Earth markets. Just as we were about to end, I asked Tom about his earlier work regarding the need for a space industry financial bank. Don't miss what he said about this idea.
Please post your comments/questions for Dr. Matula on our blog for this show. You can reach Tom through me.