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Guest: Tom Olson; topics: Commercial space for 2020 in review plus a look ahead for commercial space plus space policy for 2021.
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We welcomed Tom Olson back to the program for his annual review of the commercial space industry plus a look ahead to commercial space in 2020. This was a long one, one segment, 2 hour 5 minutes. Multiple quality phone calls, interesting emails and links and information for me to post on the blog as soon as possible. As I have done before and given the length Tom's and my discussion, I am taking the liberty of providing you with the quick version of the program summary by simply repeating the tags and key words below. The tags largely follow in the order discussed but they do not represent all topics discussed, nor all commercial companies mentioned by Tom, including many startups that Tom brought to our attention.
Tom Olson, Commercial space 2020 year in review, small satellite communications, pandemic, commercial space industry resilience, available capital, space investments, entrepreneurial space company progress, Biden administration and commercial space, regulatory concerns, SpaceX, record number of SpaceX launches for 2020, crewed flights to ISS, SN8, Starship progress, Indonesia, small satellite overflight permissions, RocketLab, OneWebb, Voyager Space Holdings, 2020 commercial space mergers and acquisitions, Altius Space Systems and Nano RacksArtemis, Cislunar development, NASA budget, Planetary Protection, Article 9 enforcement, Bigelow Aerospace, debris removal, The Lurio Report by Dr. Charles Lurio, Blue Marble Week.
Much of the introductory and first segment commentary from Tom was both new and most interesting. For example, he cited stats showing how space investment was up despite the pandemic and the shutdown. Also, industry investment through June was $3.26 billion compared to $3.6 billion last year so while the pandemic was having impact, it was not as much as one might think. Tom's brining to our attention companies and what they were doing and succeeding at that we were not aware of was of great value. Before our first caller, Tom talked about this being the year of SpaceX. Listen as to why he said that. He also highlighted RocketLab and said a cautionary note re satellite constellations in that he thought there might be disturbances ahead in the force if companies and operators do not get flyover or regulatory permission for their ops. While they can certainly do flyovers, it may prove to be a different story if countries want to exercise regulatory influence of business in their land which is much more than just a flyover.
Our first caller was our friend Dallas. He addressed the success of Voyager Space Holdings run by Dylan Taylor and also by another group, Redwire.. Listen to his commentary about these organizations and what Tom had to say about their respective acquisitions. Dallas also predicted that commercial space in 2021 would "grow like crazy." He thought Artemis might slow down. Dallas was then asked about cislunar for 2021. Again, don't miss his response regarding cislunar as it might surprise you.
We took a note from Jeff who asked Tom about the NASA budget. Later, Tom confessed to being a Mars proponent and that opened the door to a possible regulatory assault in the coming administration re humans to Mars, Musk and his humans to Mars, planetary protection (PP) and Article 9 of the OST. Tom spent time discussing PP as well as Article 9, Musk and how this might cause some sort of rebellion. Dallas sent in an email simply saying that the FAA/AST could deny Musk a launch license. I read the note on air so listen to how Tom responded to that possibility.
Ft. Worth John called to talk about Orion, SLS, Dragon, Falcon Heavy and by his calculation, Falcon Heavy being about five times cheaper than SLS. Tom then talked about a Russian rocket being built that appears to be their copy of a Falcon 9. Next, Tom mentioned buff mice research with a specific gene to slow down or mitigate bone and muscle loss. I will post the article on the subject under Buff Mice on the blog but here is the line: https://www.space.com/mice-muscle-bone-loss-microgravity-myostatin.html. Before moving on, Tom mentioned the loss of Al Worden as well as Chuck Yeager. He also mentioned that the ISS now had the first ever commercial airlock after 20 years of existence.
Tom talked some about terminology history over the last 20 years including Alt.Space to NewSpace to Commercial Space. He said the distinctions had blurred over time. Listen to his explanation. He then said that he thought a better description for today would be risk space versus safe space. He went on to explain himself.
Tom talked about other companies but one that caught my eye dealt with commercial SST transportation via Boom. He said Boom had recently raised $151 million for their XB1 vehicle. I will make another effort to get a rep from Boom on the show. Their website is https://boomsupersonic.com.
Tom started talking about Astrobotics and their CubeRover project. Dr. Doug asked some questions about that. Gene from Pasadena asked Tom if Bigelow Aerospace was still in existence. Tom said he had heard rumors from "insiders" but he did not know anything that was factual at this point. He did tell us about the rumor he has been hearing.
Burton from Montreal asked Tom about an idea he picked up from the blogosphere regarding the super heavy booster and modified SpaceX rocket technology. I read his note on air so listen to it, tell us what you think and post your thoughts on this on our blog. Note what both Tom and I had to say about it but remember, neither Tom or I was familiar with any of what Burton brought to our attention. Tom had some info to share with us on space debris removal, then we took a call from none other than Dr. Charles Lurio who publishes the excellent Lurio Report.
Charles talked about the 26 SpaceX launches, virtual conferences, then both Tom and Charles talked about a program, "Blue Marble Week (https://www.bluemarbleweek.space). Charles will be returning to The Space Show early in the first quarter next year.
Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog for this show. You can reach Tom through me as well as any of the callers or those sending emails in for the show.