New year’s space resolutions and wish list

Dr. David Livingston, host of The Space Show, invited listeners to call in or e-mail in their space-related new year’s resolutions and wish lists on the January 18 show.  In my case, having just written up a 2014 year-in-review and looked at the spill-over into 2015 and beyond, it seemed like an interesting exercise.

So, being a big fan of the show, and being far more organized about what I write than what I say, I decided to e-mail in my list. This is what I sent him:

My personal resolutions:

  • Learn bi-propellant liquid propulsion.
    I am a trajectories and embedded computing person. I’ve been relying on others to develop better propulsion, but very little exists for small launch vehicles that can get a 3U to 6U CubeSat into LEO.  I am now working closely with students at San Jose State University with another senior propulsion engineer. (“Spartan Spear”; http://www.projectspartanspear.com .)  I am finally starting to understand the detailed engineering of a H2O2/kerosene engine. Hopefully, by the end of the year, we’ll see a static test fire.

Wish list:

  • Reuse of Falcon 9 first stage (Probability this year: 5%; next year: 50%; year after 90%)
  • Falcon Heavy launch to LEO this year (Probability: 90%)
  • Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM) is replaced by a two-step program of (1) sustained human presence on the Moon, and (2) human exploration of Mars and its moons. (Probability: 20%)
  • NASA/congressional commitment to Europa program (Probability: %50)
  • The space advocacy community finds traction with the majority of Americans on the value of space exploration and commerce.  (Probability: 10%)
  • NASA get its annual budget increased to $22-23 billion per year. (Probability: %3)
  • Nuclear fusion with net power out. (Probability 2015: 10%, 2016: 20%, 2017: 50%)

The last wish (nuclear fusion) was in response to caller Tim from Huntsville. Excellent suggestion.

The personal resolution is hopefully not too hard to keep since I am in the midst of a launch vehicle project now, and have a close up view of the propulsion. The challenge will be to understand the materials and chemistry aspects of the system, and incorporate them into computational models.

The wish list is comprised of a few important things I’d like to see happen during 2015; but for most of them, my level of confidence for them happening during the year is pretty low.

Note that I did not include “landing of a Falcon 9 first stage“; I specified “reuse“. That is the goal. Given the nearly successful landing on a barge in the Atlantic, I have no doubt that the landing will happen this year. However, the real goal is reuse of a stage. It’s on my wish list, but I do not expect to see it in 2015. (However, I’d love to be pleasantly surprised.)

It should also be abundantly clear that I really want to see a Falcon Heavy launch this year. It’s been slipping for a while; I hope that this time it transitions from wish to reality.

At the end of the year, David’s current plan is to replay this particular show and hold us accountable for our resolutions (and wishes?). It will be an interesting retrospective.