This Week in Space 114 Transcript

Please be advised this transcript is AI-generated and may not be word for word. Time codes refer to the approximate times in the ad-supported version of the show.

00:00 - Rod Pyle (Host)
On this episode of this Week in Space, we're talking about the recent successes of Starliner and Starships. Stay with us Podcasts you love, from people you trust. This is Twit. This is this Week in Space, episode number 114, recorded on June 7th 2024. Starliners and Starships on June 7th 2024, starliners and Starships. Hello and welcome to another episode of this Week in Space, the Starliners and Starships edition. I'm Rod Pyle, editor-in-chief of AdAster Magazine, and I'm here, as always, with drumroll. Please, tarek Malik. Hello, rod, the ineffable Editor-in-Chief of Spacecom. How are you, sir?

00:43 - Tariq Malik (Host)
I'm doing well. I got my Starship t-shirt on just in honor of this episode, too Largely because I can't wear the Starliner one and the Starship one at the same time.

00:54 - Rod Pyle (Host)
I'm doing great Well, we wouldn't have known that if you hadn't told us, so I guess that's good. Before we start, I want to remind all you, dear listeners, to please be good to us and make sure to like and subscribe and all the other optional things you can do to indicate to us that you love the podcast and, more importantly, to indicate to the world and the advertisers that you love the podcast, because we care about you and we need to know you care about us and we need to know you care about us. And to make sure you care about us, we have a space joke, an episode-specific space joke, from Bill Schreier.

01:31 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Are you ready, my friend? Yes, yes, Lay it on me, Bill. Actually it's a three-parter.

01:37 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Oh wow, there's no call and repeat here. What's the difference between Starlink and a Starling?

01:47 - Tariq Malik (Host)
I do not know.

01:52 - Rod Pyle (Host)
What is the difference? First, starlings can take off and fly whenever they want to. Uh, then he added later, due to more recent news Well, starlings fly on the first try, not the the fifth, and starlings don't have helium leaks or flammable wiring delays.

they're delaying their takeoffs it's very specific very specific, but I thought it was pretty good. So thank you, bill, and, uh, pardon my, my lousy delivery. My mouth's a little numb today from some devil stuff, so I'm I'm talking with my punga on my face, all right, everyone saved the cosmos from from tarik's bad jokes.

02:29 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Did you lose your wisdom teeth? Is that what that was?

02:31 - Rod Pyle (Host)
or just your wisdom. We'll talk later. Um, but I, but I did like that joke, so we were saved this week by an intelligent listener, thank god. But be sure to send us your best, worst and most different space jokes to uh twist at twit tv, because we, we basically want to use your work for free. Um, all right, let's do some headlines. Yes, we live for headlines. It's a busy week this week, busy busy week. So uh, tell us all about the triumph of chong a6. Yeah, which I was tutored on pronouncing. It's not chang e, as I've been saying, it's chong e, that's right so, yeah, this one comes from space news, I think it was.

03:17 - Tariq Malik (Host)
is it andrew jones over there? Uh, yeah, he knows his stuff and uh, and of course, you know we've about China. Actually, we had a whole episode about China's moon project just before their landing and I mean, they made no bones about it. Just days after reaching the moon, they collected something like up to 2000 grams of far side moon sample material and they launched it off the the far side of the moon. Uh, basically the day after you and I talked right and uh, and it has since actually uh met up with the, um, uh, I believe it's met up with the, uh, the ascent vehicle.

What is it? The, the collector, the returner, the earth return vehicle, the earth return vehicle? Yeah, because the, the, the ascender, uh, you know, got into orbit just fine and uh, it's gonna uh be heading back, uh in in here. So it seems like they had a a fantastic mission. Uh, and and this was very interesting, uh, because a lot of people have been writing about it, prove it well, except spacecom, we didn't, they, but china built a flag that you can raise on the lander, and so they basically used like a, like, what is it? Like a, like a almost like a robotic arm type thing that opened up and deployed the flag.

so instead of just having a flag on, um well, you know, like on the side of the spacecraft, and in fact in the photo of the story that uh yeah, you can see it right there, just underneath the arm, on the left side for folks that are watching on on youtube. Uh, it's this. It's this little chinese uh national flag that popped out on its own little arm and was raised. It's the first time they've ever actually physically raised a flag on the moon.

05:11 - Rod Pyle (Host)
A little tiny flag. It's kind of like a dollhouse flag.

05:13 - Tariq Malik (Host)
You might be asking why would you bother?

How did they take this picture that they had? It's because they had this tiny little rover that was like a camera rover that was hitched right on the side of the lander and it just popped off and drove a little bit away and then took this picture. So very smooth sample return mission, very fast sample return mission. And actually this is the type of mission that Dean Cheng that we spoke about in our recent China-centric episode mentioned. I mean, this was a mission that didn't do much else. It landed, scooped up some samples, put them in the ascender, launched it off the moon, got it to the return vehicle and, you know, eventually they'll, they'll make it way back to earth. Very, very bare bones, very fast and clean, not trying to, you know, get dozens of samples from all these different places and stuff like that.

06:13 - Rod Pyle (Host)
So big, big success here. And, annoyingly, it looks like it's very different to do it further away and over a longer period of time and with different gravity. But these are the steps you need for Mars sample return, that we're struggling with gravity. But these are the steps you need for mars sample return that we're struggling with and, yeah, I think there's a good chance they'll be bringing it back first. I guess. We'll see, we'll have to see. We'll have to see. Yeah, okay, um, and and now on to the hubble space telescope in it. Yeah, how many years has it been now 30?

uh 35, 34, 34 years, yeah, almost four decades We've had multiple servicing missions when we had a space shuttle and one of the things they did, besides fixing the optics in the beginning of that, was replace the gyros as they went out, because big heavy spacecraft needs moderately large heavy gyros to reposition it for different mission objectives. And one by one they're given out, so we have what three left now?

07:08 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Well, gyros, no, they're on one now, so they've got.

07:12 - Rod Pyle (Host)
No, no, they're using one, but they have more than one operating. They still have a backup.

07:16 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Well, they've got one. I think they only got one backup Right. That's the whole issue, you know. Yeah, they're trying to extend the life of the Hubble Space Telescope and we actually I think I have mentioned this a couple of times in recent months where they've gone into safe mode at least twice in the last year, like 12-month period, because of these gyro issues, and gyros have always been a problem Instead of using thrusters to orient itself, it uses these big gyros that spin, spin, spin, and then they can point it really accurately.

And what they're deciding to do now is to just shift and kind of bite the bullet and say you know, it's old and it can't use these gyroscopes as well. They keep failing, so we're only going to use one. It's going to limit a little bit of the science that they can do. They won't be as accurate, et cetera, and they're trading that off for a few extra years of life and I believe they're hoping that this is going to keep it going through about 2035, which is great. I suppose the frustrating part is that if they had a servicing mission go up there, they could get like another you know another, you know 20 years out of it.

I think they wanted more. But back in 2000, and was it nine? They hoped to get to 2015, maybe 2020, if memory serves. And here we are in 2024. And that was that last Hubble servicing mission with the space shuttle.

I should note that billionaire Jared Isaacman, financier of private SpaceX flights into orbit, has offered to cover the cost of an actual private servicing mission, but after a study into it, nasa said no. I think there was maybe a few too many unchecked boxes that they weren't comfortable with, about how they would get there, who their crew would be, how would they be able to be trained on it, what if something goes wrong? Who's responsible for it? That sort of thing. So they said no to that, and that's kind of it. No more servicing plans unless there's something new that comes up that nasa comes up with uh for it. So this is what we get until maybe 2035 and hopefully, uh, they don't have more safe mode issues. Uh, from these, um, these gyroscopes, because, yeah, you're right, they, they have. They have two functioning ones out of six rod you were asking earlier okay, I thought they had three, but yeah, yeah, they are.

They did until like two years ago, when one of them right.

09:48 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Well, but I was looking more recently, two years ago. I'll take your word for it. Yeah, yeah, which would be sad. You know we talked about the isaacman thing a couple weeks ago. I mean, it's a great idea. It's a generous idea of him. As you know, I've referred to him as Space Jesus before. He's very good about these things, but you know it's funny. So from Isaacman's and perhaps SpaceX's side, it feels, from what we know anyway, like they presented a pretty logical vision of how this could work, vision of how this could work, but knowing as you do about how long it takes nasa to prepare, to do these things in the way nasa does, which is, astronauts in the neutral buoyancy tank for months and months and months, training, um, and the fact that, uh, that the dragon has never flown anywhere near as high as this before, because hubble is in a very high, high orbit. I don't know the exact mileage anymore, but it used to be like right at the edge of the shuttle's operating range. Yeah, I think it was close to 400 miles.

10:50 - Tariq Malik (Host)
It was very close to 400 miles, yeah.

10:52 - Rod Pyle (Host)
E-375. And then, not having docked with anything before, they did put that common docking mechanism in the back of it in their last servicing mission. But I can see where they'd be concerned about there being lots of problems that, of course, as somebody I quoted when we were talking about it before said, it would really and I'm paraphrasing it would really suck to have a couple of dead astronauts hanging on there because of something that went wrong. I can't imagine what it would be, but one thing is the Dragon doesn't have an airlock.

11:19 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Anyway, it's a longer story than we're able to present here, but there are reasons not to there are, and if you think about just that last servicing mission I think we touched on this when we spoke about it before but there were things that went wrong that could have ended that whole mission. I think the wide field camera 2 door initially didn't open and if they couldn't get that camera out then they couldn't put the new one in, and that was a mission critical milestone. There was a handrail that was in the way of a repair that Mike Massimino had to physically rip off and there was like a whole Tiger team in the back trying to figure out how to do that while he was out there on that spacewalk. And then, you know, given like what you just said, a private mission, tiger team in the MAC trying to figure out how to do that while he was out there on that spacewalk. And then, you know, given like what you just said, a private mission would be likely much similar.

It would probably just dock, boost and then undock, right, but that's. It seems very straightforward. You know to do something like that, but you know it's not something that SpaceX has never done before, it's something that NASA has never done before. What if they dock it and then both vehicles are tumbling? We don't know. We don't know.

12:27 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Well, and when you say done before you know, one thing that I don't think SpaceX has ever done is dock with something that's inert and doesn't have control in the far side.

12:36 - Tariq Malik (Host)
So in this case, you know what if they couldn't disengage, I mean there's all kinds of things that come to mind are scary, and the astronauts on those servicing missions have much more intrinsic knowledge than what they just trained for for that mission. So they have a baseline of professional skills Astronauts are awesome. Yeah, that's right, that's right, that's right. One day I'll be an astronaut, rod, and I will also be awesome.

13:01 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Well, I'm old enough to remember, on the back cover of comic books, an ad that says be astronaut tough, and it had Charles Atlas all bent over like that, holding up his muscly forearm, all right. So this is a story. I wrote Pascal Lee about it. He hasn't responded yet. I assume he's seen it, but I was hoping to get a comment.

The headline from spacecom was new hole on mars. That's, that's not. And you know this has clickbait, as I'm used to from you, so shame on you. It doesn't say new, it says the hole on mars. The hole on mars, okay, I said new hole on mars, it's still. It's actually not clickbaity, it's kind of twisted, but uh, apparent lava pit or or tube on the flanks of arsia mons, a large volcano on mars, not the recently discovered one, but uh, it's. It's intriguing because this is something that people like pascal and others have been looking at a lot, yeah, uh, as places a to perhaps put people when they arrive there so that they're not being saturated by radiation day to day. Of course, this is eventually what you're able to build some infrastructure in there, but two also, especially on the flank of a volcano. It may still be warm there, we don't know. But there may be some residual warmth and that would be a very promising place for life, but not as we know it.

14:20 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Yeah, yeah, this is a fun one. I'll tell you. There's a little backstory behind this. The headline for this one, because this photo was taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It has this high-rise, super high-resolution camera on it. Arizona does which kind of oversees this instrument on MRO is that every now and then I think every week or every day or so they post a new image. And a couple of weeks ago, like at the end of May, they put this hole on Mars picture out Not particularly a brand new photo, but that was when they put it out and it just grabbed everyone out there. All the remote non-space public just glammed on it Cause how creepy this giant like lava hole, lava tube hole looks.

15:13 - Rod Pyle (Host)
And uh, I've seen creepier things in my mirror in the morning.

15:17 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Well, well, well, I think you should, uh, you know, consult a physician. But, uh, for, for this one, for this one, for this one, I, I just, I was a little I don't know, I don't know if I want to say the word annoyed. I just, like you, keep seeing the hole on mars and it's, it's, it's a pit crater, like that's. We know that's what it is, um, but it's like, well, let's look at the science of it and and see, like, why people are excited about it and and that's that's kind of how we got to where we were now.

As you mentioned, pas Pascal Elias has mentioned in the past about these craters and these caves on Mars being potential places, not only from where we could find extremophile life or evidence of it, because it's covered, it's protected, it's shielded from the harsh radiation and other environments but also, you know they've talked about turning these into possible habitats. You know, it's a lot easier to line one of these caves with one entrance and put an airlock on it than it is to build a whole thing from scratch, and that is kind of the interesting thing. You know and promise for what this means. So this crater, let's see, I think it's about MRO was about 159 miles above the planet when it took it, but, as I mentioned, not a new photo. It's from August 2022. And they just chose. They chose to do it now.

16:36 - Rod Pyle (Host)
And there were other ones from many years prior. I mean, this is something you've been able to see for a long time. I think what made this one kind of unique to see for a long time? I think what made this one kind of unique not totally unique, but a bit unique was that, during the right lighting conditions, you can see the floor, so you can get an idea of the depth of it, and you can see the rubble in the bottom and so forth. It still doesn't tell you whether or not it's airtight, however, which is a concern, because if it's not, then you've I mean, I mean, you can still put habitats down there. They just have to be self-ained. It's not like you can just go spray saran wrap on the inside and say, okay, we're sealed. But they're intriguing all the way around, especially from the life sciences side of things.

17:10 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Right, yeah, I'd like to just stand on the rim of that thing and throw some rocks down. Wouldn't it be fun, rod?

17:15 - Rod Pyle (Host)
I mean I'm sure the scientists would be like mortified, but how Especially with all the bacteria on your hand from your space suit, you know, following up the life science thing. By the way, all these are from spacecom. I should have mentioned that up top. Oh, you did. You did. Thank you For our last story. As you put it, a new star could appear in the sky any night. Now here's how to see the blaze star ignite. And you should have added by trying this one weird trick secret, they don't want you to know, or something.

17:46 - Tariq Malik (Host)
This is from life science, our sister publication, yeah, and we actually had written about this too. But there's a star, um, called t corona borealis, and astronomers suspect that sometime between now and the end of the summer, so between now and like september, uh, the star could go nova, right, so that it could, it could erupt and be, as Tycho Brahe called it, a new star in the sky that we could see with our own unaided eye, and it would be the first one since, like 1946, you know that this dim star, 3,000 light years away, would be visible for us, and so that would be really, really interesting. Now, I've never seen like a brand new star brighten to the point that we can see it like this Because, like right now, it is a magnitude plus 10. Magnitude is a scale that astronomers use to describe like the brightness of objects, and the brighter an object is, the lower its magnitude number is. So plus 10 is not bright.

In fact, that's too dim for us to see with our unaided eye, which can usually see something like magnitude four to six or so, and they think that this could actually get up to a magnitude two, which is great because that is something that would be about the same brightness as polaris, the north star, uh, which is the 48th brightest star in the sky, so, uh, so this would be something just to keep an eye on, uh, over the summer. It's, uh, it's also called the northern crown and it's between the constellations, boots, uh, or I think it's. It has like the two Butes Butes, I'm so under the weather, don't go there Don't go there.

And the constellation Hercules in the night sky is where you'll be able to find it, because Hercules has Butes.

19:36 - Rod Pyle (Host)
All right.

19:38 - Tariq Malik (Host)
So keep.

19:39 - Rod Pyle (Host)

19:40 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Yeah, it'll be fun.

19:41 - Rod Pyle (Host)
It'll be fun to see how it develops over this of course, if you live where I do, you can't see any star. That isn't a supernova within two light years anyway, but that's my problem. Um, and finally, before we go to our break, I would like to congratulate. I talked the other week about abigail sparger and her father, who I met at the isdc, and she interviewed me and asked a bunch of questions and they were very intelligent questions. We had a nice talk and I just got an email the other day that that interview resulted to report that she did for school.

And are you ready for this? Are you? Are you sitting down? My friend? I'm sitting. Yes, I'm ready. She got a 200 out of 200. Nice. Now, I can't take credit for that, nor do I want to, but I have to say when I read those kinds of emails, which are fairly rare, I get a little something in my eye. So that was very nice to hear. So congratulations, abigail. Congratulations to your dad for being a better dad than either of us. All right, oh, see how I wrapped into that, okay.

20:40 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Yeah, well, I resemble with that remark, I suppose.

20:44 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Let's run to a quick break and we'll be right back. So, my friend, yes, it's the day of days and I'm not referring to the anniversary of D-Day, although we do acknowledge that. But hold on, let me get my breath. Starliner worked. That's right Now.

21:07 - Tariq Malik (Host)
I can't even remember Did we ever have a better one. You sound so thrilled to be able to say that.

21:11 - Rod Pyle (Host)
I don't think I bet you for your chair on Starliner because it was so uncertain, but we had a successful launch. Yes, we had a successful rendezvous and docking with the space station.

21:22 - Tariq Malik (Host)
A few glitches, but yeah.

21:25 - Rod Pyle (Host)
After some issues with thrusters, which may be related to software or and I haven't read for certain that it wasn't valves, and I just you know I we'll talk about that.

21:37 - Tariq Malik (Host)
We'll talk about that because it was an interesting evening press conference last night talking about the, the thrusters themselves, etc. So we'll talk about it.

21:44 - Rod Pyle (Host)
So okay, well, so starliner worked, we're all you know. Cheers to boeing. They certainly have succeeded not making it look easy, but it did work and the astronauts are up, butch and suny up there and they're safe and cheers, cheers to uh, boeing and ula for having achieved this. So this was on Wednesday morning.

22:07 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Yeah, when's June 5th, june 5th.

22:10 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Then they dragged their heels for 24 hours and finally docked, rendezvous and docked on Thursday. And you know, I guess we could say that the caution which at this point would be, that the caution which at this point would be I say caution delays whatever you want to say about eight years past their first projected flight date, I think, which is a long time when you've got a contract like that. But if that's what it takes to do it safely, it's worth it.

22:39 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Well, I think there's cause for it. First, let's talk about the launch itself, because there's some things I wanted to bring up First of all I almost said SpaceX. First of all, starliner launched on an Atlas V rocket Boeing Starliner. It's the first time and they launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force.

23:03 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Station, which is weird yeah.

23:04 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Yeah, launch Complex 41. It's the first time in like what? About 60 years that astronauts have launched from the Space Force Station previously the Air Force Station, you know and it's the first time in many different vehicle programs that an astronaut has launched on an Atlas V 5 rocket as well uh.

23:27 - Rod Pyle (Host)
So, if I may, if I may interject for people who haven't been to the kennedy space center. We're always used to seeing the crewed vehicles, rockets, shuttle, saturn fives, uh, now falcon nines, leaving from pad 39, either 39a or 39b historically, and that's's kind of, I guess, what you'd say. It's just slightly southeast of the Vehicle Assembly Building. Cape Canaveral used to be Canaveral Air Force Base and now I guess it's. A Space Force Base is further south from there and that's the one you see in the aerial photo, sometimes with like a whole row of launch gantries. Right, yeah, and that was always for unmanned rockets uncrewed, uncrewed, uncrewed, oh my god as an editor.

I bust people for that all the time. I can't believe. I just said that uncrewed or non-human spaceflight. Thank you, um. So this was kind of a one-off. And then the Atlas. You know people argue well, we've launched people on Atlas rockets, missiles at the time before, but that was the old Atlas. That was the thin-skinned, stainless steel Atlas that launched John Glenn and the others on the Mercury flights when they got off the Redstone, but never on the Atlas V, which has no relationship to the original Atlas except a name and a company.

24:48 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Yeah, yeah. So a lot of space history and potentially a harbinger of things to come, because Cape Canaveral Space Force Station is also home to SpaceX launch pads and they are upgrading their own pad there to be able to accommodate crewed flights as well. So what we saw with this first Boeing Starliner flight is something we could see a lot more of in the future, with these private companies launching from the Space Force Station. So that was pretty exciting, to say the least. A very smooth countdown on this last time, which was interesting. Not too much to write home about the only kind of annoying part and we could talk about this later too but once they launched the thing, once they launched into space, that was it.

25:36 - Rod Pyle (Host)
We didn't see Sonny Williams or Butch Wilmore inside the spacecraft on the way up, or the weightlessness stuffed animal or whatever they were going to do right.

25:46 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Exactly no-transcript flight to the space station. So that was fairly annoying and it seems like it may have been a choice, like an oversight made by choice, to not do that because Mark Knappi, boeing's Starliner program manager, says well, they're looking into the ability to provide live in-cabin video. They can't do it for some reason or another, on this flight as well as the next two flights they said it could take, which I find very weird because apollo missions broadcast live, live television from the moon, you know, in the in the late 60s and 70s.

26:23 - Rod Pyle (Host)
So you would think that they could, they could figure something out, but uh, having had a series of British sports cars when I was a younger man, with electronics by Lucas, which anybody who's ever owned an old British sports car knows. The appellation the Prince of Darkness was well-reserved for Lucas. I'm convinced that somehow you know where I'm going. Boeing was working with some supplier that just couldn't get their valves right. But why it would affect video is is an interesting question.

26:52 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Yeah, but. But. But aside aside from that, I mean the, the it was. It was a very good launch. It seems like a lot of the issues on the Atlas five side with the United launch Alliance, the, the, the issues with the computer card, that that thwarted the uh, uh, the earlier attempt, they got a lot of that stuff kind of squared away for this try and um and it was all. It was all, uh, uh, set to go so, um, so now we're in this test phase. You know there there were. Should we? Should we talk about the issues? Because there were issues and, uh, we could talk a bit about them too.

27:29 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Yeah, let's do that, but first we're going to take a short break and we'll be right back and your handsome face can flap its gums some more about the issues, because all you do is complain. I swear we will be right back. Hit me, my man, hit me.

27:44 - Tariq Malik (Host)
All right, so good. Launch finally, finally, on June 5th. Of course, they had delays in May and again on the 1st Good approach Later that I think they went to the astronauts Butch Wilmore and Sonny oh, by the way, I didn't say, sonny Williams is now the first female astronaut ever to fly as a test pilot on a spacecraft, so that's another historic moment too.

28:11 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Wait a minute On something other than the shuttle you mean.

28:16 - Tariq Malik (Host)
No, like to on a. She's the first female astronaut to be the first to fly on a new vehicle. Does that make sense? The first wait hold on Basically the test to fly on a test flight of a brand new spacecraft. She's the first woman to do it, so again, big congrats. Also, she was the first person to run a marathon in space. She ran the Boston Marathon when she was on the space station during a previous increment.

28:41 - Rod Pyle (Host)
On Stephen.

28:42 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Colbert's face. By the way, both Sunny and Butch are veteran space station astronauts, so this is a homecoming of sorts for them. Yeah, so we've got the launch, we've got the ascent, and then, as the crew is getting ready for bed, that first night, there is a call from ground control. They have detected not one, but two new helium leaks in the propulsion system, very similar to the one that they knew, that they already had before launch, and that they said that they could deal with it. So it's very frustrating. They have to figure out what to do, because they need to have a supply of helium To come home. Exactly right, they need like 96 hours worth of of helium, uh for the like, to achieve the mission, and so they budget for that. And, uh, and what they ended up doing was turning off the manifolds that that helium goes into, so that that way the helium can't even get to where it's leaking out of. And they did that overnight, and then they turned them back on on docking day, which was uh thursday, uh j June 6th, as we're recording when the astronauts would need to use the thrushers so that way they can conserve the helium itself, and then, when they dock to the space station, they turn off the manifolds again and then they can turn them back on when it's time to come home. To come home, and Mark Naby said at the end of it that they've got something up between 135 and 175 hours of this helium supply left now. So they've got plenty of it. They don't have to worry about these leaks ever again. It's going to take something like 12 hours, 16 hours, something like that, just to get home. So they don't have to worry about the double days it took to get there, and so that's one thing. But they just want to understand why these leaks keep happening, because one leak on the ground is one thing, two leaks is another, and then after they docked, they found a fourth leak Rod, A fourth leak of this helium in this system. So they're suspecting there could be some kind of common cause that they didn't think of on the ground that is happening in space, that they can try to pin down, and they're going to look at that when they get the capsule back after the end of the mission itself. So that was one thing. That was one thing, and in fact it was of an issue so much that Butch Wilmore asked first thing in the morning what's the deal with the helium leak. And that's when they kind of outlined their plan about turning off the manifolds when they don't need them, turning them on when they do need them, and then they could work it through it that way.

But during the Huck operations they lost five aft thrusters on the service module. And if this sounds and this is if this sounds similar it happened during OFT2. They lost a series of thrusters and they had to turn them off, turn them back on again and try to isolate it and then they ended up working the rest of the flight. So NASA and Boeing, both they don't understand Steve. Steve Sitch said you know they can't figure out why this is happening. They want to understand it but it doesn't seem to be a problem in the thrusters themselves. Boeing says that there may be something in the settings, basically the software governing this whole reaction control system, that they haven't, that it's usually a different software set between orbital insertion and the rendezvous ops, something that happens in that phasing that is affecting these thrusters. And then the system says these have failed to off.

The thrusters themselves work, but the system says I don't like the way that these are set up, I'm going to fail them to off and turn them off, and then Boeing has to test them each, and what it did, it was a delayed docking by like an hour, at least an hour.

It could have been worse.

But Butch Wilmore and Sonny Williams, they had to do some kind of fancy free-flying to test each of the thrusters individually to make sure that they worked.

They were able to recover four of the five and the fifth one they just turned off for the rest of the mission. Uh, before they could do it, they even put the starliner in free drift for a while, so just floating around off, you know, a couple hundred meters off the uh, the port of the, the bow of the space station, while they figured it all out, uh, and then he was able to fly it in, uh, for for the docking, so, and that that went smoothly. But you know, those are the two kind of core issues. The cooling system used more water than they had expected, but future Starliners, as I said, are going to have a bigger water tank. They use a sublimator that creates a block of ice that then sublimates to make the cooling and they just burn through the water, I guess, the block of ice faster than they thought. So those are the three kind of big things that happened, and NASA and Boeing they don't seem too worried about them.

33:27 - Rod Pyle (Host)
You know, I thought about Starliner and Boeing this morning as I was heating up my breakfast, because I was standing in front of my stove thinking, wow, look at that, it's a gas stove. And I thought, look at how the valves work. I could turn them off. And when they're off, nothing leaks. That I can tell. What an amazing accomplishment in the industrial age. But there you go, apparently it's harder than it looks.

33:51 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Your valves could leak. Who knows right?

33:53 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Well it hasn't blown up my kitchen yet.

33:55 - Tariq Malik (Host)
I will tell you. I understand that in space the margins of what is an acceptable leak are much smaller than they are here on the ground, are much smaller than they are here on the ground. But if I have to hear how small a molecule you know, or helium is, or that kind, of thing again, and I know this is being done a bit on a budget.

34:20 - Rod Pyle (Host)
But when you look back in the Apollo years, so for instance and this is unrelated, but I remember reading somewhere that if you put a liquid oxygen in one of the liquid oxygen tanks like the one that blew up on Apollo 13, they were so well engineered and insulated that it would stay in a liquid form for years, years, many years. You know, because they they knew how to make stuff work. And you know I don't want to belittle Boeing Well, I guess I kind of seem like I do, but it's just, it's a head scratcher to me and I wonder, you know, to this day, if both part of the big emphasis you know we hear it feels like we hear more direct reporting from Boeing than we might from SpaceX and we're also seeing more caution. And I wonder if part of that is because of their history as a cost plus contractor with NASA and the fact they're a publicly owned company with shareholders and they're listed on the stock exchange and all that, if these things all make a difference. But it's just, it's like.

You know, guys, you've been building airplanes for a century. You've been building parts of spacecraft since before the apollo program, you kind of ought to be able to know how to do this. But by the same token you could say you know you should be able to build planes that don't have troubles flying. So I guess it's just a company that's. This endured a lot of changes and certainly something has changed in the last 10 to 15 years. I know a lot of people pin it back to, you know, moving the headquarters away from saddle and all that, who knows?

35:51 - Tariq Malik (Host)
I mean there's all kinds of of monday morning quarterbacking going on and you and you see the difficulties on the airport, on the air aviation side too, that they've been having.

36:00 - Rod Pyle (Host)
That you know really yeah, that was kind of embarrassing. Um. So some more things that are fascinating about starliner. Um, just for basic comparisons, it's it's larger than the old apollo uh space capsule or the crew dragon, and I just mean lean larger in terms of cubic, pressurized cubic feet. It can hold seven people, as I. I think uh crew dragon can too, in a pinch, right, they've just never configured that way in the con.

36:30 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Yeah, in the contract they were required to design two up to seven people.

36:35 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Yeah, in terms which is a tight. If you've ever been in either of those I haven't been in, uh, starliner, but I've been inside the crew dragon and it's would be pretty tight. I mean, you'd basically be butts to faces if you were set up that way. It's smaller than Orion, but not by a whole lot, and cost is interesting. So we wanted all this to cost less than we were paying Russia to go up on Soyuz. Right, because Soyuz got expensive. It started somewhere south of $ million dollars per seat, I think it was 40, 36 or 40 million, and by the time we weren't buying any more tickets to ride on their funky old spacecraft. Um, they were edging up into the mid 80 million mark, oh, 90 nine, 90s.

37:23 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Yeah, oh yeah because we just got some more right yeah, it was like it's, like it's in the, it's in the nineties now for that flight.

37:29 - Rod Pyle (Host)
So so, and here we are with, with SpaceX and Boeing providing rides up to the space station, which is great. It's good to have two operators or, in case something happens to one, and they'll compete, but how competitive are they? So Boeing got 4.6 billion, uh, when all this started and SpaceX got.

No wait, Boeing got 4.2 and SpaceX got 2.6 billion. So SpaceX was cheaper there. There were some additional amounts in between, but SpaceX still got a lot less money than Boeing did. And then Boeing turns around and says, hey, ignore what's over there. It's going to end up costing 90 million per seat at least per seat, according at least to the nasa inspector general whereas spacex is charging 55 million without discounts. So you know that puts so yous well north of spacex and possibly about the same or slightly south of starliner, depending on what kind of deal they had. And tellingly, in 2015, when all this was just starting out, they got dropped. Probably were happy to be dropped, but it got dropped from the commercial resupply contract.

38:39 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Yeah, I mean they're focusing on just flying out this contract as well. Something interesting came up in the post-talking press conference last night as well, and it was this comparison. There's a lot of comparisons between Boeing, starliner and other vehicles and of course everyone wants to point to SpaceX. Look at SpaceX. Spacex has launched eight missions already. You know they don't have as many glitches. You know what's the big deal there. Why is it so different?

And a question was asked, and I think it was Lauren Grush at Bloomberg who said you know, what should we all take about this? Because we're all seeing these glitches that keep happening despite all of the successes. And how does that compare? And how does that compare and Steve Stitch reminded everybody, and I think we've talked about this a little bit in past shows that if you're going to compare something like Starliner directly to Dragon, you have to acknowledge that SpaceX was already flying an uncrewed version of Dragon that they had already built and designed through, like SpaceX agreements with NASA, with plans to scale it up, and Boeing was starting from scratch to build a brand new vehicle and in that sense Steve Stitch compared it to Columbia and STS-1. And that first. You know those first flights and and how, how tricky those were. I mean, you had tiles that fell off the space shuttle with John Young and Bob Crippen watching them float away.

40:16 - Rod Pyle (Host)
OK, but can I interject something here? So I take his point and I know you're not necessarily advocating that point. I'm just but this does sound a bit mealy mouth to me, and not not bashing anybody at NASA, because they have to do what they have to do, they have to say what they have to say and they're a political animal, but it's, you know, it's a little bit like watching the Chinese or, in the case of the space shuttle with Buran, the Russians. As we learned from some of the things the Russians did. They certainly learned quote unquote or borrowed certain things from the shuttle, like the design when they did baran. It's not like this is the first time for any of these things.

The only thing that's different in primary terms is that starliner is hopefully going to be reusable, maybe, possibly, uh, it won't have a reusable rocket until after the sixth flight, if there is a post-six flight. But it's not like this stuff is black magic. You know it's been done before. Boeing's done a lot of it before, and again let me say Boeing, shuttle, apollo, the work they did for DARPA, I could go on and on. As you can see, I'm getting worked up about this, but it's like I've never seen a company in the space trade anyway, make something that's that they've done before. Look so hard. We will have more to say about this and then we'll get on to starship, because that's the other big site for the week, but first let's take this short break.

Okay, I'm done hyperventilating, but wait, but wait, there's more. Um, so I mentioned reusability. So, uh, spacex capsules are reusable, which is good. It's the first time that's been done with something other than the shuttle and, uh, starline is supposed to be. However, they don't have a reusable rocket yet. They're using the atlas 5. They plan to fly that out and they've got just enough to finish that. And there are other commitments on the atlas which, let's remember, uses russian rocket engines, which, so the american congress is not a good thing. So they bought enough to to fly out this manifest and the other flights they've committed to. And then we go on to vulcan and we're still waiting to see if that's going to be partially reusable or not. I have they moved past the. We're going to drop the engines and catch them in mid-air phase.

42:29 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Yet Well, when I spoke to ULA about it, they said that was a further down the line thing to pursue, so not in the first. They're also going to build a new generation of SRBs too.

42:43 - Rod Pyle (Host)
That are going to be a lot cheaper and a lot lighter as well generation of SRBs, too, that are going to be a lot cheaper and a lot lighter as well. Uh to? Is that? Uh going to go back to the composite design the Air Force was experimenting with, or yeah?

42:53 - Tariq Malik (Host)
yeah, it's like a spun up composite version.

42:55 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Finally, oh good because they had they'd already spent the money on that yeah, yeah, but they said that they could fly.

43:01 - Tariq Malik (Host)
They think they can fly these, um, these Starliners, up to 10 times is what they're they're hoping to shoot for, and in fact, there's a black streak on the side of the capsule that's up there now. By the way, the capsule has a name. Its name is calypso uh. That was chosen by, uh, sunny williams, uh, and also their. Her zero g indicator is also called calypso and it is a super sparkly no you mean the one we didn't see, because there was no video.

Well, you should go to CollectSpace, because Robert Perlman has a whole story all about it.

43:30 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Robert Perlman, who we've had on the show before, who we've had on the show before. Yeah, all right. Well, there's more to say there, but I don't want to shortchange SpaceX, because what a marvelous flight yesterday. Oh yes.

43:48 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Really quickly. I just wanted to. There's one thing we didn't talk about and that's on line 43. John, if, if, if you can, if you see it, I just added it there really quickly, because I did want to mention this.

43:52 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Um, and this is the spacesuits oh that's cool which came. They look just like the ones from the manned orbiting laboratory program in the mid-60s yeah, and and so so online online 43.

44:01 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Uh, there's a, there's a link there that uh for for there for reference, if anyone wants to see it. But Boeing has these. They have these Boeing Blue spacesuits that they had. They worked with a contractor and I can't pull up the name.

44:15 - Rod Pyle (Host)
I think it's Collins Collins Aerospace, wasn't it I?

44:18 - Tariq Malik (Host)
thought it was something else. Anyway, the reason I bring it up is because it's Boeing, and so it's the classic Boeing Blue. It up is because it's boeing, and so it's the classic boeing blue. And uh and the. They only weigh 10 pounds and they have, like a zip-up helmet, much like the, what, the uh, not the orlons, the um, socal suits, right, that that russia the russia uses, uh, that have that zip-up helmet too, that that's attached to the actual suit.

Sunny williams said that this was like one of the most comfortable things that she's ever worn on a launch, that it was really flexible. It was really easy to move around in. It looks very futuristic. For people that are listening, it's a blue and gray suit with a lot of black trim. That kind of looks like a mix between a motorcycle full body suit and a flight suit, but also with spacey rings on it and there's this kind of bubble shield helmet that pops down and they really had a lot to say about it. They actually called the suits their two extra crewmates on the mission after they took them off when they got into space for it, and there's a great big zipper up the back that they have. That's how they get into it, so it's pretty cool.

45:36 - Rod Pyle (Host)
And they're a little less Power Rangers looking than the ones that SpaceX uses, although I kind of like the ones SpaceX came out with just because they were. I know they're utilitarian, but they're fun looking, you know.

45:48 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Yeah, and they have that, that sci-fi helmet that you clip on, yeah yeah, they. There's a little bit of captain marvel there, but these ones have nice nice boots and in fact the astronauts, both sunny and will and bush, wore them when they like, entered the space station in their actual nasa flight suits, like those blue iconic ones, and I just thought it was really rude of house guests to enter a house with your shoes on.

46:13 - Rod Pyle (Host)
You know it's like the one thing that we ask everyone for us. So so let's talk about starship. Let's talk about starship. The fourth test flight yesterday, which was a real stand-up-a-cheer moment. Now, you know, we're switching gears here from a crew-capable long-duration spacecraft to something that's still flying without, as far as I know, a fully outfitted crew cabin, certainly no life support. It's just kind of a big stainless steel shell at this point. But they reached most of their goals. Oh yeah, it was a really impressive test flight.

46:49 - Tariq Malik (Host)
All of their goals? I would say they. Yeah, we've got video for the YouTube folks. Here I mean SpaceX. You know again, starship is the world's most powerful rocket. It's 400 feet tall.

Not until this test managed to get either the Starship vehicle or its super heavy booster back to Earth at all. Like each time, either it blew up during ascent or they commanded it to auto destruct, or, as in the case on the most recent flight in March 2024, it broke apart. They broke apart on reentry, it broke apart, they broke apart on re-entry and, very interestingly, during this launch, spacex actually admitted that on that Flight 3, that the Starship was rolling uncontrollably because the RCS, the reaction control system, failed due to a likely blockage. This flight seemed perfect. It launched a little bit later than almost an hour into the window that SpaceX had for it, but they had a clean separation. They had that hot fire staging. The super heavy booster had live video coming all the way back down to Earth where it did its landing burn, and then you can see it in the video hit the ground, hit the water. Yeah, here's the moment. It hits the water and then it just topples over and then the camera feed goes black and the sound from SpaceX was tremendous. They were cheering and they were screaming, and that was great.

Meanwhile, the Starship itself kept going all the way through about a 65-minute flight to attempt another reentry, and that was something that it didn't manage to do on the most recent flight.

Seen any uh as gripping a view of of an aerospace flap in the history of of my space career, it is this one video view of a flap on the starship vehicle and you're watching the, the heat of re-entry burn away the, the tiles and and the cladding around this flap.

It's getting hot, pieces are breaking away, the, the camera screen goes dark and all of the people at space are like oh, no, ah. And then it comes back again and they cheer because the, the camera's still there, which means the spacecraft is still there, the lens is cracked, and then the lens cracks and then they lose the signal again and then it comes back again and and then they cross the 65 kilometer, uh, uh altitude level, which is about as far as they made it on the last flight, and it keeps, it keeps going down, uh, as it was expected, and uh. And then there is a. There was a moment where I actually audibly gasped and like laughed to myself. You know I laugh when I get excited uh we remember that from the last starship test that's right, and you can actually.

You can see it. Yeah, you can see it here a bit because in the video feed there's a little icon of Starship on the way on the bottom of SpaceX's screen and for most of re-entry it is in a little pitch you know for to have that nice dynamic aerodynamic approach on the way down, and then you just see it very quickly flip all the way around and do the landing, burn and then turn again to be upright, and that was the telemetry that we saw for the big flip that they do for the landing and it seems to have worked. Now no one was out there in the Indian Ocean looking for it, trying to watch it come down, so we don't know how much of the spacecraft actually was there. We know that at least one of the flaps was burnt to a crisp and SpaceX even made jokes later about it, which I think you want to touch on. But it was absolutely phenomenal that they made it all the way through.

And so I mean, arguably Starship is a sexy rocket, it's giant, it's stainless steel, clearly a hardy, hardy rocket to withstand so much burn through and still manage to make it. But you can't look away at those launches, and this one did not disappoint. Part of me still wonders, rod, how much more was left to go, because this was just like a bunch of steel and fuel tanks and rocket engines, right, and, of course, all the brains to do all of that accurate steering. But if you're going to fly people to the moon, you need so much more than that, you need so many of it, and I'm wondering how many more of these test flights we have to see before they actually circle the earth. This was not an orbital flight. Orbital speed, yes, not an orbital, actual flight.

They didn't orbit any of that?

51:38 - Rod Pyle (Host)
yeah, let let's talk about that after we take our next break. We'll be right back. And what did you think of it? Well, I mean, I wasn't tracking it as closely as you were because I was working on something else that day, but you know, it's always kind of an emotional experience because it kind of feels like we're back and again, as I say, often being a boomer. For me it's like oh, finally, we've been waiting since 1972 for something that's actually capable of leaving Earth orbit, we hope. So that's fascinating, oh, but wait, we have to refuel it somewhere between seven and 566 times to make it go anywhere else. Different conversation, um, but it was amazing to watch. As you said, that, that moment of the moments of burn through were kind of uncanny, because we've seen other spacecraft fail sadly a couple of spacetles included but we've never seen it real time before.

It's like oh look, there's a hole burning through the superstructure. So that was fascinating. I have to say, from a media standpoint, I get a little tired. While the screaming and yelling at SpaceX, I'm excited too, it feels, when they pull the camera back and, having been there for some of their events, you know they kind of grab everybody at the office and front load them down this little area ahead of the cameras. It's like okay, everybody cheer, you know, and I think these people are genuinely enthusiastic. But it feels a little programmed and again coming from the age of what.

You know, the, the NASA announcers and PAOs used to talk like sports people. All right, we have ignition. Apollo 11 has cleared the tower. It's gotten much bouncier and if you've been monitoring social media since this, there's a lot of grumpy old men my age and many younger actually who are saying you know who are these, these candy drops? They have doing the, the live narration for this.

But you know what? It's a new age. Societies change. We have social media. We have, for god's sake, spacecom not that I'm accusing you of any of this, but you know we've got a lot more venues for coverage and SpaceX and SpaceX's flight and their control rooms. They should be able to do whatever they want. But I wanted to mention you know you're saying how much more is there? Let's not forget that I believe this was the year that Yusaku Maezawa was supposed to be circling the moon with seven or eight of his closest friends in the Dear Moon flight. The moon with seven or eight of his closest friends in the dear moon flight, which meant, you know, being capable of reaching earth orbit, leaving earth orbit into translunar ejection, orbiting the moon or at least doing a flyby, and then coming home. So that's life support seats for that many people. Um, you want to make sure it can re-enter, because it was supposed to re-enter under its own, would be transferring astronauts to anything else to come home. So that's a lot of steps away from where they are now.

54:34 - Tariq Malik (Host)
And actually he just canceled that. Yeah, it was supposed to be last year actually 2023 was when it was supposed to be and they actually canceled you're talking about canceled his order of the Starship Moon mission on June 1st, the same day as the Starliner first launch attempt, and you know, I understand. I mean he was financing a lot of the early development of this.

55:05 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Well, some I mean, I think it was something south of a billion dollars and we don't know if he's getting any of that back.

55:13 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Yeah, I would expect. Not, that's, that's water under the bridge. Uh, right, um and uh, and I do, my heart does go out for the eight people the artists and the two alternates there was a uh that were selected for that flight. You know, they know that they it wasn't something that that they had asked for, but it was like a gift that was given to them. Yeah, and now it's been kind of wrenched away and uh, and I guess there's a. There's a lesson there to not not counter chickens, I guess, before they're fully hatched. But um, uh, but you know, they're understandably really upset. You know about why you would sign on to something like that, only to find out that, like a, you know, a couple years later it's, it's, it's down the, down the tube so you're telling me you feel bad for your comp?

your competitor, tim dodd well, yeah well, the competitor. You know we do, we do different things. I feel, I feel bad if if someone came up to you and said hey, rod, you want to come with me on a private, private trip to space, I'll pay for it, man.

56:10 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Knowing what I know about this project at the moment, I would be breathing a big sigh of relief right now. Dodge that bullet. I don't have to be embarrassed and check it out at the last second.

56:21 - Tariq Malik (Host)
But I think Tim Dodd, the everyday astronaut, as well as all of the other musicians and artists and filmmakers that were selected to go, understood that they wouldn't fly until it was ready to go and in fact at least one photographer mentioned because we did a piece actually just came out today on spacecom about the Dear Moon participants who said, look, if it was just me, I would just wait until it's ready to go. I got no problem waiting.

56:52 - Rod Pyle (Host)
But they're not writing the big checks.

56:53 - Tariq Malik (Host)
They're not writing the checks and perhaps it was time for the next deposit. And Mizao was like you know what. I already flew to space. He bought not one, but two tickets to the International Space Station, already Did a whole big video thing about it. Maybe he's like you know what. That was enough for me and I'm going to move on and do other things and just want to finance it. Spacex, your project is in a good place. You've got NASA contracts to land people on the moon. Thanks.

57:21 - Rod Pyle (Host)
And, by the way, that extends the point of when we're talking about work left know, work left to do. All we've talked about so far is getting to orbit and getting the pieces home yes, hopefully safely for reuse, eventually with people in them. The Lunar Lander version is a whole different bag of apples and I also just wanted to mention, before we go to that and we have to take one more break, the commentators for the launch, after it was over, as I'm sure you saw, took out their little chrome spacex rocket torches and some some marshmallows and said, okay, let's celebrate. Well, there's some more starship coming, with the emphasis on some mores. And both of them, with both camera angles, started torching their marshmallows and the two young ladies, theirs caught on fire and they stood there with a big smile on their face holding this burning marshmallow. But I had a lot of conflicting emotions at that moment, right, because all I could think of were heat shield tiles, space shuttles, things like that.

58:26 - Tariq Malik (Host)
It's like you know, that is not your best look for for this experimental flight you, you forgot the most important fact, and that's the fact that they, they, they toasted their marshmallows with starship shaped lighters. I said that yeah, oh oh, come on, I completely missed it. I spaced out on it because they sell those. Spacex sells those lighters. You can buy them at spacex's.

58:49 - Rod Pyle (Host)
I think they're like 50, 60, something like that, maybe more, I don't know um yeah, and the flame is is where the rocket engines are, which is great it was just the burning marshmallows felt like a bit of a misstep there and they have described their dragon capsules as toasty mar.

59:02 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Actually, elon musk has called them that as toasty marshmallows. Uh, uh, when they come back from space they do. They do kind of have that look. So, in fact, kate Tice, uh uh, the NASA, the, the SpaceX, um uh uh manager, that uh, that toasted her marshmallow there actually had it with some coffee. After the uh, the end of the launch campaign, she tweeted out a nice photo of it to give everyone an update on that marshmallow status. And, by the way, if you saw some familiar faces, kate Tice and Jesse Anderson are SpaceX's normal moderators. But Dan Hewitt, a former NASA PAO from Johnson, has been at SpaceX for quite a while now for these launches, and it was really nice to see him on such a successful flight again too.

59:51 - Rod Pyle (Host)
How could they pass on having us in that job slot? I mean, really, we'd have such a good time With your laugh and my sarcasm. How could they pass? Well, maybe that's why I also want to add a couple more things here, and we do not have any more breaks, so we're going to plow right on through. At the same time as they're getting ready for this, spacex had 14 launches in may yeah and uh. Just before this, they had two within a couple days of each other. They've had uh launches within a day or two of each other on they've had launches on the same day yeah, yeah, on different coasts, and it's just.

You know, think what you will of elon one way or the other, but it's just astonishing. Many credits to gwynne shotwell, of course, and lots of other people at spacex and thousands of them, but you know, kudos to them for making this as always planned there, an assembly line operation, and making it look easy and routine after all that experimentation, as opposed to quote old space unquote, which is always made. In my opinion, here every flight looks somewhat bespoke and expensive and well, space is hard and all that, and here we have SpaceX going. Well, it's not that hard if you plan ahead to make it routine.

01:01:07 - Tariq Malik (Host)
And there's a point that I wanted to make, because Elon Musk and SpaceX, they've committed a couple of things. Number one we haven't touched on the fact about how much material is lost on these test flights, because SpaceX isn't recovering anything right now. On the Super Heavy booster alone, they threw away 33 of their Raptor rocket engines. On Starship there's six of them, there's three vacuum level ones and there's three….

01:01:36 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Can I just point out, they make an engine a day. They make an engine a day, that's a month worth of engines.

01:01:41 - Tariq Malik (Host)
That's a big deal, that's the planning that we're talking about, and they have built a new factory in Boca chica at the starbase facility. They call it the star factory and they have said that they're hoping to get to a point where they can turn out not an engine, a day rod, but an entire starship vehicle a day. That they're they're ramping up. I'm sorry, wait a minute. This is what they said. All Now, of course, spacex is not for big claims, but they are.

01:02:12 - Rod Pyle (Host)
This is like putting together a Camry in eight seconds, or something Right.

01:02:17 - Tariq Malik (Host)
But did you think five years ago, when Elon said they were going to build a Raptor engine a day and roll it out the plant, that they were going to actually make that rate? And then here they are.

01:02:29 - Rod Pyle (Host)
You thought that they were going to actually make that rate. And then here they are. You thought that they'd do it. Having been to Hawthorne yeah, before going to the factory here in Southern California I wouldn't have said that. But having seen the fact that this was designed to be the GM of rocket making, and seeing you've been there right.

01:02:42 - Tariq Malik (Host)
I have not. So that's the difference between us. You've seen the factory floor, I have not.

01:02:49 - Rod Pyle (Host)
I haven't had the pleasure of of. Well, on the other hand, I've never taken a zero gravity flight. Oh wait, I was supposed to, but then the executive editor at spacecom said uh, no, let me take that story back. I'll fly that for you.

01:03:01 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Um, anyway, no hard feelings there. A really smart guy, whoever that was, we sent you to the desert that one time, right to go with Curiosity, right.

01:03:10 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Well, when you say you sent me, that implies that I was compensated for the time it took to get out there. So yes, I went in your name, let's put it that way and then got beaten up on finishing the project, but that's another story.

01:03:22 - Tariq Malik (Host)
My point is my point about the pace. We'll talk about that. You know Something? I owe you a drink, I care. My point is that the commitment is there Again. The timescales they will always be longer than claimed.

01:03:43 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Yeah, that's crazy.

01:03:44 - Tariq Malik (Host)
But if there's anything I have learned, it's that when they say they're going to do something, they will eventually get to it in some form. Maybe it's not an entire starship, but it's like a shell or something a day. And this pattern that you talked about about prepping for the high scale, high rate is something that we are seeing being emulated by other companies. Rocket Lab is just about ready to launch their 50th mission in just a few years. Relativity Space, founded by a USC alum, has basically built a 3D printing assembly line of rockets before they even had contracts to launch all of those rockets. So there's other companies that are taking this model seriously too, and we could see a big explosion, not in the RUD rapid, unscheduled assembly, but a big ramp up of flight rate, of vehicle rates, of testing and iteration. That the Starship stuff is just the tip of the iceberg.

01:04:45 - Rod Pyle (Host)
So this brings you to a question which I tried to answer by by looking at the various spy sites that are set up around starbase, but was unable to get an answer. Do you happen to know how many more are standing by in various forms of readiness for launch? Because there's usually a lineup of somewhere between three and six more starships just kind of hanging out there waiting to be used, but not all of them are going to fly.

01:05:07 - Tariq Malik (Host)
There's a good many. I haven't looked at the feeds from like the Padre, south Padre Island and NASA Space Flight and those guys that have the consistent 24-hour coverage, but what we saw in the video at least that SpaceX showed was something on the order of like three to four Starships just sitting there. There's a whole other building now They've built like two VABs that are just filled with super heavy boosters, and so they've got yeah, we've got a nice shot on the YouTube feed of just all of the assembly buildings that they've got for that, and you can see there, just in this shot alone, there's at least two freestanding starships in the back there, and then there's at least two freestanding starships in the back there, and then there's more boosters in each of those tall buildings just beneath it, and then that long big, huge thing is the Star Factory part where they're building all of the components for the vehicles themselves.

01:06:05 - Rod Pyle (Host)
So where's Mechazilla in this shot?

01:06:09 - Tariq Malik (Host)
It's further down the road, so that road that's just to. I believe on the bottom side that's where you drive by there's a big starship entrance there at the top left of the image. It's like a great big sign that says Starbase, that you can take your picture of A lot of people do. And then you keep going down towards the beach and then on the right side is where Mechzilla is, where they're building a second pad, for that's a second Mechzilla that they want to do.

Spacex wants to have two different Starship launch pads here. They're building two at the Kennedy Space Center, at their their complex 39A, at their complex 39A. And then Elon Musk has said and this could be that optimistic timeline front, but he did say that Flight 5, which we expect is going to be, yeah, so this view, by the way, for the folks on the YouTube, this is the Megazilla thing it's about. You know it's a short drive further towards the beach from the Starbase facility and you can park literally across the street from the world's tallest rocket and then just sit there for an afternoon and marvel at it. People do. They have cookouts and stuff at the beach further down the way.

01:07:21 - Rod Pyle (Host)
They can burn their marshmallows there. I'm always shocked how close it is to the storage tanks they show on the left there.

01:07:27 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Yeah, and I think they they've been building more and moving some around, but yeah, they, they haven't. They hadn't had issues. There was some damage from the first flight on those tanks and so they had to, they had to make adjustments to it, but that was flying pieces, it wasn't.

01:07:39 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Uh, it was big chunks of the lost man.

01:07:40 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Of course they haven't had they haven't had any of those problems since they put that, that, uh, that flame deflector in.

01:07:46 - Rod Pyle (Host)
So yeah, how about that? Well it, this is all kind of astonishing, and you know, for years, I think, we've all wanted to be enthusiastic and positive about this, and then the you know, the timeline stretched out more and more not as long as starlighter, though, so you got to give them that, I mean 2019.

01:08:05 - Tariq Malik (Host)
2016 the starship was announced, 2019 the first one was shown, and here we are, uh, five years later, and and?

01:08:13 - Rod Pyle (Host)
no, and it wouldn't seem like a long time if it hadn't been for his projections of yeah, we'll have this out in about uh, 40 minutes. So you know he was kind of his own enemy there.

01:08:23 - Tariq Malik (Host)
I was saying that he did say. He did say at the end of the launch that they could try to catch super heavy on the mechzilla chopsticks with Flight 5, which we think might be later in the summer or the early fall. Wow.

01:08:38 - Rod Pyle (Host)
That's going to be something to see if it works.

01:08:41 - Tariq Malik (Host)
They could also wipe out their launch gantry. I would say don't expect SpaceX to try to catch one until they have the second one built, or at least so close to being built. The second pad so close to being built that it won't interrupt the next test flight, so that's going to be a thing for me.

01:09:00 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Well, god bless them and let's hope that their next flight comes soon and goes well, and I think they're talking about as soon as the end of June, right?

01:09:09 - Tariq Malik (Host)
I mean I said the end of the, the summer, but they have said very quickly in fact one of the really said june, yeah, yeah, well, they, they, I'd have to go back.

I, I thought I saw elon say like a couple of weeks, uh, but but that would be before the end of the month and the launch license for this flight four has had the night before. Yeah, well, no, no, no, uh, faa announced it two days before. Two days before. That's the earliest that we've seen it come, and it includes a caveat for three different failure modes that spacex says look, this might happen, this might happen, we're prepped for it. And if, if those failure modes happen, they don't have to have a whole big FAA investigation into it and then make all these changes because they know what they think is going to fail and the FAA signed off on it, that might make this next testing regime go a lot faster, because we'll see how it goes.

01:10:02 - Rod Pyle (Host)
But, however, there is a new legal challenge. I think this one's about groundwater contamination or something. Oh for Starbase. Yeah, a new legal challenge, I think this one's about groundwater contamination or something.

01:10:08 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Oh for, for starbase, yeah and you know.

01:10:12 - Rod Pyle (Host)
So who's I talking to about this? The other day, somebody's expanding the site?

01:10:16 - Tariq Malik (Host)
yeah, they are well.

01:10:17 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Somebody was asking me questions about, you know, orion g.

Why is it so hard? I think this was at the conference. Why? Why is it so hard for them to make a lunar capable heat shield, when they did it a bunch of times during Apollo and I had to give them that whole story about. Look, according to the program manager years ago, it's EPA regulations and they can't get a waiver to make one stinking heat shield with the materials they used to use because they have environmental implications. And it's like look, give me the project. I know a couple of borders I can cross. They'll be happy to let me do it there and then I'll bring it home. No, they can't do that.

Well, but I mean really, you know this is of national importance, depending on your, your position on the new space race. Quote unquote it's it's almost like a wartime footing in some people's minds. It's like sign a waiver, waiver and do it out near Barstow, my favorite place to malign because it's hideous out there, the California high desert, it looks like a blast test site. Actually I've got five acres of property up in the Oregon desert that I'll let them use because it looks like somebody dropped a nuclear bomb there because it has nothing but creosote trees and ants. Build your heat shield there. God dropped a nuclear bomb there because it has nothing but creosote trees and ants. Build your heat shield there. God bless you. You can use sand from my little patch of desert to build your heat shield if you want, but no, and so anyway, getting back to this.

01:11:38 - Tariq Malik (Host)
We should go camping there. You know we're trying to.

01:11:40 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Oh god, it's such a wasteland, uh. But I got a couple of lots of colorado that are that are prettier.

01:11:47 - Tariq Malik (Host)
I'll just give you one, but getting back to Starship, I've got some oceanfront property in Arizona if you want to talk about.

01:11:56 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Well, it may be soon, but getting back to Starship, this is an out-and-out race to return to the moon. Both sides acknowledge it handily. And let's let them get on with their operations. And you know, if a certain rare earthworm and I, I'm kind of blundering into political territory here, so excuse me, unless there's something you know fundamentally dangerous, well, there is one danger of it coming back, but unless there's something fundamentally dangerous in the long term, you know it's not like they're dropping spent nuclear fuel around the launch site or something. So yeah, you know we may get some email about this, but I just have to say I just wish that they could kind of get their problems cleared up and get this thing test testing as quickly as possible it would have been good to make.

01:12:44 - Tariq Malik (Host)
It would have been good if they had done all of that work at the beginning, when they started building star.

01:12:50 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Well, and not told everybody. Oh, we'll just fly falcon nines out of there, no worries they said, that that's a lot.

01:12:56 - Tariq Malik (Host)
I mean, I know, I know that we're kind of getting long in the long in the time, but but spacex said they were going to launch falcon heavies, falcon heavies, falcon heavies, and that was it. And then they decided to make a rocket that is like three times more powerful or whatever, and uh, uh, and and so much bigger, and it changes the scale. And now they've scaled it up on an, on a industrial level, uh, and so there are things that do change. I get why the people that have had this nice pristine beach have uh, uh for many, many years and decades are, are a little miffed at this, this company that comes in and builds this massive complex, um, and you know that's a whole other discussion, uh, uh about the, the value of that uh to the community at large. But but we'll have to see how it all plays out because you know, the uh, the Cape Canaveral is wetlands and marsh and protected areas, and NASA has been there for 60-plus years.

01:13:55 - Rod Pyle (Host)
Yeah, and it's a little bit like buying a beachfront property across the street from the beach and having somebody come and build a seven-story hotel in front of your place and your view is gone. It's not a good analogy because it's more dangerous than that, but it's an analogy All right. Well, I want to thank everybody from TARC and myself for joining us today for episode number one 14 of this week at space, star landers and starships. Don't forget to check out spacecom, his lovely website, where he spends most of his time, and the national space society at nssorg. Both are good places to satisfy your spaceflight cravings, and I didn't give the website for spacecom because, oh, it's spacecom. So, tarek, where is the best place for us to spy on you and your gaming lifestyle?

01:14:41 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Well, you can find me on Twitter at Tarek J Malik, as always, as well as at spacecom, and if you do like video game stuff, I am. Spacetron Plays on YouTube, and this summer hopefully actually this weekend, I hope to get back on the bike. It's had the first bike wreck of the summer and I'm really excited about it. I do want to ask really quick for everyone. We want to know what you thought too about Starship, so let us know. And Starliner, let Let us know in the email.

01:15:05 - Rod Pyle (Host)
You know when yeah, cause we want to start reading email out of the email bag we we get. We get a few every week, but we could get more. So give us something pithy and some jokes. For God's sakes, please stop me. Before I joke again, remember to, as he commented, please drop us a line. And that is uh at twist at twittv. That's TWIS at twittv Because we welcome your email and we answer your email and sometimes we even read your email. New episodes of this podcast published every Friday, and your favorite podcatcher, as you surely know by now. So make sure to subscribe, tell your friends and give us thumbs up, five stars, seven rockets, whatever you got. And don't forget, you can get all the great programming with video streams in their complete entirety, along with some stuff you can't see anywhere else on club twit, for just $7 a month, tarek. What else can you get that would be a 10th as cool as this show for $7 a month.

01:16:03 - Tariq Malik (Host)
Absolutely Nothing See.

01:16:07 - Rod Pyle (Host)
I'd even buy your chair for $7 a month, and you can follow the TwitTech Podcast Network at Twit on Twitter and on Facebook and Twittv on Instagram. Thank you, and we'll see you all next week.


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