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Trash or Treasure? Sustainability in Space with Outpost & Jason Dunn



Join Tim and Jason Dunn, CEO of Outpost as they discuss the sustainability of the tons we have sent into space.


Jason Dunn is the co founder and CEO of Outpost. Outpost is a sustainable space company that is working to enable the precision return of satellites and other orbital payloads from space. Jason is also the co founder of Made in Space.








Full Transcript:

[00:00:00] Hello and welcome to another edition of podcasts for the future. I'm your host, Tim Chrisman from foundation for the future. I'm joined today by Jason Dunn. The co founder and CEO of Outpost. Outpost is a sustainable space company that is working to enable the precision return of satellites and other orbital payloads from space.

Jason's the co founder of Made in Space as well. And I'm excited to get the conversation rolling with him.


Jason Dunn: Alrighty. Welcome back, Jason. Great to have you here. Thanks for taking the time to chat. Oh my gosh. Thanks for, thanks for having me. This is like the highlight of my month.

Tim Chrisman: You are the most excited that anybody's ever been to be here. So thank you for that. It's I, I personally am very excited.

You know, I saw you all pitch at South by Southwest. And have consistently been talking with people [00:01:00] about this problem of bringing things back from space. It's the thing. It's hard to do. Turns out we don't do it very often. And so I'm super excited to have a chance to chat with you about that here as we get going.

Jason Dunn: Awesome. Yeah, I mean, it's kind of crazy. We've, we've sent 15, 000 tons to space in the history of space exploration, and today only about 200 tons have ever returned. Yeah.

Tim Chrisman: No, and it's, and a lot of that is, is people.

Yeah. No. And so, but before we get into outposts, what you guys are doing you know, want to hear a little bit more about you, you know, what, what got you here?

Jason Dunn: Yeah, thanks. I've I think I had like, I had a really interesting childhood that you know, I don't think as a kid, I fully appreciated this until I got old enough to look back on it, but.

So I grew up on the Gulf coast of Florida in a town that really, you know, not, not all that much going [00:02:00] on there besides we got to live on the water and spend most of our days on our boats. And that was my childhood. I was like on my little aluminum flats boat just having fun, messing around on boats.

And by all measures, I should have been a marine biologist. Like. It was a young child. I was like falling in love with the natural world wanting to do anything I could as an, as an adult to protect it. And then one fateful day in December of 1999, there was a space shuttle launch. There was nighttime, it was like bright, pretty close to bedtime.

Like I could stay up a little bit late and watch it. And so I went into my front yard and looked due East across, you know, basically the state of Florida. And I saw this little star moving up into the sky and I just spent my day on the boat, having fun on my boat in my little ocean. And my imagination was running wild that, you know, these astronauts were doing something very similar.

They were in their little boat. They were leaving the [00:03:00] shore of earth, going into the ocean of space. And I watched him, that star joined all the other stars. And and I was captivated. This was like, this was it for me. I kind of found the thing I was interested in and it was, recognizing that space and earth are very much the same thing.

We're all part of the same thing and that these aren't separate. And from that early age, I had this like realization that maybe the solution to protecting our planet has a lot to do with leaving the planet and going out into space. And so it became like a lifelong interest of mine to find ways to.

Utilize space to make Earth more resilient and to protect our planet. And that led me into, you know, going to college and studying aerospace engineering. I got to work on the space shuttle program which was pretty cool. Like I actually got to work inside the space shuttle that inspired me. And then.

And then that led to starting, you know, companies and and that's how I am where I am today.

Tim Chrisman: No, I think that's cool. [00:04:00] And, you know, there's, there's a ton of people that, you know, and I think the literature plays this out, that they think their life's going to go one way. Like this is, you know, by all, by all accounts, I should be insert thing here.

And then there's that pivotal event that makes people realize. Well, maybe, maybe there's more. And especially in the space sector, you know, everybody's got that story. That story might happen when somebody was 50. It might happen when they were four. But they've got that story and it does seem to revolve around this idea that like, maybe there's something bigger, like I can be a part of something that's truly big and inspiring.

And I, I, you know, see that that's what fuels a lot of people. And I imagine that is what has fueled you through multiple companies as you've started. run through rough times, good times. I, I imagine that's what you look back on.

Jason Dunn: Yeah. I think it's, [00:05:00] you know, there is for me, the, the much bigger piece is I was so I was in college, I was getting to work on the space shuttle in college and I, I remember it was it was a summer and I was out there Kennedy Space Center and there was an all hands meeting.

Charlie Bolden, the administrator of NASA, was, was at Kennedy and he had a big important message. Yeah. He was in this auditorium. I'm, my back's against the wall. I'm in the very back of the room and as the intern there and Charlie gets up on stage and very emotionally explains that the spatial program was going to end and that most of the people in that room would not have a job and and there I am in the back going about to graduate with the idea that the whole reason I went to school was to work on the space shuttle.

Yeah, I'm like, ah, like, what do I do? And I. That same summer, I was given a book by the lovely people over at the Space Frontier [00:06:00] Foundation. It's Gerard O'Neill's book, The High Frontier, and they kind of hand it out like, like the Bible. And in fact, there's even a note inside. It says, after you read this, you have to give this book to somebody else so they can read it.

And so anyway, I got this book and it's the same summer and I, I, you know, I read the book and. What, you know, what Jerry did in that book was, you know, he's a Princeton professor. I think it's 1969. He poses this question to his, his students is a planetary surface, the best place for an expanding technological civilization, the research, they all kind of come back unequivocally.

No, like, right. free space and expanding into free space is how we should grow as a technological civilization. And then he wrote this book on how you would do that. And the very first part of the book is essentially, you know, it's early 1970s space shuttles on the drawing board. And [00:07:00] he explains the space shuttle and he's like, we're going to have this like heavy duty lift capability.

It's going to be incredibly low costs and very routine flights. And therefore, We're going to build cities in space and and he uses like Brooklyn Bridge building technology, like incredibly simple stuff to show you build city size, you know, with with artificial gravity and everything in space. And I was incredibly frustrated when I read that because on one hand, He outlined how that was going to happen in, I don't know, like the year 2000, right?

And I was like upset that that was not the future I was living in. Yeah, yeah. Like reading the book, it should have already happened. Why am I not living in that cool future? And at the same time, the shuttle's getting retired. The complete catalyst of that whole idea is going away. And and it just made me really upset because I, what I realized was that future could exist within our lifetime.

It wasn't [00:08:00] a great, great, great grandchildren thing. We do it for them. It was like, we can do this selfishly for ourselves. And I so that became the big, crazy idea that got me like super hooked on what's the vision is we can, we can create these, like these cities that make room for. Millions of people and and if I, you know, one of the things that's helped me a lot is I, I like to look forward into the future and kind of think about what does that future look like?

What are some certainties? And and I feel like there's this, this. Opportunity to really protect planet earth. If we do, we can re green the planet. We can move most industry off the planet. Return our planet into the, the ecosystem. It had pre industrial revolution almost, you know, you know, maybe there's a point in time where planet earth is protected the way we protect our state parks.

Yeah. And that's how we, that's how you think of [00:09:00] earth, like hundreds of years into the future is like this protected place. And so that, that's always driven me. And it's like, in fact, it's why I started made in space. It's even outpost exists as I feel like these are the initial building blocks towards a future where you can have cities in space and millions of people living and working in space.

Tim Chrisman: Yeah, no, I, I think, you know, when I talk with people about, you know, the promise of space, a lot of times the idea is like, oh, that's like science fiction or like what utility is it? And it's like, well, you know, just, there's a lot of talk right now about how much computing power AI uses, how much energy that's going to use.

Well, if you put that in space. Cooling costs are significantly less, I promise. And you've got solar power and people are like, Oh, Oh, okay. Like, yeah, you could offload hundreds of terabytes worth of power generation. And we've got the technology to do this. It doesn't need to be dramatically different.

And yeah. [00:10:00] 

Jason Dunn: Yep. Yeah. Yeah. You're right. I mean, it's your, the sun is always shining. Yeah. You don't have to worry about, about nighttime. You can, you can get perpetual sunlight. There's, you know, there, one of the things that's always fascinated me was the the story of the, the story of how the industrial revolution got started.

There was, I think it was like, Okay. England was running out of birch forest. You're cutting birch forest down, burning it for fuel to keep the houses warm. And they knew England had these mines that were filled with coal, but they were also filled with water. And there was no way to really like get the water out of the mines to get access to this coal.

And Gentleman came along Frederick Tudor, and he. He he created a coke oven that was able a very low cost way to turn coal into steel and that steel then was used to [00:11:00] make pumps and then he used to get the water out of these mines to get more coal and and then that coal either went to burn in, in fireplaces to, for energy or to make more steel.

And it was that one process of that coke oven that he invented that low cost ability to create steel that was the catalyst for the entire industrial revolution. It was how we came into the machine age was that we had access to abundant and low cost steel. And what I've always kind of remarked is like one single new process can unlock an entire industry.

And in this case, it unlocked the entire industrial revolution. And the interest to me for space is that space has. It's environment itself is so unique compared to earth that there is room to unlock new processes. We have gravity, zero gravity. We have variable gravity. We have a vacuum at our disposal.

We have that perpetual [00:12:00] sunlight and the ability to radiate waste heat easily into the black body. All of these things that you don't have on earth. My intuition says. That will be the, the tool set of the space industrialists as they create these new processes that unlock entirely new products and industries and capabilities that we don't even have today.

Tim Chrisman: Right. Well, and if you look across history, like the most innovative places in society are those places on the frontier, you know, the cosmopolitan cities, it's, they have it easy. They don't need to figure out how to get water and food, and they don't have to get innovative with what they're doing. And you're right, when you're in space, it's not metaphorical that everything is trying to kill you.

Like it is on the ground, you know, people joke about Australia. Yeah. Everything wants to kill you. Well, not necessarily. There's still water. There's still food. Like it's, it's rough, but it's not space. And so like, if everything is out to get you in [00:13:00] space, that fuels a lot of creativity by virtue of the fact that most people would prefer to keep living.

And so they're going to get pretty creative to get around some of these problems as they go up and out. So

Jason Dunn: yeah, the front, the frontier has always been a very important in place. Yeah, for us to develop as a species. It's like without, without the edge, the center falls apart and we all live in the center, but you have to be on the edge exploring and pushing the boundary.

Well,

Tim Chrisman: and it's, you know, sociologically you need a place for the misfits. There's always going to be misfits. And you send them to the frontier, and they push the bounds of what's possible, and it's okay there. It's not okay to do that in Paris. Okay. All right, fine. I don't think it is. Yeah, turns out you're getting a lot of trouble.

You know, but but yeah, you know, you talked about, you know, that speech for the space shuttles being canceled here at school to work on the space shuttle. You know, how does that translate to you then starting, or, you know, being one of the co founders there have made in [00:14:00] space.

Jason Dunn: Yep. Well, you know, I.

Let's come back to that question real quick. 'cause somehow my, like, my memory just, just caught up with me and, and, and told me, I, I said something incorrect a second ago. I said Frederick Tudor was the person who invented the co cove and it's actually Abraham Darby and Frederick Tudor. Also an interesting, and this'll tie in, I think to probably your question but while I got the name Frederick Tudor on my brain Yeah.

This guy he's responsible for creating a pretty critical piece of refrigeration technology, which was always like, I studied, I remember like, I don't know, maybe it almost two decades ago was studying Clayton Christensen and the innovators dilemma and his ideas on disruption. You know, the story of, Of food preservation is a very interesting story of disruption because it started with the spice trade, right?

We were moving spices [00:15:00] from Asia into England and Europe. We thought it was to preserve food really just made rotten food taste better. But then then all of a sudden there was ice harvesting. So it was like frozen lakes in Massachusetts getting chopped up and the ice being used for in these ice boxes that kind of look like mini fridges today.

And, you know, everybody in the spice trade did not become ice harvesters. Their entire lives were disrupted by this entirely new kind of innovation. And then and that ice harvesting went pretty far. Like literally India has ice houses, like where ice was moved all the way to India, the place where the spices were.

And, and those ice houses kept things cold through the warm months. But then refrigeration came along, and I think it if memory serves me right, Frederick Tudor was one of the innovators there of creating this refrigeration technology that you know, in the beginning, it was labeled by the ice harvesters as artificial ice.

And artificial ice was bad for you and don't, don't trust [00:16:00] artificial ice, right? And then but of course we see where that went. The ice harvesters went away. The, you know, these refrigeration techniques came about and that's where we are today. And which always left me thinking, well, is this it? It was like, it was the refrigerator in our kitchen, the pinnacle of food preservation.

Or is there another step that happens where You know, the, the fridge, the refrigeration companies go out of business because the next innovation comes about that completely disrupts them. And that's most likely what happens. And that's, that's just the story of disruption through and through. Um, which is similar to like, I mean, I think it's, it was a big piece of why did we start made in space?

So part of why, why does Outposts exist is there's, there's this area of. And it's always for me, like the, the, the fun of creating a startup is that you get to work on disruptive technologies in a, in a sandbox, in a place where the market is not paying attention to [00:17:00] you know, the revenues aren't big, the markets aren't that big, but you can develop a new technology that then you can take into bigger markets and be very disruptive.

Yeah. We did that with made in space. We were made in space was started in, in 2010. At that, that summer of 2010, we MakerBot had just kind of released their first 3d printer. It was made like balsa wood. It was, you had to like build it yourself. It was made of balsa wood. And it was the patents had expired from Stratasys.

So MakerBot came about and built this like low cost 3d printer. And and it wasn't that, that good either, but we had a good friend of ours, Dan Barry astronaut, three times shuttle astronaut said, you know, guys, like if I had one of these things on the space station, it would have been really handy, like, even though it's made of wood, like it's better than what the space station has today.

And. We were, the idea for made in space was centered on the big future of, you know, if you could 3d print in space, you're the [00:18:00] universe is your build volume. You could build gigantic things that you could never put on a launch vehicle. But how do you get there? You have to build something disruptive that can go after something a little bit nearer term.

So we built this 3d printer. We took it to NASA and and we said, we want to work with you guys to put this on the space station. And we ended up, NASA gave us a contract where we. We spent a summer just flying on the zero gravity aircraft at Johnson, and we figured out how to make 3D printers work in zero gravity, which was pretty cool.

A lot of fun. Like I got, I got to, if you add up all the 30 seconds of weightlessness I've had had over those flights, I've spent two hours of my life weightless now. I got really, really used to that experience, but we ended up figuring it out and we built the 3d printer. We got it on the space station.

Working alongside NASA it was a really [00:19:00] great success. The thing worked really well. And then that led to us building a second 3d printer that became owned and operated by made in space. And we, we offered a commercial service that the, where the anybody like it could be NASA or another agency who wanted something for the space station, but.

We had groups on the ground who are paying us to, to print things in space. And there is, we did all kinds of like educational exercises, parts getting built and brought back home. We had Lowe's home improvement printing the first, you know, set of tools in space. And it was just, it was an amazing, it was an amazing program.

And but then from that, we learned a lot. We ended up building 3d printers that could build really big things in space under NASA program. And then my favorite thing of all was we built a machine the size of a microwave oven that went on the space station and built fiber optic cables. But what we found was that when you [00:20:00] make optical fiber cables in zero gravity, they're at least one order of magnitude, if not two orders of magnitude, lower loss than the, than the cables that we use on earth for everything from data centers to long haul telecom, like we're talking right now across the cable.

And when you make them in space, you get you can get 10 times the distance for, you know, without losses. So really fascinating stuff that really proved that point that was making earlier that the space environment allows us to unlock new types of processes.

Tim Chrisman: Yeah, no, and I think, you know, things like that, where, you know, it's, it's difficult sometimes for people, especially when they're starting out as an entrepreneur to recognize that it's those small wins that keep you going towards the big goal that, yeah, the goal wasn't we're putting a 3D printer to make fiber optics.

Cables. The goal was the universe is our, [00:21:00] you know, print space. We can print anything anywhere as any size. And I think, you know, having that humility that like, Hey, we're working towards that and we can do other things is what ends up making you successful. And no doubt why made in space, you know, was so successful for 10 years.

Jason Dunn: Yeah, it was. I mean, and it went on to do something that we still haven't really seen. Maybe, maybe only a couple other space startups do, which is it went full cycle. We we built the, we built the business. We had really strong revenues and profit. And and then we were lucky enough in 2020 for AeroEquity to come in and purchase the company and rebranded as RedWire.

And we acquired a few other companies and a year later it took the whole thing public. So, wonderful outcome and, you know, been really proud to see that the company's [00:22:00] continuing to do these amazing missions in space. You know,

Tim Chrisman: and you know, this is something I talk about a lot, this like, this need for more, more of that, that exit cycle to occur with the space sector when you look at like software and other deep tech fields.

A lot of what drives that innovation is those exits, you know, the PayPal mafia. They're not a mafia because they break people's knees, they're a mafia because they exited. And kept wanting to innovate. And so, you know, the space sector has got a lot of organizations that they don't have an exit yet. And so those innovators aren't being recycled yet.

Jason Dunn: Yeah. I mean, I feel like the, the hard part in the space sector up until now, I think now is different, but up until now, it's always been like, Every company that does really well is focused on essentially like an infrastructure play at a very big piece of the space infrastructure and usually there's only like [00:23:00] one winner there, maybe two and so, and, and then like, you've got like these big incumbents, like a space X who you could easily say, well, they could easily go grab that one too.

And where we're at now, though, is launch is solved. Like, we're actually trending towards the area that Gerard O'Neill thought we'd be at, you know, a few decades ago in terms of low cost, rarely available launch. But now there's room for, you know, I think this renaissance explosion of use cases in space where there's not winner takes all category.

Right. Just like you see in like an inner the internet era, like areas, there's you can many, many exits all within a very similar space. And I think that's what we're about to see happen. Oh yeah. Whether it's in earth observation space manufacturing, which goes into all kinds of stuff. Like there's the, the hard goods, but there's also, you know, things like pharmaceuticals, market areas, but all [00:24:00] kind of within similar.

Kind of buckets. So my hope is that like the next five to 10 years, we start to see those types of exits happening. And, and then the, the financial markets and the investors and all those things start to flood in, I think a lot faster. Yeah, no, great. And I think it's going to be a similar inflection point to when semiconductors really became a commodity, when you could start putting semiconductors cheaply in belts and watches and all sorts of stuff now you have dozens or hundreds of companies doing stuff that once required vacuum tubes and billions of dollars.

Tim Chrisman: Wait, you have a

Jason Dunn: semiconductor

Tim Chrisman: in your belt? I've seen smart belts. Yeah. Wow. Yeah. I don't understand why. When I saw the speaker, I'm like, why do you want a speaker in your belt?

Jason Dunn: Yeah.

Tim Chrisman: Shut up.

Jason Dunn: All right. We need like, we need like the space economy to be like that. Like,

Tim Chrisman: yeah, no, agreed. Agreed. We need more things.

It's like, why is this being done? [00:25:00] But somebody wanted to buy it. And I think that comes with a lower price point. And I would imagine that's where outpost starts to come in, where if the cost of getting to orbit is low enough, people want to bring stuff back and.

Jason Dunn: Right. Well, I mean, you know, the, The story of how Outpost got started is an interesting one because I was I will.

Do you want to hear it? Is that what you're absolutely? Yeah. Yeah. So I had always thought with during made in space that the hardest problem we would have to solve was getting anything like what was making these things work in space. Like we're making a three d printer that has to work without gravity and all three d printers use gravity.

Right. So I thought that was the hardest thing. And and it was hard, like it was a technical problem. It was a fun problem to solve. As I mentioned, it was a lot of vomit comet flights.

Tim Chrisman: Yeah. Yeah.

Jason Dunn: But it turns out there was a much harder problem, which was the logistics problem of getting back. Yeah.

Tim Chrisman: Yeah.[00:26:00] 

Jason Dunn: Literally the first parts ever manufactured off earth. They had to come home so we could test them and figure out how, how good were they. And it was difficult to bring them home. And as I mentioned earlier, I like, we've sent 15, 000 tons to space and 200 tons of return. I know that number so clearly because I became intimately aware of this problem that space does not have a return lane.

A return lane is, It's a market multiplier not just for space. Like it's a market multiplier everywhere you find a return link. The early days of shipping, it was like the spice trade. It was, it was about going to these places and returning home with the, the treasures of these new worlds. Well, return Amazon has disrupted e commerce by making.

Returns as easy as purchases. And and then like the space industry literally wouldn't even be where it's at today. If SpaceX hasn't made [00:27:00] a returnable rocket. So but we don't have this return lane from space and I've, you know, like when I, when I decided to like, look at what I could do next after we sold made in space.

I asked myself, what is, what is like an undeniable truth about the future of the space industry that I can bet on? I, to me, it's undeniable. And the, to me, the, the, the easy answer is that space will have a return lane and the and that that is a huge opportunity. So I took that bet. Let's, let's go work on the return lane.

And and then I went down the rabbit hole of return and I looked at everything that's been tried. And we've, we've built capsules and we built space planes. We've tried lots of other weird stuff. And what I found was that the, the capsule market is pretty small. And you, you have kind of two flavors.

You can build a small capsule or kind of a big one, like a [00:28:00] dragon. Everything has to be designed to fit into that volume. And when you go really small, you sacrifice your payload. Yeah, in order to get Earth return trajectory, like, you need more fuel. margins go way towards the fuel side. So you end up with really small payload capacities, like on the order of five to 10 percent of your total launch mass is payload.

There's not a huge market for the, when you look at the cost of launch to only 5 percent is the value. So capsule stands seem like the right way to go. And definitely like big capsules. I feel like SpaceX has already figured that one out with dragon space planes and lifting body vehicles have development costs limitations.

If you look at. You know, Sierra Nevada nearly bankrupted themselves to build dream chaser. It's a very difficult type of vehicle to build. I worked on space shuttle. I know how like is, you know, definitely like one of the most amazing [00:29:00] technological marvels ever when you get to go inside and see how, how intense that is.

So these, these kind of lifting body vehicles are very difficult to bring to market at a cost structure that I think a startup can raise on. And But then, like, then the question, like, came towards the satellite. The, the other area I would, I was really interested in, you know, for me, if I was going to jump back into the, into, like, the space business, which is hard to do, is, it always had to answer that one question I had from, as I was a little kid.

How do we make space a gateway to a more resilient earth. Yeah. And so I had to be able to check that box. And one of the, the things that's always grinded my gears is that every single satellite is single use. We put them up, we use them for today, three to five years, and then we literally throw them away.

We at best, we light them on fire in our atmosphere. Like we burn the trash. That is our best solution [00:30:00] to space debris. I spent time in. In Kathmandu and they burn the trash and it's horrible. Like I couldn't breathe. And this isn't, this isn't how like the most like exquisite industry we've ever created aerospace should be treating it's waste.

We shouldn't be burning the trash, but it's also, it's not just environmentally bad. It's economically destructive. We, the satellites, they have well more than three to five years in them. You know, if you look at their parts, like 20 years on the solar arrays and 15 years on the propulsion system and the structure, who knows how long it could go beyond that.

So at the end of three to five years, when we burn these things up, it's a lot of money that we leave on the table. Yeah. So so I thought like this could be an interesting area to innovate on. Could you make a satellite that returns to earth? You get earth return, which opens up the return lane, but you do it with the biggest market possible, which is the satellite market.

And And it turns out returning satellites is really difficult and that's why no one does it. That's like the best is [00:31:00] we've had space shuttles go pick up satellites and bring them back.

Tim Chrisman: Yeah.

Jason Dunn: So we had to, we had to kind of start from a blank slate on what would the reentry system look like for a satellite.

You want it to be a satellite when it's in space, but when it needs to return all of a sudden be kind of like a return vehicle. So what we did was we created a A soft, good, a fabric based reentry system that stows into our satellite. And when it is needed, it pops open and it's there. So it's a two part system.

There's a heat shield. It's made 3d woven carbon fiber fabric that when it pops open, it kind of looks like an upside down umbrella on our space. Yeah, that brings us into the atmosphere. It has a very big surface area. So what that does is it gives us a low ballistic coefficient. Which is, is to say that we come down very slowly.

Yeah. If you think about like, imagine you're standing at a swimming pool and you're holding a big heavy rock and you [00:32:00] drop it in the deep end, it's just going to kerplunk to the bottom. Right. And if you were to hold a, a dinner plate and drop it in the deep end, it'll kind of hover its way down like nice and slow.

And that's the difference of like ballistic coefficients. The capsule that we use today from space is the big heavy rock. It, it just kerplunks. Down into the atmosphere and the, what we've developed is something more like the, the elegant dinner plate solution. So we come in real slow at, in the stratosphere at 30 kilometers, almost a hundred thousand feet.

Yeah. We're, we're subsonic.

Tim Chrisman: Oh wow.

Jason Dunn: So most systems are subsonic, well lower, like, Parachute deployment altitude. Like

Tim Chrisman: just above the ground.

Jason Dunn: Yeah. But we actually, we're subsonic there. We slow ourselves down a little bit more and then around 65, 000 feet, we are opening a paraglider. It's our second stage and it's now this was, this was really like [00:33:00] the hard, the hard thing we had to develop because what's been done today are parachutes, the obvious things, and then parafoils.

So you know, I'm sure most of the listeners here have seen SpaceX trying to recover the, the fairings from a Falcon nine on the ship in the net. And there's this big kind of wing that's a parafoil or, you know, we would call it rammed air parafoil. It's this. Two layers of fabric getting inflated with air.

And that's the, that's the leading like tech so far is to use those things there. They have to deploy at low altitudes. maybe 5, 000 feet is the highest. And they have very small glide ratios. So for three feet forward, they'll, they'll drop a foot and and they're not very controllable. So that's, you know, why SpaceX has a barge moving around to catch it in the ocean, the big net.

And so we went a different direction with a paraglider. This is You know, for context setting, a paraglider is [00:34:00] it's a sport. People carry these in a big backpack. They hike up mountains. They the backpack turns into a kind of a harness and a seat and they put the wing up above them from a stationary stance, and then they just gently kind of walk off the mountain and fly away.

And and it's a it's an incredible sport. The over the last decade, the sport has been advancing these wings. And they've been focused on a couple things. One is low mass, like you're hiking all day. You want it to weigh as low as possible. They're about two kilograms now, and they take up a little tiny portion of that backpack.

And then they've, they want to do acrobatics in the sky. So they're high G load lines. ripstop nylon. So it's rated for really high G kind of environments. So this wing that like these wings five years ago, didn't exist the way they do today. So today we have eight to one glide. So eight feet forward, one foot drop.

And what we do is, [00:35:00] We, we open that wing really high up 65, 000 feet, and that gives us the advantage of altitude and glide and where everybody else is shooting into the lower atmosphere, popping a parachute open and kind of crash landing in the desert with these huge dispersions of where they'll land.

We're way up high and we, we convert our entire vehicle into essentially a UAV. We're flying this. autonomously. It knows where it needs to land and it plots its own course and it flies there. And because of that kind of series of technology that I just described, we're hitting five meter targets when we do our test.

So not only can we get a satellite back, we're doing it with the most minimal mass reentry system possible. So we still dedicate a huge portion of our total vehicle towards payload. So it's a usable satellite and we're returning it incredibly gently with [00:36:00] landing pad precision. So it's not crashing in the desert.

It's, it's recoverable and then it's refurbishable and it's reflyable. And that, that is like, really like the Holy grail because return, but we also unlock reusability of satellites. And if we can do that, then. You know, the childhood me is excited that we're using space to protect planet earth,

Tim Chrisman: right? No.

And, you know, as you were describing like the alternative, you know, this like rock falling, I kept seeing the image of like the three stooges, like running around trying to catch whoever was falling with their little comical net and always missing. And so, yeah you're autonomously landing within five meters.

That's It's pretty

Jason Dunn: good. It's really weird to watch. Like we, we have a test site in the Mojave Desert. We're out here, you know, it's usually like one week on one week off right now. Well, you know, one week in the office, fine tuning the algorithms, another week [00:37:00] testing. And it's just, it's eerie. It's like, you're watching this, this vehicle and you can tell it has this kind of level of intelligence inside of it, making decisions and steering and just coming right where you asked it to come.

So it's cool to see, and it's going to be really, really amazing to see that happen from space.

Tim Chrisman: Oh, yeah, I'll bet. Yeah. I'm like, what's next for you all? You guys have been doing a lot of this testing now for a while. So what do you have coming down, coming down the road? So

Jason Dunn: We are more more more of these flight tests.

We're going to be doing some, some much higher altitude drops. We'll share like, whether more weather balloon flight. So it started with going on, taking this building a small version of our vehicle, taking on a weather balloon just to validate. Can you even make these open that high up? Right? Right. Our full scale flight vehicle from that altitude.

So. That's a that's a huge milestone that we're we're working towards. And then we want to do our 1st orbital flight [00:38:00] next year. So build the get the vehicle ready and flight next year. And then that's that's the majority of what, like, what occupies our time. And then the hopefully we, we unveil this pretty soon.

So I'll be careful on. On how much I say here, but we the thing that the thing that we really want to unlock with what we're building is not just small satellites that can return to Earth, but on. But if you, if you want to build the return lane from space. You need, you need to be able to move lots of cargo, like tons at a time.

And but not, but you also need to be able to get it anywhere on the planet. There's not, it's not that useful. If, if you have to have landing site infrastructure, like Starship can only go to, we'll only go to so many places in the future because of the infrastructure it needs. Sure. You really want to be able to go anywhere.

The way. Yeah. I don't know, like cargo logistics, you [00:39:00] know, aircraft can land at airport in every, every city and regional airports, even so you need that level of return capability to really make. The return lane from space Bible, and you need it at, like, tonnage scale. So we've been working pretty heavily on a very large vehicle, a very, very large version of this vehicle that will do just that.

And that's something that hopefully we'll, we'll showcase that this year. So it's pretty clear what. Where this all heads for Outpost.

Tim Chrisman: No, that's, that's really cool. And I, you know, coming from like an army special operations background, you know, having the ability to have things delivered within five meters is wild.

And it could be coming from space. That's a straight science fiction. Well, you know, I'll say like what this is clearly a dual use capability. Like we have, we have a really strong commercial landscape, but what really gets us excited is that we can use this [00:40:00] technology to protect our military personnel and support in places that they need protection.

Jason Dunn: And the, you know, I think. It at its surface, it looks like we're building kind of like a last mile delivery almost, but it's really to us like outposts for the military. We're a lifesaving organization. If you look at the logistics and supply chain today into the most hard fought regions, Indo PACOM, that kind of thing.

It's really difficult to get supplies there, and it puts a lot of our military personnel lives at risk just to get those supplies to where they need to go, whether it's the, our aviators flying through denied airspace to do airdrops or our, you know, naval vessels to bring supplies by sea and so on. And and then when you have personnel who are in a in an emergency situation, they need to get removed and extracted.

We typically put more personnel at risk [00:41:00] to get them out. If we can deliver from space supplies. With that precision, what we really are doing is saving lives. And that, that to us is like, that's number one, like you can't put a, we don't, and we, you can't put a price on our military personnel's lives.

And so we should be doing everything we can to ensure their safety. Yeah. That's a, that's our goal. Like. For outposts from a military perspective is to make sure the technology gets used for that.

Tim Chrisman: Oh yeah. No, and I'm, you know, even like aid relief and like the ability to speedily move things to places that you couldn't otherwise, you know, as, as you were talking, I was thinking like, you know, a lot of aid relief goes where it is safe to deliver the goods.

If there's a famine in North Korea and nobody goes to help because it's too dangerous to get in and out, or you just Well, like being delivered from space. North Korea is probably not going to be able to stop that. So I don't think you're going to do that for the [00:42:00] record.

But yeah, you know I think that this, this return lane, as you put it is, has a lot of exciting potential for civil military and commercial. So excited to see where this goes. Yeah, cool. Well, thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Jason. This is a, this has been great. Is there anything we missed that you wanted to make sure we hit?

Jason Dunn: No, we, this was a very enjoyable conversation. Thanks for sparking the right questions and, and and engaging.

Tim Chrisman: Yeah. Thanks for being here.

Jason Dunn: Yep. I look forward to it. Let's do it again.

Tim Chrisman: Sounds

Jason Dunn: good. Take care.

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