Coming Boom in Cis-Lunar Space Economy

Humans need a challenge — a frontier — to master. In the absence of tangible challenges, humans will turn to war — or they will turn inward, worrying about vanishingly unlikely dangers such as climate apocalypse, peak oil Armageddon, overpopulation cataclysm, or annihilation by pollution. Outer space is the grandest and ultimate challenge for humans — the risks are high but the potential payoffs are larger than we can imagine. We may as well begin, and if we are to begin we must begin somewhere.

If we are to succeed in the long-term, we must approach the challenge on a for-profit, pay as you go basis.

Cis-Lunar$$$Space Economy

Space development is going to start out with lots of small companies exploiting particular niches. Ken Murphy

Governments and huge multi-national companies would like to limit access to outer space. But if humans want to move beyond Earth in an economically profitable manner, it will need to be done by a lot of small, private interests — in a high-risk / high-reward manner.

Cislunar Econosphere of Ken Murphy

Cislunar Econosphere of Ken Murphy

As [Ken] Murphy said back in 2012, we need to “embrace the chaos of free markets” to propel us into space.

“The first thing to understand is that we are not going to go straight to the Moon and then begin backfilling cislunar space with commercial activity, although some folks advocate for such,” he said.

“What’s going to happen is that activity is going to expand outward.”

This expansion outwards could eventually see the creation of two habitats on [Luna]; one large and one small.

The smaller habitat will initially be created to construct the larger community, but its purpose will shift towards housing personnel who will be responsible for mining operations to get valuable resources from the Moon.

… “The large habitat (thousands or tens of thousands of residents) might be used for a lunar civilization or become the initial instance of portable communities for colonizing other parts of the solar system.”

[NASA] … envisioned that 3D printing will have a large part to play in the development of off-Earth communities. Last year the first 3D printer was sent to space and in recent weeks a NASA scientists has said that by the time the printing technique is deployed on Mars, we will be looking to print entire buildings and settlements.

However, the report says that while they were focussing on what would have changed between the Earth and the Moon, they believe there would have been at least one manned mission to Mars by 2050. __

Click to access 20150006953.pdf (search for cis-lunar econonosphere)

Several $billionaires are involved in private space ventures, and for good reason. It is likely that the first $trillionaires will make the income leap via space enterprises.
Meanwhile on the Mars Front

Space X CEO Elon Musk envisions a human colony on Mars of up to a million people within the next century and is focusing his company’s resources on making it happen.

At least two other companies have announced plans to send small numbers of astronauts to Mars by the late 2020s, but Musk believes their colonies will be too small to survive in the harsh Martian environment.

… To make a colony of that size possible, SpaceX is developing the Mars Colonial Transporter, a spacecraft capable of carrying 100 people from Earth to Mars. ___

While SpaceX is on the road to success as an Earth to orbit “shuttle”, Musk’s “hail Mary” approach to Mars is likely to fail. Humans need to develop many scores and hundreds of methods for accessing space and for routinely traveling across and working in outer space environments. Living and working in low-pressure environments needs to become second-nature for those who wish to go. Living in space must become “mundane.”

That will only happen if private enterprise is set free to do its chaotic magic on the challenge of outer space access, development, and colonisation.

Shuttle Landing Facility Made Available to Commercial Space

Under Space Florida’s control, the Shuttle Landing Facility may see future use by commercial spaceflight companies such as Sierra Nevada Corp. with its Dream Chaser lifting-body craft, XCOR with its Lynx piloted space vehicle, and Starfighters with its converted F-104 jet aircraft.

“The most storied runway in the world will now become the cornerstone of [a] next-generation commercial spaceport,” Frank DiBello, the president and CEO of Space Florida, stated. “This marks the dawn of a new era for horizontal spaceflight in Florida and the country.”

“The [SLF] will be converted into an economic engine that will bring more jobs to families in the Space Coast,” Scott said, “and will help drive the next generation of spaceflight and discovery from Florida.” __

Across the US, facilities for private space launches and landings are being developed. Early revenues for private space enterprise will come from space tourism and satellite launches. Asteroid mining is likely to follow, with later mining of the moon for water, He3, and whatever other materials of value which can be found in quantity.

How will all the materials, equipment, and personnel be transported into space? Due to acceleration constraints, humans will have to use rockets for the time being. But non-human cargo can often be lifted at greater accelerations. This should greatly reduce launch costs for the enormous amounts of terrestrial material and equipment which will have to be lifted during initial stages.

The first lunar “colonists” will likely be transient miners, engineers, and scientists, who will be rotated back to Earth regularly to maintain Earth-gravity fitness levels. Eventually, longer-term workers will be allowed to bring their families, and may choose to retire in the lower-g environment of Luna.

One man’s musings on reducing space launch costs

The Cis-Lunar Econosphere Part I

The Cis-Lunar Econosphere Part II

Modularity: Sneaking into Orbit Bit by Bit

A sampling of private space vehicle designs of recent years

Why Humans Need the Space Frontier to Boom

10th entry in a series on reducing space launch costs. Launch costs are currently around $10,000 / kg from Earth to LEO. SpaceX promises to reduce costs by a factor of 100. Electromagnetic launch could potentially reduce costs below $10 / kg for most non-biological payloads. Such reductions in launch costs would change the entire complexion of private space enterprise.

Heaven is a Long-Shot Gamble 103 pp PDF report on low cost exploration of Luna and Mars . . . via NBF

This entry was posted in Economics, Future, Space Future and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.