A New Paradigm for Nuclear Technology Development
What’s different this time is that there is a profound shift taking place from government-led, and funded, nuclear R&D to private sector-led efforts by people with strong entrepreneurial goals… These developers want to make money from their inventions.
… this is not your grandfather’s nuclear technology. While developers in some cases are working off of technology designs conceived in our national laboratories during the 1950s and 1960s, the advanced reactor technologies being developed are safer, more efficient and need a fraction of the footprint compared to the nearly 100 light water reactors (LWRs) that provide almost 20% of the U.S.’s electricity today (and 65% of its carbon-free power). New plants could be powered entirely with spent nuclear fuel sitting at plant sites across the country, built at a lower cost than LWRs and shut down more easily in an emergency. ___ Third Way.Org
What is true for nuclear technology development is also true for space launch development
SpaceX is the leading entrant in the brave new world of private space launch. SpaceX has already brought the cost of space launch well below what the big players in the industry are accustomed to providing. As other well-funded private startups move into the field, expect costs to continue to be pared down.
- Bigelow Aerospace, Inc. (Website) Long-range goal is to bring human space flight into the arena of commercial business. Objectives include providing a low-cost, low earth orbit (LEO) human-rated space station that is accessible to the commercial sector. Founder: Robert Bigelow (owner, Budget Suites of America). Location: Las Vegas, Nevada. Established in 1998. Careers
- Blue Origin LLC. (Website) Develops concepts and technology to support future human spaceflight operations. Among other projects, they are developing a sub-orbital space vehicle that will take off and land vertically. Founder: Jeff Bezos (founder, Amazon.com). Locations: Kent, Washington office and a launch complex in Culberson County, Texas. Incorporated in 2000. Careers Internships
- Copenhagen Suborbitals. (Website) Non-profit suborbital space endeavour working towards launching a human being into space. Has performed 45 engine tests to date. Founders: Kristian von Bengtson, Peter Madsen. Location: Copenhagen, Denmark. Established in 2008. Buy Merchandise Donate Sponsor
- Deep Space Industries. (Website) Privately held space company planning to mine asteroids for usable materials and manufacturing in situ. Missions to begin in 2015, to visit nearby asteroids to assess extractable resources including volatiles and metals. Founders: Rick Tumlinson, David Gump. Location: McLean, Virginia. Established in 2013.
- Exos Aerospace. (Website) Has performed over two hundred flight tests spread over two dozen different vehicles [including the work of earlier company Armadillo Aerospace]. They have done work for NASA and the Air Force, and flown vehicles at every X-Prize Cup event. Founder: John Carmack (co-founder, ID Software). Location: Mesquite, Texas. Established in 2000.
- Frontier Astronautics LLC. (Website) Provides hard-to-get technology and services to the burgeoning entrepreneurial space industry. Specializes in affordable and reliable rocket engines and attitude control systems, as well as custom design and testing services. Location: Chugwater, Wyoming.
- Intelsat. (Website) Leading provider of satellite services worldwide. For more than 45 years, has delivered information and entertainment for leading media and network companies, multinational corporations, internet service providers, and government agencies. Taken private in 2001; acquired PanAmSat in 2006. Offices: Luxembourg, Washington DC, Ellenwood, Georgia. Careers
- Masten Space. (Website) Privately held company that designs, builds, tests, and operates reusable launch vehicles, including Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL). Founder: David Masten. Location: Mojave, California. Founded in 2004. Careers Investment
- Planetary Resources. (Website) Asteroid mining company, whose goal is to establish a new paradigm for resource discovery and utilization that will bring the solar system into humanity’s sphere of influence. Founders: Eric Anderson, Peter Diamandis. Location: Bellevue, Washington. Careers, et al.
- Rocketplane, Ltd. (Website) Creator of the Rocketplane XP, a suborbital spacecraft that will launch civilian astronauts more than 330,000 feet above Earth’s atmosphere to experience the sensation of weightlessness and an extraordinary view of planet Earth from space. Rocketplane is taking reservations for suborbital flights. Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Established in 2001. Reservations Careers
- Scaled Composites, LLC. (Website) An aerospace and specialty composites development company. Scaled has broad experience in air vehicle design, tooling, manufacturing, specialty composite structure design, analysis, fabrication and developmental flight test. In 2004, the Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipOne was the first private craft ever to leave the Earth’s atmosphere, making the company the winner of the Ansari X Prize. Founder: Burt Rutan. Location: Mojave, California. Established in 1982. Careers
- Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) Space Systems. (Website) Products range from spacecraft actuators that power the Mars rovers, to hybrid rocket technologies that powered the first commercial astronaut to space, and from microsatellites controlled by the Internet to Dream Chaser®, a winged and piloted orbital commercial spacecraft. Acquired SpaceDev in 2008. President & CFO: Eren Ozmen. Location: Sparks, Nevada. Careers
- Space Information Labs (SIL). (Website) Mission is to develop, design, and integrate techological solutions for global space-based range, operationally responsive space, autonomous flight, and navigation systems. Working with DARPA to develop rapid and inexpensive launch capability for placing small satellites in orbit. Location: Santa Maria, California. Careers
- The Spaceship Company. (Website) An aerospace joint venture between Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites. They plan to build the world’s first fleet of commercial sub-orbital spaceships and carrier aircraft. Current vehicles include WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo. Location: Mojave Air and Space Port, Mojave, California. Founded in 2008. Careers
- SpaceX. (Website) Has developed two launch vehicles, established an impressive launch manifest, and been awarded COTS funding by NASA to demonstrate delivery and return of cargo to the International Space Station. By their own account, SpaceX is on a sound financial footing as they move towards volume commercial launches. Founder: Elon Musk (co-founder, PayPal). Established in 2002. Careers
- Ventions, LLC. (Website) Research, development, and services company founded to commercialize innovative technologies in the aerospace sector. Currently focused on development of small-scale propulsion systems, pumps, and launch vehicle components for government and commercial applications under various DARPA and NASA funded projects. Location: San Francisco, California. Established in 2004. Careers
- Virgin Galactic LLC. (Website) Working to develop the suborbital tourism industry. They are currently accepting booking for suborbital flights. Tickets cost $200,000; over 400 individuals have given deposits for future flights. Also plans to launch suborbital science missions and small satellites. Founder: Richard Branson (founder, Virgin Group). Location: Spaceport America, New Mexico. Buy Merchandise Careers
- XCOR Aerospace. (Website) Focuses on the research, development, project management and production of safe, reliable, reusable launch vehicles (RLVs), rocket engines and rocket propulsion systems. Location: Mojave, California. Founders: Jeff Greason, Dan DeLong, Doug Jones, Aleta Jackson. Established in 1999.
[Note: The list above has been altered to reflect the purchase of Armadillo Aerospace by Exos Aerospace __ Editor]
The presence of well-funded private startups brings disruption and creative transformation into these former government monoliths. Competition and profit-motivated innovation lead to significant advances where fossilised government bureaucracies can only see “more of the same.”
And so on, through a long list of potentially disruptive, innovative technologies. Vibrant startup cultures of eager innovators and entrepreneurs — fed by funds supplied by successful entrepreneurial forerunners across a wide range of enterprise — can lay the foundations for unimaginable human futures of abundant expansion.
What if spaceflight were cheap, reliable, and widely available? What if the same were true for energy into the foreseeable future and beyond? What if individuals could make their own cheap 3D printers which could then make other 3D printers capable of making homes, automobiles, boats, medicines, clothing, and almost anything else of a material nature? What if home synth-bio labs could hack probiotic supplements adapted especially for the owner, capable of raising his intelligence and prolonging his healthy lifespan? And that would only be the beginning, if a vibrant startup ecology were allowed to sprout and grow.
Vibrant startup ecologies do not just sprout up everywhere and anywhere, of course. In paranoid dictatorships of the emerging and third worlds, corrupt leaders fear anything which may grow beyond their control. Even in opportunity societies of Europe and the Anglosphere, stifling government regulations unduly restrict startups, and force them to devote too many resources to dealing with government bureaucracies.
The Need for Parallel Infrastructures and Shadow “Governments” of an Ad Hoc Nature
Rigid, corrupt, government monoliths such as those of the US, the EU, Japan, China, etc. have certainly outlived most of their usefulness. But the best way to peacefully dismantle such monstrosities is do do so by stealth replacement.
Each department, bureau, ministry, and agency of these unholy conglomerates purportedly serves a nominal infrastructural purpose. By sorting out useful “infrastructure” from destructive infrastructure, intelligent and innovative private agencies should be able to devise parallel methods of meeting genuine societal infrastructure needs. Beginning slowly and on a small scale, such parallel infrastructures (and ad hoc shadow governments) can provide a proof of concept which can be widely copied where the opportunities arise.
The concept needs further development, but it should be easy for intelligent and experienced persons of competence to see how the new paradigm of private, non-governmental disruptive innovation might be applied to the slow dismantling of government itself.
Note: A proliferation of cooperating — but also competing — startup ecologies and parallel infrastructures of a robustly resilient and anti-fragile nature, suggests that even as nation states collapse and disintegrate for reasons of demography, economics, disease, war, or natural disaster, a significant residue of expertise and competence will remain largely intact.
Such a complex interactive system of internetworked networks of competence provides humans with the best opportunity for not only survival, but an abundant expansion into the inner and outer worlds of existence.
The concept is certainly threatening to established power hierarchies. But for the rest of us — which means almost everyone on the planet — it offers hope.