Author Topic: After Rockets, Next Bottlenecks?  (Read 3561 times)

Online sanman

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After Rockets, Next Bottlenecks?
« on: 10/06/2017 02:14 AM »
Suppose, hypothetically, 10 years from now, we live in a world where there are multiple launch options available - BFR, NewGlenn, Vulcan, Antares, etc - offering various choices to the marketplace at competitive prices. So at that point, there's plenty of access to space.

What then become the next bottlenecks to this vision of "millions of people living and working in space"?
Assuming that rockets and launch capability are no longer the bottleneck, then what become the new bottlenecks?

What are then the next critical set of technologies/capabilities that need to be focused on, in order to make the Space Economy take off?
« Last Edit: 10/06/2017 02:40 AM by sanman »

Online A_M_Swallow

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Re: After Rockets, Next Bottlenecks?
« Reply #1 on: 10/06/2017 03:17 AM »
Living in space means spacestations and planetary bases. So habitats will need developing. Transfer vehicles from LEO to the spacestations and landers are required. Mars and Moon rovers. Mining and refining equipment.

Online sanman

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Re: After Rockets, Next Bottlenecks?
« Reply #2 on: 10/06/2017 04:11 AM »
Living in space means spacestations and planetary bases. So habitats will need developing. Transfer vehicles from LEO to the spacestations and landers are required. Mars and Moon rovers. Mining and refining equipment.

So Bigelow Aerospace are at least one candidate pursuing development of habs, using technology licensed and developed from NASA.
Blue Origin are at least one company who plan to offer a lunar lander. Masten Space Systems are another.

But who's developing mining, refining or even just digging equipment, for the Moon? Is there anybody with any working hardware for that?

Offline Lar

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Re: After Rockets, Next Bottlenecks?
« Reply #3 on: 10/06/2017 04:33 AM »
Caterpillar shows prototypes periodically. Unclear how far along they really are.
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Offline Athrithalix

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Re: After Rockets, Next Bottlenecks?
« Reply #4 on: 10/06/2017 09:12 AM »
I should think the bottlenecks will be political and medical in nature, with enough people in space you're going to start needing separate entities to police and lead. The typical national border structure isn't really going to work, I think the Space Nation proposal is probably the right kind of idea, but I don't know enough sociology and political theory to suggest how to build a society in orbit.

The medical problems of life in low gravity are not well explored for someone intending to spend a large portion of their life in orbit, whilst the engineering questions of rotational gravity are still up in the air (so to speak) for the best way to make it work.

Offline Jim

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Re: After Rockets, Next Bottlenecks?
« Reply #5 on: 10/06/2017 04:55 PM »

What are then the next critical set of technologies/capabilities that need to be focused on, in order to make the Space Economy take off?

It has nothing to do with technologies.  It is the market place.  Other than making money off of communications, what other reasons to go into space that will make money.  Tourism is not it. 

Offline Eerie

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Re: After Rockets, Next Bottlenecks?
« Reply #6 on: 10/06/2017 07:51 PM »

What are then the next critical set of technologies/capabilities that need to be focused on, in order to make the Space Economy take off?

It has nothing to do with technologies.  It is the market place.  Other than making money off of communications, what other reasons to go into space that will make money.  Tourism is not it. 

But besides tourism there is nothing commercial to do in space in the short term. LEO provides exactly two things of value: empty void and weightlessness. Empty void is already exploited for communications (and imaging). You could do communications on a larger scale, like SpaceX with their Internet constellation, but that's about it.

Offline francesco nicoli

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Re: After Rockets, Next Bottlenecks?
« Reply #7 on: 10/06/2017 08:01 PM »
Actually, whether something is profitable or not it really depends on upwards & downwards mass costs.
It is even meaningless trying to explore commercial manufacturing in today's price environment.

Decrease the transport costs to a decent level, and things may well change. Vacuum may have many manufacturing advantages, however advantages which do not justify current costs.

Furthermore, at the cost of sounding an environmentalist, off-planet manufacturing has at least one enormous advantage: its impact on the Earth's ecosphere is minimal.
Start to price environmental externalities correctly, and you might see how much more competitive the space becomes (since the great part of byproducts considered "externalities" on the planet are not so elsewhere).
Or, in other words: on the Moon you can do ALL form of pollution you like. Start pricing Earth externalities properly, and you will have both addressed the issue of environmental protection, and provided a huge incentive to off-planet production (assuming, again, transportation is cheap enough).

Offline synchrotron

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Re: After Rockets, Next Bottlenecks?
« Reply #8 on: 10/06/2017 08:12 PM »
Actually, whether something is profitable or not it really depends on upwards & downwards mass costs.
It is even meaningless trying to explore commercial manufacturing in today's price environment.

Decrease the transport costs to a decent level, and things may well change. Vacuum may have many manufacturing advantages, however advantages which do not justify current costs.

Furthermore, at the cost of sounding an environmentalist, off-planet manufacturing has at least one enormous advantage: its impact on the Earth's ecosphere is minimal.
Start to price environmental externalities correctly, and you might see how much more competitive the space becomes (since the great part of byproducts considered "externalities" on the planet are not so elsewhere).
Or, in other words: on the Moon you can do ALL form of pollution you like. Start pricing Earth externalities properly, and you will have both addressed the issue of environmental protection, and provided a huge incentive to off-planet production (assuming, again, transportation is cheap enough).

I'm having trouble understanding how adding a deltaV of 10 km/s to your materials and then adding additional km/s to deorbit your manufactured goods has a minimal impact on the ecosphere.

Offline francesco nicoli

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Re: After Rockets, Next Bottlenecks?
« Reply #9 on: 10/06/2017 08:15 PM »
Actually, whether something is profitable or not it really depends on upwards & downwards mass costs.
It is even meaningless trying to explore commercial manufacturing in today's price environment.

Decrease the transport costs to a decent level, and things may well change. Vacuum may have many manufacturing advantages, however advantages which do not justify current costs.

Furthermore, at the cost of sounding an environmentalist, off-planet manufacturing has at least one enormous advantage: its impact on the Earth's ecosphere is minimal.
Start to price environmental externalities correctly, and you might see how much more competitive the space becomes (since the great part of byproducts considered "externalities" on the planet are not so elsewhere).
Or, in other words: on the Moon you can do ALL form of pollution you like. Start pricing Earth externalities properly, and you will have both addressed the issue of environmental protection, and provided a huge incentive to off-planet production (assuming, again, transportation is cheap enough).

I'm having trouble understanding how adding a deltaV of 10 km/s to your materials and then adding additional km/s to deorbit your manufactured goods has a minimal impact on the ecosphere.

first, it depends on where you take the materials.
Second, I should have specified- minimal impact compared with the impact of producing everything on spot, polluting, and moving goods around the planet.

Offline DreamyPickle

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Re: After Rockets, Next Bottlenecks?
« Reply #10 on: 10/06/2017 08:34 PM »
It has nothing to do with technologies.  It is the market place.  Other than making money off of communications, what other reasons to go into space that will make money.  Tourism is not it.
Why is tourism "not it"? This is a market that has never been truly tested because of a lack of supply. The only flights so far were on Soyuz but now both Boeing and SpaceX are developing manned spacecraft that will actually fly.

Online sanman

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Re: After Rockets, Next Bottlenecks?
« Reply #11 on: 10/07/2017 12:21 AM »
Initially, things could start out by setting up research stations on the Moon. Large telescopes could be built there, which could peer into space without atmospheric distortion.

How about a Google Data Center on the Moon, to back up all the information on the internet and the sum of human knowledge, in case of catastrophe on Earth?
Then you could also have a Seed/DNA Repository, to likewise back up all the lifeforms of Earth as well.

But beyond that, tourism would be necessary to scale up human presence and further bring down costs.

Maybe one approach to tourism could be to build something uniquely spectacular on the Moon - like a Las Vegas or Disneyworld - to draw in people from all over Earth to visit there. Perhaps unique architecture could be created on the Moon that would not be possible on Earth due to its higher gravity. There would have to be some kind of compelling experience to draw people to visit the Moon.

The Moon would be a large laboratory/proving-ground at the forefront of deployment and development of robotics and automation, which would be essential in keep costs down. Tele-robots supplemented by AI could be tele-operated from Earth on the Moon, to carry out all kinds of essential activities necessary to sustain the human presence there - especially activities that reduce risk to human beings.

Part of the allure of Space is "The Dream" - this romantic vision of an expansive humanity, with expanding opportunities. Maybe the opportunity to build a new society? Space holds the strongest attraction for dreamers and explorers. Those feelings too will have to be tapped through the marketplace.
« Last Edit: 10/07/2017 12:52 AM by sanman »

Online Robotbeat

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Re: After Rockets, Next Bottlenecks?
« Reply #12 on: 10/07/2017 12:48 AM »

What are then the next critical set of technologies/capabilities that need to be focused on, in order to make the Space Economy take off?

It has nothing to do with technologies.  It is the market place.  Other than making money off of communications, what other reasons to go into space that will make money.  Tourism is not it.
Space telecomm is a much bigger market than space tourism, about 1000x as big in the 2000s. ~$100 billion versus $100 million per year (at best).

But both markets can grow. You can argue that Blue Origin is a $1 billion per year space tourism company, even if that $1 billion happens to come from just one guy's pockets! So I think that a space tourism market of at least $1-10 billion per year is reasonable if the capability is there. More as the world as a whole gets richer.

But it will NEVER eclipse space telecom. Telecom may exceed $1 trillion someday.

Only other market that can come close to that is space solar power, but that's a LOT harder to make close.

Point to point transport might be a $100 billion per year market, but it's also very difficult to close.

Military applications like missile defense could be an additional $100 billion per year, but that's also not likely to happen.

Asteroid mining maybe low digit billions per year (either a secondary market to space solar, tourism, etc, or it's mining Platinum group metals, which are globally less than $10 billion per year... but could possibly grow), but is even harder to close.

Helium 3 mining isn't profitable, especially on the Moon.

Imaging is fairly low revenue, say single-digit billions.

In space manufacturing might be important, but it's basically a hope on a gamble and isn't likely to be big.

Yeah, Jim's right: communications is where it's at. But that's a huge market.
« Last Edit: 10/07/2017 01:03 AM by Robotbeat »
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Re: After Rockets, Next Bottlenecks?
« Reply #13 on: 10/07/2017 02:19 AM »
Actually, whether something is profitable or not it really depends on upwards & downwards mass costs.
It is even meaningless trying to explore commercial manufacturing in today's price environment.

Decrease the transport costs to a decent level, and things may well change. Vacuum may have many manufacturing advantages, however advantages which do not justify current costs.

Furthermore, at the cost of sounding an environmentalist, off-planet manufacturing has at least one enormous advantage: its impact on the Earth's ecosphere is minimal.
Start to price environmental externalities correctly, and you might see how much more competitive the space becomes (since the great part of byproducts considered "externalities" on the planet are not so elsewhere).
Or, in other words: on the Moon you can do ALL form of pollution you like. Start pricing Earth externalities properly, and you will have both addressed the issue of environmental protection, and provided a huge incentive to off-planet production (assuming, again, transportation is cheap enough).

I'm having trouble understanding how adding a deltaV of 10 km/s to your materials and then adding additional km/s to deorbit your manufactured goods has a minimal impact on the ecosphere.

first, it depends on where you take the materials.
Second, I should have specified- minimal impact compared with the impact of producing everything on spot, polluting, and moving goods around the planet.

The main waste products from burning rocket fuel are water and carbon dioxide. Plants like both.

Waste products from some manufacturing processes are poisonousness. They can be dumped on the Moon but not on Earth. Doubly so when dealing with radioactive substances.

Online KelvinZero

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Re: After Rockets, Next Bottlenecks?
« Reply #14 on: 10/07/2017 02:45 AM »
Space telecomm is a much bigger market than space tourism, about 1000x as big in the 2000s. ~$100 billion versus $100 million per year (at best).
Tourism could be a big driver for HSF technologies that will help enable colonisation though. communications satellites have been big for a long time without looking like it was a significant driver for becoming multiplanetary, or having millions of people in space.

(edited to clarify connection to OP)

« Last Edit: 10/07/2017 02:48 AM by KelvinZero »

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Re: After Rockets, Next Bottlenecks?
« Reply #15 on: 10/07/2017 03:29 AM »
Space telecomm is a much bigger market than space tourism, about 1000x as big in the 2000s. ~$100 billion versus $100 million per year (at best).
Tourism could be a big driver for HSF technologies that will help enable colonisation though. communications satellites have been big for a long time without looking like it was a significant driver for becoming multiplanetary, or having millions of people in space.

(edited to clarify connection to OP)
Disagree. BFR is driven by comm sats, and BFR is a huge enabler for space settlement.
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Online KelvinZero

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Re: After Rockets, Next Bottlenecks?
« Reply #16 on: 10/07/2017 04:12 AM »
Tourism could be a big driver for HSF technologies that will help enable colonisation though. communications satellites have been big for a long time without looking like it was a significant driver for becoming multiplanetary, or having millions of people in space.

(edited to clarify connection to OP)
Disagree. BFR is driven by comm sats, and BFR is a huge enabler for space settlement.
I think you missed my point. Im saying that you can't just do a dollar-dollar comparison, because dollars made through space tourism will do proportionally more for HSF and colonisation than dollars made through com sats.

Comm Sats alone do not push us to being multiplanetary or put humans in space at all. You also have to assume that Elon will plow the money he makes back into HSF.
Given that assumption, you might as well Say Jeff Bezos's strategy is better. Just be absurdly rich, and plow that money into HSF.

Online sanman

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Re: After Rockets, Next Bottlenecks?
« Reply #17 on: 10/07/2017 07:19 AM »
Helium 3 mining isn't profitable, especially on the Moon.

It's not clear that Helium-3 mining wouldn't be profitable. Helium-3 could be scooped up along with other volatiles bound up in the regolith. What is clear is that it could involve "defacing" significant stretches of the lunar surface through strip-mining. (Hey, just do it on the Far Side, and nobody on Earth will be the wiser)

The issue with Helium-3 is that nobody's achieved fusion yet, much less aneutronic fusion, which is Helium-3's  main selling point. On the other hand, if some breakthrough happens there (LPP?), then Helium-3's market value could skyrocket overnight.

« Last Edit: 10/07/2017 07:24 AM by sanman »

Offline francesco nicoli

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Re: After Rockets, Next Bottlenecks?
« Reply #18 on: 10/07/2017 10:06 AM »
Actually, whether something is profitable or not it really depends on upwards & downwards mass costs.
It is even meaningless trying to explore commercial manufacturing in today's price environment.

Decrease the transport costs to a decent level, and things may well change. Vacuum may have many manufacturing advantages, however advantages which do not justify current costs.

Furthermore, at the cost of sounding an environmentalist, off-planet manufacturing has at least one enormous advantage: its impact on the Earth's ecosphere is minimal.
Start to price environmental externalities correctly, and you might see how much more competitive the space becomes (since the great part of byproducts considered "externalities" on the planet are not so elsewhere).
Or, in other words: on the Moon you can do ALL form of pollution you like. Start pricing Earth externalities properly, and you will have both addressed the issue of environmental protection, and provided a huge incentive to off-planet production (assuming, again, transportation is cheap enough).

I'm having trouble understanding how adding a deltaV of 10 km/s to your materials and then adding additional km/s to deorbit your manufactured goods has a minimal impact on the ecosphere.

first, it depends on where you take the materials.
Second, I should have specified- minimal impact compared with the impact of producing everything on spot, polluting, and moving goods around the planet.

The main waste products from burning rocket fuel are water and carbon dioxide. Plants like both.

Waste products from some manufacturing processes are poisonousness. They can be dumped on the Moon but not on Earth. Doubly so when dealing with radioactive substances.
that's my point: externalities that would completely screw Earth production if internalized, become no more a problem off-Earth.

Offline RonM

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Re: After Rockets, Next Bottlenecks?
« Reply #19 on: 10/07/2017 01:51 PM »
Helium 3 mining isn't profitable, especially on the Moon.

It's not clear that Helium-3 mining wouldn't be profitable. Helium-3 could be scooped up along with other volatiles bound up in the regolith. What is clear is that it could involve "defacing" significant stretches of the lunar surface through strip-mining. (Hey, just do it on the Far Side, and nobody on Earth will be the wiser)

The issue with Helium-3 is that nobody's achieved fusion yet, much less aneutronic fusion, which is Helium-3's  main selling point. On the other hand, if some breakthrough happens there (LPP?), then Helium-3's market value could skyrocket overnight.

Helium-3 can be produced in nuclear reactors. Don't need to strip mine the Moon to get it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helium-3#Industrial_production

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