Author Topic: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement  (Read 11889 times)

Offline mikelepage

Often times you'll hear people say we should concentrate on Moon/Mars/asteroids etc because we've "done" low earth orbit (LEO), meaning that ~500+ people have been there.

To me that really underestimates the commercial potential of LEO as a destination, not just for tourism (although that's what I'll concentrate on here), but for support of ongoing expansion into the solar system.  It may only be a few hundred km from the surface, but it's nearly to the other end of the biggest gravity well we have to overcome in the near future.

My question is: how do the economics change in the scenario where hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people have been to LEO or beyond, and travel to LEO is simply a more exotic method of travel around the world? (since where you land is largely a matter of departure timing).  I'm not an economist/accountant, so this is largely spitballing, I would like to hear more educated assessments of the potential.

Say we end up putting hundreds of ISS-volume habitats into orbits 800-1000km altitude, where orbital altitude decay only happens on the order of hundreds of years, you still receive partial radiation protection of Earth's magnetic field.  Assume we eventually work out a solution for the space debris problem, and is some form of spin gravity so people can enjoy the novelties of seeing the Earth from space and experiencing zero gravity whilst still having the comforts of being able to bathe and go to the toilet with some sense of normalcy.

How we get from here to there:

As a ballpark figure, the worldwide ocean cruise industry 2015 carried about 22 million people per year for a total of ~$40Billion USD revenue, giving us an average spend of $1818 per person.  Let's say as an aspirational goal, we hope that eventually, 1/1000 of those people would spend 1000x that amount for a trip to orbit for two weeks ($1.8 million ticket price, 22k people per year), and returned to destination of choice because Dragon v2 can land anywhere and be shipped back from anywhere to Cape Canaveral/Brownsville. 

7 people at a time (6 passengers, one pilot/staff), 26 flights a year to a given space station: 6*1.8 = 10.8 million revenue per flight. Revenue is $280.8 mil per year per station.  Assuming reusable rockets reduces cost to 1/10 of current $70 million/flight = $7 mil per flight.

At that rate we're talking 156 spaceflight participants, per space station per year.  To service 22k people per year, we need 141 ISS volume space stations or a smaller number of larger ones.  Either way, this means space stations themselves are coming off a production line such as Bigelow Aerospace or otherwise.  Let's stick with the smaller stations BA 330 type for now.

From $10.8 million per flight, lets say $7 million launch costs, $3 million for upkeep/downpayment of the station, and $0.8 million profit.  For the station, 26 flights a year gives $78 million/year to pay off the initial launch and ongoing upkeep of the station.  Say the initial stations are BA330s launched on a Falcon Heavy for ~$135 million. At this flight rate, the launch of the space station is paid off inside 2 years, and if the station costs $200 million, you've paid off the station itself within 5 years.

What about the doubling time? - i.e., how long to fund a second space station from the proceeds of the first?  335/78 = 4.28 years (call it 4.5 so we can calc 4x at 9years).  So if we launch the first BA330 in 2018 and need 141 space stations...
2018 = 1 commercial space station
2027 = 4 stations
2036 = 16 stations
2045 = 64 stations
~2050 = 141 stations

So yeah, I know I'm making some optimistic assumptions, but I also think I'm making some pretty conservative ones (i.e. not accounting for any synergistic effects).  I guess we can achieve "big" LEO travel rates/settlement, 22k participants per year by at least 2050, if not sooner.  Anyone think I'm being too optimistic? too pessimistic?
« Last Edit: 08/28/2016 10:06 AM by mikelepage »

Offline QuantumG

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #1 on: 08/28/2016 11:24 AM »
Imagine that market buying the products of asteroid mining companies and developing industry.
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? The slowest possible.

Offline TrevorMonty

For existing LV and capsules in development 7 seats it is.

 Go to MCT class vehicles and we are looking at <$500k per passenger for 2wks in LEO.

For tourism and operating costs lower the orbit the better. Station keeping fuel requirements are nothing compared to significantly increase payload a lower orbit allows. Also better views of earth.

Offline KristianAndresen

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #3 on: 08/28/2016 05:12 PM »
If you consider what it is that the super rich are spending cash on (and you should, since their numbers are growing), it's not so much cruise ships - it's real estate. And it isn't tropical islands, which are surprisingly cheap as a result of being fairly numerous, it's downtown real estate in major cities, properties that have high value as a result of being unique. Their numbers are limited, as there is only one London, one Tokyo, e.t.c. The super rich are attracted to major cities for the same reason the middle class is. Everything is right there, the restaurants, the nightlife, you name it.

What I'm trying to say is, for LEO and a solid financial prospect, you really need something like a 3 dimensional Manhattan, not the ISS. The space to build a variable gravity villa should sell at a premium... *if* the transportation to and from your estate is dependable and comfortable (as I see it, that means the budget needs to include a launch loop, but that is a separate discussion).

The numbers get interesting when the gravity is low: Assume, say, 500 cubic meters per person. Then take the area of Manhattan (60 square km), and give it an extra dimension to work with, giving you 465 cubic kilometers. That's a population of 1 billion.

But instead of packing the place like a can of sardines, you can have something where the connectivity is like a city, but the perceived population density (probability of bumping into somebody) is rural. Which is something new.

Offline mikelepage

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #4 on: 08/29/2016 02:51 AM »
Good point about real estate vs tourism.  With so many space stations in orbit, one would imagine there will eventually be some that are privately owned.

Convenience on orbit will come with time and the size of the constructions, but for the initial period I think it's pretty convenient that with a higher inclination orbit like ISS you could put down virtually anywhere on Earth within 24 hours (track lines are 22.5 degrees longitude apart = ~2500km and I'm presuming there will be a role for dream chaser type vehicles for cross range):



Offline Asteroza

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #5 on: 08/29/2016 11:35 PM »
Wouldn't a big settlement, at least at the beginning, be supported by some sort of commercial anchor tenant with a regular supply visit requirement that allows for some secondary cargo delivery though?

The recent comments about ZBLAN fiber optic manufacturing being profitable with a BA-330 and 6 yearly cargo Dragon flights would be an example of such an anchor tenant.

Online high road

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #6 on: 08/30/2016 07:19 AM »
My thought exactly: bring in the industry first, so the tourist sector can 'rent' as much of the infrastructure as possible, rather than putting it up themselves. Huge savings on overhead costs. Tourists would be rare and stays would be short at first, but both would increase as more and more infrastructure becomes available. But no space tourism agency would have to pay for any largely unused infrastructure.

Unfortunately, ACME Advanced Materials have found that parabolic flights give them enough time in microgravity, at a considerably lower cost, at least for their CiS refining process. Let's hope that scaling up production and bringing down the cost of launching to and operating in orbit tips the scale back in favor of continuous production in microgravity. Once there's a first company that makes its money by producing something (other than data) in orbit, others will follow.

Offline KelvinZero

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #7 on: 08/30/2016 08:14 AM »
@ mikelepage : There is an obvious danger to making the world look like a big ball of yarn.. space kittens  :)

The super rich tourist idea worries me a bit.. could get "Elysium", ie people whose only goal is to lord it over the rest of us while sucking up earth resources, rather than pioneers. Such a classist system might actively quash the pioneer movement because they are happy with the status quo and want LEO to remain an elite club for which they control the membership.

If it turns to asteroid resources then probably we would be ok, pioneers would have their place and eventually earth bound wealth would be left behind. If it is people who already own everything on earth (a fast approaching situation since money makes more money just sitting in the bank) then they cannot actually make more money from asteroid mining. Who do you sell to if you already own everything?

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #8 on: 08/30/2016 06:03 PM »
This is my first post on this site because I could not resist responding.  Love the enthusiasm but the predictions are crazy optimistic.

Let's say as an aspirational goal, we hope that eventually, 1/1000 of those people would spend 1000x that amount for a trip to orbit for two weeks ($1.8 million ticket price, 22k people per year)

It's not a direct relationship. Data show (http://space.alglobus.net/papers/Easy.pdf, see page 27) that far fewer people will pay big bucks for space tourism than you're assuming. 

Assuming reusable rockets reduces cost to 1/10 of current $70 million/flight = $7 mil per flight.

Again, crazy optimistic. Best real world data we have is the reusability will cut prices by 30% and even that is pretty much a rumor from SpaceX.  BFR/MCT/Skylon etc may get us way lower but they are all vaporware right now.

$3 million for upkeep/downpayment of the station

$3million/flight x 26 flights = $78 million per year in maintenance/debt servicing.  For an honest to goodness space station. Totally implausible considering what I know about engineering and financing today.

Look, I know I sound harsh (I want space tourism as much as anyone!!!) but there is way way too much hand-waving here. Your assumptions are going to get you into hot water and ultimately disapppoint you.

Online dror

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #9 on: 08/30/2016 06:30 PM »
...
The numbers get interesting when the gravity is low: Assume, say, 500 cubic meters per person. Then take the area of Manhattan (60 square km), and give it an extra dimension to work with, giving you 465 cubic kilometers. That's a population of 1 billion.
...
;)
2 D Manhattan:
« Last Edit: 08/30/2016 06:32 PM by dror »
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Offline Impaler

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #10 on: 08/30/2016 09:35 PM »
I think we will see fewer larger stations rather then many many smaller ones.  This is simply more logistically efficient to build, maintain and shuttle cargo and passengers too.  Each station has basically unlimited 3 dimensional space to expand into so with a common 'backbone' that provides power and coolant many smaller independent moduals can be attached and run as quasi independent stations and then replaced as needed a bit like a trailer park.  This should satisfy any desire for independence without having to go through the trouble of setting up a complete station from scratch which will likely remain beyond most nations means for some time.

Stations at different inclinations will likely be used for different purposes, equatorial orbits are the most efficient to access both in payload quantity and launch frequency.  But they have poor earth observation potential due to always flying over the same terrain.  I expect these will be for zero g research or manufacturing.  Stations at high inclination will be tourist oriented and ones in between may be mixed, it will also allow nations to have stations that are optimal for their domestic launch site latitudes.


Offline mikelepage

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #11 on: 08/31/2016 05:40 AM »
This is my first post on this site because I could not resist responding.  Love the enthusiasm but the predictions are crazy optimistic.

Let's say as an aspirational goal, we hope that eventually, 1/1000 of those people would spend 1000x that amount for a trip to orbit for two weeks ($1.8 million ticket price, 22k people per year)

It's not a direct relationship. Data show (http://space.alglobus.net/papers/Easy.pdf, see page 27) that far fewer people will pay big bucks for space tourism than you're assuming. 

Welcome to the site - and glad it was my post that got you in ;)

I probably should have clarified at the beginning of the post (rather than the end) that I was projecting 22k people a year by 2050, but using 2015 dollars.  :) History tells us we tend to overestimate in the near term but underestimate in the long term.  Exponential growth is a beautiful thing.

I agree that expecting 1/1000th of the people to pay 1000x as much is a simplistic extrapolation but I think the paper you showed to actually does show it's a direct relationship (just not a linear one), it's just a matter of different starting assumptions and the scaling factor.

I like the results of this survey better (and how would we know which projection is more accurate?):
http://www.spacefuture.com/archive/space_tourism_and_its_effects_on_space_commercialization.shtml


As a very very rough curve fitting and extrapolation exercise for that orbital space flight demand data (and the fact that 8 flights have taken place for between $20 and $50 million. I get a decline in demand to 20% for every doubling of cost.

For the US (presumably this data is only indicative for first world countries).

This #people interested in orbital space flight for $ (USD) ticket price
130 million for $50k
26 million for $100k
5.2 million for $200k
1.04 million for $400k
208 thousand for $800k
42 thousand for $1.6 million
8 thousand for $3.2 million
1664 for $6.4 million
333 for $12.8 million
66 for $25.6 million
13 for $51.2 million

In that light, I think 22k spaceflight participants at a price of $1.8 million actually looks pretty reasonable.



« Last Edit: 08/31/2016 06:28 AM by mikelepage »

Offline mikelepage

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #12 on: 08/31/2016 05:58 AM »
Also, I should try to be more consistent about using the term "spaceflight participant" instead of tourist, because in my head these numbers are inclusive of people who are going in support of space industries like the above mentioned fibre optic production, asteroid mining, or Mars/Lunar exploration.  It's just that most of the data is couched in terms of "space tourism".

Secondly, to clarify, I'm not assuming every participant will be paying the same price and staying the same amount of time.  I'm trying to project the going rate (if you like) or average payment to support 22k people/per year in LEO (in 2015 dollars): which I think might be around $1.8 million, per person, per 2-week stay.  Whether that is funded by industry, or out of the personal pocket is up to them.

Personally I think this is conservative for 2050, but that it's a good goal to aim for.   If the numbers of participants go up, then the price should come down even further.
« Last Edit: 08/31/2016 06:31 AM by mikelepage »

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #13 on: 08/31/2016 12:54 PM »
I think the lesson here is that the world needs updated data on what people/organizations would pay for "spaceflight participation" aka tourism. Both your data (1999) and my data (2001) are woefully out of date. Those surveys were taken pre-9/11 pre-Great Recession pre-lots of stuff. Until the data are revised I think we are spitting into the wind.

That said, my gut tells me that ULA's Cislunar 1000 plan (or whatever it's called) is the best prediction i.e. 1000 people living in orbit by 2045.  Why do I think this? Because 1. it's ULA and if anyone knows anything about how fast or slow space development will go, it's those guys. 2. they're a fairly conservative company so if theyre saying 1000 people will be living in space by 2045, chances are it will be a lot more. And NO I do not work for ULA nor am I any way endorsing their plan.  Although it is pretty cool.

Perhaps the question we should be asking is, what technologies, financing, regulatory changes, world events etc do we need to happen to get 22,000 people living/working/visiting space by 2050? Currently I do not think it is plausible to have that many people living in space if current trends hold. But there is no reason current trends have to hold!

Offline mikelepage

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #14 on: 08/31/2016 03:05 PM »
I think the lesson here is that the world needs updated data on what people/organizations would pay for "spaceflight participation" aka tourism. Both your data (1999) and my data (2001) are woefully out of date. Those surveys were taken pre-9/11 pre-Great Recession pre-lots of stuff. Until the data are revised I think we are spitting into the wind. 

I'm not sure why the potential negative indication those events give should be weighted any more highly than the explosion of venture capital funding now being put into new space companies, not to mention the renewed popularity of space-based science fiction.  If the 1999 survey says just under 50% of people would travel into space for $50k, adjusting for inflation, it's not unreasonable that the same would be true now for $71k.  Western culture hasn't changed that much in 15-20 years.

Quote
That said, my gut tells me that ULA's Cislunar 1000 plan (or whatever it's called) is the best prediction i.e. 1000 people living in orbit by 2045.  Why do I think this? Because 1. it's ULA and if anyone knows anything about how fast or slow space development will go, it's those guys.

Really?  ??? I don't debate that the company knows rockets, and the plan is pragmatic, assuming we have minimal innovation between now and 2045, but I wouldn't trust an assessment of pace from the company that continued to insist that landing a first stage was impossible right up until the day it was done.  Now they've shifted the goal posts to saying it's not economically viable to reuse whole rocket stages - hopefully just a PR line they're using while they catch up to where the game is at, but I suspect not.

Quote
2. they're a fairly conservative company

Quite an understatement in my opinion.  My impression as an outsider is that there is a ton of risk-averse bureaucracy/politics in the corporate structure of it, that needs to be excised.  ULA could well be destined to be the Blackberry of the rocket world, unless they get with the program and stop relying on sole-sourced government contracts.

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #15 on: 08/31/2016 06:49 PM »
Western culture hasn't changed that much in 15-20 years

But wouldn't it be nice to have some quantitative data to know for sure? Perhaps the lack of quantitative data is what's holding back more investment in space?

the explosion of venture capital funding now being put into new space companies

It's funny you write that because I literally just finished an email exchange with a VC guy in the Pacific Northwest who loathes investing in space because he has lost so much money in it. Yes there is a lot of money going into space ventures but how much of it is profitable? Not too much. Not yet, hopefully. And certain not a lot at all focused on human spaceflight.

hopefully just a PR line they're using while they catch up to where the game is at, but I suspect not.

Yes, I get it. We all love to bash ULA. "Oldspace" and all that. I've done it myself at times. But the fact is, they've operated a successful space launch business for decades. Yes, they've accomplished it through crony capitalism and monopoly but if the goal is to have thousands of people living in space, we should not dismiss strategies that have worked in the past. I.e. if Congress wants to give ULA (or whatever 'evil' corporation is regularly mocked at dinner parties) a monopoly on building dozens of stations in orbit, would you say no? I wouldn't, because I want to use every tool at my disposal to get civilization off this planet. Ok, not EVERY tool. If ISIS wanted to build space stations I would oppose them.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, I think we are in vigorous agreement with one another :)

By the way I like your videos.

Online high road

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #16 on: 08/31/2016 09:18 PM »

the explosion of venture capital funding now being put into new space companies

It's funny you write that because I literally just finished an email exchange with a VC guy in the Pacific Northwest who loathes investing in space because he has lost so much money in it. Yes there is a lot of money going into space ventures but how much of it is profitable? Not too much. Not yet, hopefully. And certain not a lot at all focused on human spaceflight.


E-commerce only had its biggest successes years  after the dotcom bubble had burst. It's quite likely that 90% of the current space startups will fail. But the remaining. 10% might be very succesful. That's what venture capital is all about: pick the right teams and bet on several horses to spread the risk. If you feel like you lost too much money, you did at least one of those poorly (or lacked a clear exit strategy). Besides, going bankrupt is a great way to amortize sunk costs and lower prices.  That's capitalism ;-)

Offline RonM

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #17 on: 08/31/2016 10:33 PM »
If the 1999 survey says just under 50% of people would travel into space for $50k, adjusting for inflation, it's not unreasonable that the same would be true now for $71k.  Western culture hasn't changed that much in 15-20 years.

Forgetting the Great Recession of 2008? The percentage of the population that could afford those prices has dropped.

Offline Ludus

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #18 on: 09/06/2016 03:31 PM »
There is certainly some market among adventurous rich people for space tourism. I don't think there's much evidence it's very large for ticket prices of over $1 million. The Virgin Galactic example was at around $200,000 but never really tested how firm the reservations were.

Cruises are trivially cheap by comparison. You can rent an impressive yacht for $200k/week and it can be shared with family and associates. Very rich folk are more frugal about actually spending money on experiences than you might think at first. A lot of the experiences are shared.

A lot of the seemingly indulgent purchases made by rich folk are actually pretty frugal. A lot of real estate, cars, art, or yachts end up costing much less net or even making money. They have resale value and can appreciate. You hear about some guy dropping $75M on a single painting. He may have literally put it on his AMEX card and gotten 75M miles credit! Everybody in the family flies first class free for years. In a few years he sells the painting for $85M makes $10M profit and gets the benefit of showing off his painting for a few years thrown in for free.

I'd guess an occasional Dragon2 flight would pretty much satisfy demand for orbital SpaceTourism in the million dollar plus range.

That's just going into orbit, floating around a bit and looking out the window then returning to earth. A SpaceStation would add a lot of additional cost raising ticket prices by some multiple.

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic will likely start doing suborbital flights within a couple years (after many years of delay) and there will be some indication of the real demand at the $200k price point. Neither of these companies are in the business for it's profit potential. Branson does it for brand publicity value. Bezos sees it as a useful waypoint for reusable rocket development. Something to help pay for a lot of suborbital launch experience.

« Last Edit: 09/13/2016 05:46 AM by Ludus »

Offline QuantumG

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #19 on: 09/06/2016 09:11 PM »
Indeed. The big problem with space tourism has always been supply, not demand.
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? The slowest possible.

Offline gbaikie

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #20 on: 09/07/2016 01:34 AM »
Often times you'll hear people say we should concentrate on Moon/Mars/asteroids etc because we've "done" low earth orbit (LEO), meaning that ~500+ people have been there.

To me that really underestimates the commercial potential of LEO as a destination, not just for tourism (although that's what I'll concentrate on here), but for support of ongoing expansion into the solar system.  It may only be a few hundred km from the surface, but it's nearly to the other end of the biggest gravity well we have to overcome in the near future.

My question is: how do the economics change in the scenario where hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people have been to LEO or beyond, and travel to LEO is simply a more exotic method of travel around the world? (since where you land is largely a matter of departure timing).  I'm not an economist/accountant, so this is largely spitballing, I would like to hear more educated assessments of the potential.

Earthlings need cheap and an infinite supply of electrical power.
This can be provided by having space power satellites.
The problem is the cost of putting these satellites in orbit [they are large and one needs a fair amount of
infrastructure to get electrical power generated in space to the earth surface].
The market is huge and the price of electrical power delivered to earth surface has to be pretty cheap.
Maxim: at any point  where there are human settlements in space- LEO and/or beyond, one will be near the point of having SPS for Earthlings.
Because basically, settlements will have to solve the problem of "transportation costs" - which is same problem that SPS have.
Or if Elon Musk dreams come true- what will be important is not settler on Mars but Earthlings getting SPS.

But Musk is focusing on wrong thing, if he wants Mars settlements.
The correct focus is to do something to start a market for rocket fuel in space.
Of course NASA is likewise, clueless.
« Last Edit: 09/07/2016 01:38 AM by gbaikie »

Offline Pipcard

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #21 on: 09/07/2016 03:12 AM »
I think the lesson here is that the world needs updated data on what people/organizations would pay for "spaceflight participation" aka tourism. Both your data (1999) and my data (2001) are woefully out of date. Those surveys were taken pre-9/11 pre-Great Recession pre-lots of stuff. Until the data are revised I think we are spitting into the wind.
I'm guessing that's why this survey had these results (highlighted for emphasis):

Quote
In December, 2014, Monmouth University asked 1,006 U.S. adults "If you won a free trip on a private company’s rocket ship into space, would you take the trip, or not?" Only 28% said yes, and only 3% were undecided. The other 69% were certain they would turn down the trip.

Interestingly, Americans had a similar attitude toward space travel in 1960s during the space race. Only 17% said they would be interested in traveling to the moon themselves, according to a Gallup Poll from 1966.

Neither poll offers much insight into why Americans feel so hesitant about space travel, whether it's fear of the trip itself or the belief that it's not worth the cost it takes to get people into space.

I'm also guessing that the October 2014 SpaceShipTwo accident was a factor. It's very unfortunate.
« Last Edit: 09/07/2016 03:31 AM by Pipcard »

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #22 on: 09/07/2016 04:06 AM »
I think the lesson here is that the world needs updated data on what people/organizations would pay for "spaceflight participation" aka tourism. Both your data (1999) and my data (2001) are woefully out of date. Those surveys were taken pre-9/11 pre-Great Recession pre-lots of stuff. Until the data are revised I think we are spitting into the wind.
I'm guessing that's why this survey had these results (highlighted for emphasis):

Quote
In December, 2014, Monmouth University asked 1,006 U.S. adults "If you won a free trip on a private company’s rocket ship into space, would you take the trip, or not?" Only 28% said yes, and only 3% were undecided. The other 69% were certain they would turn down the trip.

Interestingly, Americans had a similar attitude toward space travel in 1960s during the space race. Only 17% said they would be interested in traveling to the moon themselves, according to a Gallup Poll from 1966.

Neither poll offers much insight into why Americans feel so hesitant about space travel, whether it's fear of the trip itself or the belief that it's not worth the cost it takes to get people into space.

I'm also guessing that the October 2014 SpaceShipTwo accident was a factor. It's very unfortunate.
Rather than despairing at 17% I'd be happy with it. Consider how many Europeans wanted to travel to the New World at any given time.. far fewer.
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Offline Impaler

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #23 on: 09/07/2016 08:51 AM »
Wait what basis do you have to say that fewer Europeans wanted to emigrate to America, it sounds like baseless speculation as I doubt you have a link to a survey.  I think we can be fairly confident that at certain times and places like the Irish potato famine the rates of emigration were far higher then that.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_diaspora in the year 1890 a full 40 percent of people born in Ireland were living outside it.  Now obviously Ireland is a special case but collectively a total emigration of 60 million left Europe between 1815 to 1932 per https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_diaspora, and that's out of a population that was growing from about 200 to 300 million over the same period, we don't know what percentage of every generation was emigrating but their were more that wanted to emigrate then actually could due to financial barriers.

So we have no basis to say that a trip to LEO is more popular then emigration from Europe was.

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #24 on: 09/07/2016 11:04 AM »
Wait what basis do you have to say that fewer Europeans wanted to emigrate to America, it sounds like baseless speculation as I doubt you have a link to a survey.  I think we can be fairly confident that at certain times and places like the Irish potato famine the rates of emigration were far higher then that.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_diaspora in the year 1890 a full 40 percent of people born in Ireland were living outside it.  Now obviously Ireland is a special case but collectively a total emigration of 60 million left Europe between 1815 to 1932 per https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_diaspora, and that's out of a population that was growing from about 200 to 300 million over the same period, we don't know what percentage of every generation was emigrating but their were more that wanted to emigrate then actually could due to financial barriers.

So we have no basis to say that a trip to LEO is more popular then emigration from Europe was.

Well, once climate change causes famine and ever bigger wars on earth at a time when there happens to be a succesful, growing colony in orbit, I'm pretty sure more people will be willing to go. If you're counting the great famine, which was one symptom of a continent-wide problematic era, you need to compare it to an equally devastating reality and promising alternative.

So the only way to compare people's willingness to go to space to any other metric, would be to the number of people willing to work on transport ships, oil platforms, or if you want to go historic, the number of people who wanted to be part of the crew of the great explorers, without being driven to do so by poverty.

Offline mikelepage

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #25 on: 09/07/2016 01:19 PM »
I'd guess an occasional Dragon2 flight would pretty much satisfy demand for orbital SpaceTourism in the million dollar plus range.

Agreed that people who get that rich don't do so by spending money on frivolous things, but the spaceflight participants that have already gone have worked out ways to make money from their trips too (iirc Richard Garriot has stated that he made nearly 40% of the cost of his flight back from activities he did whilst up there, proving that it need not be a loss-making exercise). 

We know that one end of the curve has had 8 takers for orbital flights at ~$50 million (some paid less). A price tag of $1.8 million is a lot less than that though, and I still think your proposed occasional Dragon2 wouldn't satisfy even a fraction of the demand at that price. 

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In December, 2014, Monmouth University asked 1,006 U.S. adults "If you won a free trip on a private company’s rocket ship into space, would you take the trip, or not?" Only 28% said yes, and only 3% were undecided. The other 69% were certain they would turn down the trip.

A quick google reveals that as of 2014, there are ~15 million, millionaires in the world, and let's assume that the number of people interested in an orbital space flight goes up to 28%, once cost becomes comparable to any other adventure holiday.  So perhaps the "130 million people interested in a $50k orbital flight" I used in my example above, is way too high... but surely 28% of the 15 million; 4.2 million millionaires would still be willing to spend up to 1% (~$12.5k) of their net worth on such a trip - and use that to estimate a curve (heck, I spent that much on my adventure holiday some years back).

Assuming the derivative of the slope is constant (reduction in cost proportional to increase in interest), #participants drops to ~32% for every doubling in price.

#number versus $price
4.2 million at $12.5k
1.34 million at $25k
430k at $50k
138k at $100k
44k at $200k
14.1k at $400k
4510 at $800k
1443 at $1.6 million
462 at $3.2 million
147 at $6.4 million
47 at $12.8 million
15 at $25.6 million
5 at $51.2 million

So yes, even now using relatively conservative estimates when looking at trips in the $1-2 million ticket price range, we are still looking at demand from 1000-3000 people ($2-3Billion dollar industry).  Trying to satisfy that sort of demand with a few Dragon2s/BA330s ain't going to cut it :)

« Last Edit: 09/07/2016 01:21 PM by mikelepage »

Offline RanulfC

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #26 on: 09/12/2016 06:23 PM »
mikelepage, I'm not trying to burst-your-bubble but it does needs significant deflation :)

I'd guess an occasional Dragon2 flight would pretty much satisfy demand for orbital SpaceTourism in the million dollar plus range.

Agreed that people who get that rich don't do so by spending money on frivolous things, but the spaceflight participants that have already gone have worked out ways to make money from their trips too (iirc Richard Garriot has stated that he made nearly 40% of the cost of his flight back from activities he did whilst up there, proving that it need not be a loss-making exercise).

I seem to recall that Garriot was about the ONLY participant who recouped anything and more specifically that is NOT going to be 'draw' factor. Motivation-wise it's NEVER a "loss-making" exercise in that the person is either working, (and getting paid) or 'experiencing' something they felt the could afford to spend the money to get. Significantly, the former tend to far outnumber the latter as a motivation, but also significantly the latter end up paying for the former.

Quote
We know that one end of the curve has had 8 takers for orbital flights at ~$50 million (some paid less). A price tag of $1.8 million is a lot less than that though, and I still think your proposed occasional Dragon2 wouldn't satisfy even a fraction of the demand at that price.

The problem is the "assumptions" of the 'other' end of that curve are tenuous at best. If the other end, even at $1.8 million a pop is only 16 that's spread between three Dragon-2s a year. So much depends on the assumptions from which the suppositions are based that, (as we already see) "conservative" assessments vary greatly. And most importantly your "price-tag" is only for the transportation to and from a supposed destination in LEO and that's only going to be a small part of the overall "price-tag" at any point in time.

Quote
Quote
In December, 2014, Monmouth University asked 1,006 U.S. adults "If you won a free trip on a private company’s rocket ship into space, would you take the trip, or not?" Only 28% said yes, and only 3% were undecided. The other 69% were certain they would turn down the trip.

A quick google reveals that as of 2014, there are ~15 million, millionaires in the world, and let's assume that the number of people interested in an orbital space flight goes up to 28%, once cost becomes comparable to any other adventure holiday.  So perhaps the "130 million people interested in a $50k orbital flight" I used in my example above, is way too high... but surely 28% of the 15 million; 4.2 million millionaires would still be willing to spend up to 1% (~$12.5k) of their net worth on such a trip - and use that to estimate a curve (heck, I spent that much on my adventure holiday some years back).

If you want to get anywhere CLOSE to a 'conservative' number why would you base it on an unsupported INCREASE of almost double the base number? 20% would be significantly pushing credibility if only because the same criteria would apply for someone who can 'afford' the price as someone who gets it for free. In other words assume that of the number you listed (and I have issues with those, see below) per ticket price that no MORE than 15% (being conservative) will actually SAY they would partake at the given price.

Having had a similar conversation about 15+ years ago with someone who actually worked in the high-end tourism industry let me pass on, (paraphrasing) what he told me;

Of those that CAN afford what is offered, about 15% (his was less than 10%) will SAY they would do something.

Of those about 15% will actually be able to do so for various reasons

Of those about 15% WILL actually put money toward (deposits) doing so.

Of those about 15% will actually pay and follow through.

Tourism, specifically non-niche, open tourism such as cruises, vacations, and resorts depend on large numbers of through-put of customers per day-cycle to allow affordable prices. That trickles down to everything from food to travel prices as well. Getting there is only one aspect of the total cost and even assuming your 'ticket' price of $1.8 million per passenger is accurate, (I don't think it is) then you have to take into account all the additional costs that come along with "just" getting to the destination and back. Something to remember in the 'scenario' you posit is that unlike current models that "ticket-price" will be one-way and the passenger will have to pay a similar amount for a 'return' flight so your flight is almost $4 million as a basic start.

Further you using your "holiday adventure" as an example but I very much doubt that the TRAVEL cost you a full $12.5K! "Package" and ancillary costs are going to ramp up the basic $4 million very quickly. Two weeks of supplies/support and you'll be pushing $10+ million per person easily.

You need to keep in mind that unlike any form of Earth travel, space travel does not have an 'inherent' demand at all because there is no where to go. Having to build and support your 'destination' greatly increases the basic costs immensely.

Quote
Assuming the derivative of the slope is constant (reduction in cost proportional to increase in interest), #participants drops to ~32% for every doubling in price.
>snip<
So yes, even now using relatively conservative estimates when looking at trips in the $1-2 million ticket price range, we are still looking at demand from 1000-3000 people ($2-3Billion dollar industry).  Trying to satisfy that sort of demand with a few Dragon2s/BA330s ain't going to cut it :)

That's not how it works at all as there are non-obvious "breaks" along the money curve even for high-end tourism on Earth so the number isn't linear or constant. And your end-product "demand" is far to high as you have no time element added. Your current baseline is 8 over about a 10 year period which is a 'demand' of less than one per year. "Doubling" demand would be ONE (1) per year, doubling that TWO (2) per year and so on. :)

Demand is based on just that, demand and frankly there isn't a lot about "visiting" orbit to generate demand. Travel price is not actually going to be a significant factor in generating demand other than how it effects construction, maintenance, and support costs. It's a factor but since you need to build and support your 'destination' before you can even begin to generate any type of 'demand' in the first place your basic "demand" market is going to be very small for a long time. As noted you have to have the "real-estate" in place before you can offer it at a price that people can make plans from.

And what do people DO in space? People tend to get in the way and cost more to support than automated facilities for manufacturing and research. People are needed only rarely if at all.

People need 'service' support and that is where the majority of people are involved in Earth tourism, but due to the expense and support needed you will find quite rapidly that the fewer 'support' people per tourist the better. Still you'll need at least two people for every tourist, (one direct support such as waiter/steward/guide, and one in-direct support such as maintenance/service person) which with proper automation you can probably get away with something like two to ten but that's probably pushing it. More like three to five assuming the direct support person can keep a similar shift to the tourists themselves which is possible but unlikely. So four for five or simply one-for-one would seem likely, though to handle shift changes, crew rotations and such you really end up getting back to two-for-one rapidly.
And those people have to be supported and paid by the money paid by the tourists, along with all the support, maintenance and construction, (because you'll be building and replacing habitats, modules, and equipment steadily) that goes along with them.

So even assuming that a "ticket" costs $1.8 million dollars to LEO your other costs will push the total price towards $10 million easily for even a short stay. And don't forget the apply the whole "15%" formula above to your price point calculations.
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British physics, old chap. It's undignified to belch flames and effluvia all over the pad, what. A true gentlemen's orbital conveyance lifts itself into the air unostentatiously, with the minimum of spectacle and a modicum of grace. Not like our American cousins' launch vehicles, eh?

Offline mikelepage

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #27 on: 09/13/2016 01:03 PM »
Thanks for your considered reply Randy, but you may have missed my earlier posts in the thread (and I didn't repeat some of my assumptions in the post you replied to).

I just lost my long reply, (so summarising quickly), but I did mention in my earlier posts that I was talking 2050 time frame (I'll be 67 then so I'll hope to have been part of this group :) ).  I was using 2015 numbers for tourism just because that's what we have.

ULA has their cis-lunar 1000 plan for 2045, so I don't think my original post's projection of 22k per year in 2050, or even my "more conservative" estimate of 1000-3000 people (in the post you replied to) is especially radical in that light.  Obviously, assuming some periods of exponential growth in flight rates between now and then, but not much more so than ULA.

"Big LEO" to me is the logical conclusion of a course of action where the "moon-shot" goal for this century isn't a case of where, but of whom.  Not how far, but how many.

LEO is half-way to Mars, deltaV wise.  It has the best view, the best radiation protection (ELEO particularly), is the easiest to abort from, and since most human missions this century will be largely Earth-supported anyway, the easiest to resupply.  It's the logical "location" for a beach head, and I would argue that any future where there are tens or hundreds of people living/working on Mars, has thousands or tens of thousands of people living/working in LEO.

As for what to do there, maybe I'm immature, but the idea of microgravity and partial gravity sport excite me quite a lot, and that's just one possibility.
« Last Edit: 09/13/2016 01:05 PM by mikelepage »

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #28 on: 09/14/2016 07:47 PM »
Ok ok so we've beat up the original poster pretty bad during the course of this thread.  The terrestrial tourist model is not likely to bootstrap development of large space stations or space settlements any time soon, barring major technological advancements.

So what will kickstart large space stations and, subsequently, space settlement? My thoughts:

1. Government. Investors build a rotating 1/3g "Mars practice" space station and convince/persuade Congress to give NASA a bunch of money to pay the investors to practice living in 1/3g before spending hundreds of billions and several years (and probably the lives of some brave astronauts) to do it on Mars.

2. Philanthropy. Convince/persuade some bazillionaire to build you your station without the need for turning a profit.  Maybe it can be a seed bank or genetic library outside of the biosphere in case of apocalypse.

I'm writing tongue in cheek but the bottom line is until cost to orbit is drastically, drastically cheaper developing space will be really really hard. 

Does anyone know anything about selling real estate options - perhaps a plucky space station developer could fund the development of a station by pre-selling condos in orbit?! I know that's nuts but I want this just as bad as the original poster. Willing to entertain all ideas.


Offline KristianAndresen

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #29 on: 09/14/2016 08:56 PM »
Here are some order of magnitude budget calculations for the city sized real estate. My big picture reasoning is that the best financial prospect is achieved by maximising the size, because that's where you get the greatest economies of scale. I'll look at a volume here of 50 cubic km, a bit smaller than in my last post.

The concept is to sell to the super rich, which means you are selling to 200000 residents each with the ability to put 50 million dollars into real estate, for a total budget on the order of 10 trillion dollars. It may seem optimistic to count them all as buyers, but then again, on earth the penguins can't fly, the lakes aren't spherical, and the willows just sort of droop in a depressing manner, so perhaps you'd have to be a fool to not invest.

Filling the city with nitrogen

Price of nitrogen: 10 cents per kg. And 1 kg becomes about 1 cubic meter. That gets you to 5 billion dollars to fill the volume. The price for oxygen is similar.

What about the tanks, if we assume we won't be reusing them? A 200 L nitrogen tank costs 2000 dollars, so that's 20 dollars per kg nitrogen. That's 1 trillion dollars to fill the volume, which is a bit steep. Each tank needs to be reused about 200 times to get the tank price per shipment down to 5 billion dollars, the same as the tank content.

And the number of shipments? Assuming 5 tonnes per launch, that's 10 million launches, which for a 20 year construction schedule gives you a launch every minute. That may sound insane, but in fact it just so happens to be the design capacity of Keith Lofstroms launch loop, the limitation being imposed by the heating. So the tool matches the application here.

Of course, the tank also needs solar cells, a small amount of propulsion assuming the launch loop can place it close to the right orbit, navigation computer, and wings for automated flyback and landing (no heat shielding if the first part of the city you build is a linear accelerator to drop things from orbit at low speeds). So it'll be more expensive than 5 billion dollars for those, but still within budget if economies of scale keep us not too far from the material costs of components.

The turn around time for one tank becomes about a month.

Price of electricity: About 10 cents per kWh, which is 3.6 million Joules. Quite cheap!
Kinetic energy of launched gas: The launch speed is 8 km/s, so it's 32 million Joules per kg. That's about 1 dollar per kg launched, or a total cost of 50 billion dollars.

5 tonnes every minute is an energy consumption of about 2 GW, which is a typical nuclear powerplant output.

The energy cost is a price point of 5000 dollars per launch. So it is reasonable to allocate a similar budget for shipping the landed tanks to the launch loop. And notably, it is 1000 dollars for shipping one container when you look up shipping costs.

Infrastructure

Before the villas are built, there is a need for infrastructure. Cables under tension providing structural integrity, water supply and waste drainage, electrical supply, climate control, fiber optic cabling, and a moving ski lift rope for transportation (in other words, a lattice of multi purpose pipes as envisaged by Japanese architect Tsutomu Nihei for a variable gravity city). I'll assume the pricing for this is similar to filling the available space with large suspension bridges. The numbers for the Oeresund bridge are: 8000 m length, 50 m width, 200 m height, 4 billion dollar cost. That's 50 dollars per cubic meter, or 2.5 trillion dollars in total. That's a significant chunk of the budget.

Mass budget for villas

Assuming a similar mass budget as for the air, you get for 200000 villas a budget of 250 tonnes per villa, which is a normal weight for a large house, although under lower gravity you may be able to build lighter.

Offline mikelepage

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #30 on: 09/15/2016 03:05 AM »
Hi KristianAndresen, thanks for your input.  Some big numbers there ;)

To expand on the "plausibility" part of this thread, I'd ask you to concentrate on how it is you imagine we get from where we are now, to what you imagine?

Part of my answer to that is to remember that cities don't just appear fully formed, like in Civilisation or whatever game, they build up organically around resource bases, or around elements of "geography" that concentrate the flow of resources.

LEO is not a resource base, but it is a place where we can expect resources to concentrate, once resources start flowing.  I think that will take a century or more.

In the meanwhile, in order to get to those resources, we need a "staging" area where space craft designed to do that are finalised. Aside from tourism, and whatever industries benefit from working in microgravity, that's what the people in LEO will be doing: getting craft ready to go to Mars/Asteroids.  Launches to the Moon will probably go direct, and although EML1/EML2 will be important routes, I tend to think the radiation protection of LEO will concentrate "settlement" there.

Based on current and near-future technology, rockets, the maximum payloads being launched to LEO are in the order of 100 to maybe 200 tons (depends on what MCT looks like).  So the trick is figuring out what sort of facilities can be launched within that payload to maximise value.

Ok ok so we've beat up the original poster pretty bad during the course of this thread. 

Meh, this is the internet ;) and people have actually been quite nice I thought.

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I'm writing tongue in cheek but the bottom line is until cost to orbit is drastically, drastically cheaper developing space will be really really hard. 

Agreed in principle, but a lot depends on where the tipping point is.  If you consider any other object that you're willing to spend money on, a 50% discount is a "drastic" price drop.  If something falls to 1/10th of it's value, that's a paradigm shift that changes world markets.  Yet in our cost to orbit calculations, we keep assuming the ticket price to orbit needs to fall to 1/50th or greater (under $1 million) before we think the shift will happen.  Why is that?  It's a flawed assumption.

RanulfC correctly pointed out that I have no evidence that the price curve scales linearly (it could be that the cost needs to get well under $100k ticket price before we get mass buy-in), but I would point out that we have no evidence it doesn't, either.

Quote
Does anyone know anything about selling real estate options - perhaps a plucky space station developer could fund the development of a station by pre-selling condos in orbit?! I know that's nuts but I want this just as bad as the original poster. Willing to entertain all ideas.


I don't think it is nuts.  Neither for that matter does Robert Bigelow - he made his money in real estate, after all, so I wouldn't be the slightest bit surprised if private ownership of BA330's is on the cards.  Add to that he's just one businessman (no philanthropy required), who is putting his money where his mouth is: welcome to the orbital party Blue Origin!  If SpaceX and others like them can just work out their current problems and get the cost down to 1/5th, 1/10th, "big" private LEO operations become a logistics problem, not a technology problem.  And that is worth getting excited about.

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #31 on: 09/15/2016 10:42 AM »
It is important to remember that the cost of access to space is only one of the problems holding back private investment in space. The other main problem is access to space itself: having to wait for years between ordering a launch and the actual launch means nobody is going to launch anything that might still need some tinkering before working good enough to be profitable. Waiting around for years costs a lot of money.

Commercial launchers are already aware of this, so assuming they address this issue,  the next issue is regulation. Miles of red tape that has to be waded through before you can get your product launched. Assuming ITAR gets hollowed out by lawyers in touch  with reality, ISS eventually gets sold to a private company, or a private company builds a new one, this hurdle will eventually be overcome,  but considerably later than cheaper access to space.

The next problem is vision: most of the industries that would benefit from new space applications are unlikely to invest until somebody has done it before.

Technical hurdles only come fifth in line.

Offline mikelepage

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #32 on: 09/18/2016 08:06 AM »
Fair enough, but I think you might be overblowing the legal concerns somewhat.  I've always been impressed at the ability of lawyers to get things changed when a client with money and vision decides things need to change.

The money will come when people with the money decide there's more money to be made in LEO.  That leaves the need for a vision, validated by attention to detail, which results in money being made in LEO.


Offline RDoc

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #33 on: 09/18/2016 09:47 PM »
While I like the LEO habitat notion, IMHO the biggest issue is what's the economic plan. Sure, tourism is a possibility, but that doesn't populate a habitat. If it's going to be anything more than a hotel or possibly cruise ship, there has to be some kind of economic basis.

Unfortunately, thus far, there's been nothing that it makes sense to produce in space, manufactured goods or services, that require human presence or even provide a plausibility argument.

Offline scienceguy

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #34 on: 09/18/2016 10:00 PM »
While I like the LEO habitat notion, IMHO the biggest issue is what's the economic plan. Sure, tourism is a possibility, but that doesn't populate a habitat. If it's going to be anything more than a hotel or possibly cruise ship, there has to be some kind of economic basis.

Unfortunately, thus far, there's been nothing that it makes sense to produce in space, manufactured goods or services, that require human presence or even provide a plausibility argument.


What about a base for processing precious metals mined from near-earth asteroids?
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Offline gbaikie

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #35 on: 09/18/2016 11:26 PM »
Ok ok so we've beat up the original poster pretty bad during the course of this thread.  The terrestrial tourist model is not likely to bootstrap development of large space stations or space settlements any time soon, barring major technological advancements.

So what will kickstart large space stations and, subsequently, space settlement? My thoughts:

1. Government. Investors build a rotating 1/3g "Mars practice" space station and convince/persuade Congress to give NASA a bunch of money to pay the investors to practice living in 1/3g before spending hundreds of billions and several years (and probably the lives of some brave astronauts) to do it on Mars.

2. Philanthropy. Convince/persuade some bazillionaire to build you your station without the need for turning a profit.  Maybe it can be a seed bank or genetic library outside of the biosphere in case of apocalypse.

I'm writing tongue in cheek but the bottom line is until cost to orbit is drastically, drastically cheaper developing space will be really really hard. 

Does anyone know anything about selling real estate options - perhaps a plucky space station developer could fund the development of a station by pre-selling condos in orbit?! I know that's nuts but I want this just as bad as the original poster. Willing to entertain all ideas.

The solution has to involve new markets in space. Or the satellite market is not enough.
All that is needed is commercially minable water in space.
The best location to start mining water in space, could be and probably is, the Moon.
What is needed is exploration of the Moon to determine if the moon could be mined.
The quantities needed to mine are about 1000 tons of water per year.
And one can start with first year mining 50 tons of water, if one is roughly doubling production
every year until one is around 1000 tons per year.
As far as comparing the moon to elsewhere, the least amount that one needs to mined in the beginning- first
10 years, is the measuring stick. Or if need to mine 10,000 tons per years to be viable, than that is less viable than 1000 tons per year. Or if all you need was to mine 100 tons per year to get into the black [be profitable] then that is more viable than the Moon.
Or one might be able to just mine 100 tons per year on the Moon to be viable- it depends on how low the cost are to mine the the water.
Or were launch cost to lower OR the Moon is actually explored to determine where to mine [or such exploration basically is factor in lower one costs] the moon might only need 100 tons per year get a return on the investment.
NASA of course is not obviously governed by return on investment [it actually is, but politicians are quite capable of funding something which is uneconomical to do- because they are fools] so NASA could play lunar miner, and try to mine water on the Moon. As could any space agency.
But I think this would be a bad thing to waste public money and more importantly public time, doing.
Or NASA mining water on the Moon- is unrelated to starting a market is space.
NASA could start a market in space, by developing an operational depot in LEO. And that does lower costs of any mining water in space. It also would lower the cost of Mars exploration.

NASA should build and operate a depot, and thereby start a market for rocket fuel in space.
NASA should use that depot to explore the Moon. Then NASA can continue using depots to explore Mars.
IF the Moon doesn't have minable water [the results of lunar exploration have negative results] another
way to begin markets in space [other then the rocket fuel market which NASA helped begin] is to explore Mars
to determine if and where there could be settlements on Mars.
If there was a lake on Mars [or underground lake] this would do a lot to make Mars viable in terms of human settlement. They are of course other things that need to be explored on Mars which are related to whether
Mars could viable- another example is finding somewhat large caves on Mars.
NASA should explore the moon first and get this done quickly [from start to finish- less than a decade]. Mars exploration can't be done quickly and one need allow at least 2 decades for Mars exploration.
Another aspect is that if one has commercial lunar water mining- or the Chinese mine the lunar water and if sell rocket fuel at competitive prices [and they could lose money doing it [I care not or I think it doesn't matter] -then this lunar water mining will make future Mars settlement more viable.

« Last Edit: 09/18/2016 11:39 PM by gbaikie »

Offline mikelepage

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #36 on: 09/19/2016 07:28 AM »
So what will kickstart large space stations and, subsequently, space settlement? My thoughts:

1. Government. Investors build a rotating 1/3g "Mars practice" space station and convince/persuade Congress to give NASA a bunch of money to pay the investors to practice living in 1/3g before spending hundreds of billions and several years (and probably the lives of some brave astronauts) to do it on Mars.

2. Philanthropy. Convince/persuade some bazillionaire to build you your station without the need for turning a profit.  Maybe it can be a seed bank or genetic library outside of the biosphere in case of apocalypse.
os in orbit?! I know that's nuts but I want this just as bad as the original poster. Willing to entertain all ideas.

I think 1. is close to the sweet spot. 2. is one possible application among many.

The US government and private industry combined is spending an awful lot of money on the prospect of Mars settlement without any guarantee that humans can survive at Mars gravity for extended periods of time.  There's a pretty good medical argument to be made that after some threshold amount of time in microgravity (>2 years), a return to 1xg will be technically survivable, but in practical terms will require rehabilitation measures equivalent to spinal injuries.  Essentially it is a one way trip.

Maybe, Mars gravity (0.38xg) is sufficient to stave off that kind of deterioration.  It would be nice to know that in a large dataset of people without having to send that entire dataset to Mars.  My argument has always been that spin gravity research should take place in parallel to Mars exploration.

Hence my working on DESGA (DEployable Spin Gravity Array) which is how to flat-pack a torus into a tall, narrow rocket stage, in a way that can be deployed and retracted at will:

Presenting... the DEployable Spin Gravity Array.  :)  Folded form is tall and narrow, deployed form is a wide torus.

Still a work in progress (doesn't deploy and fold up cleanly yet), but since I showed the models above, I thought you guys might be interested to see the 3D print.



A Mars gravity "practice" station built to this configuration of somewhat reasonable dimensions (12x12m length modules, resulting 22m radius x 4rpm = ~0.38g, 2.2m module height) can be folded into a 12m wide fairing.  Not sure yet if that would fit onto the MCT/SLS as planned.  But mass wise it ought to be possible within the capabilities of those vehicles.

Bear in mind that the torus configuration as a concept is not only useful for spin gravity research.  It can also be used to test "double torus" radiation shielding techniques which can potentially deflect enough ionising radiation to mitigate cancer concerns.
http://engineering.dartmouth.edu/~d76205x/research/Shielding/docs/ToMaSS.pdf
Again, would be nice to test those techniques in LEO before going interplanetary.

Lastly, this human-sized configuration is not the initial configuration I have in mind.  The reason for the many small chambers in the model has to do with a technique I have in mind to reduce space debris without orbital rendezvous.  My initial plan is a single satellite, launchable on a single F9, which I believe should be profitable through charging for the maintenance of "clean altitudes" which are regularly cleared of space debris.

The idea would be that every toroidal space station would also become a space debris collector/deorbiter, which is absolutely necessary if we want these space stations to to occupy the 800-1000km altitude range where space debris is currently most dense, and where we want to put LEO space stations if we don't want to have to reboost them every few months.   

Online high road

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #37 on: 09/19/2016 12:59 PM »
Unfortunately, thus far, there's been nothing that it makes sense to produce in space, manufactured goods or services, that require human presence or even provide a plausibility argument.

Is there any concept for production in space that is at a high enough TRL to determine how much maintenance it requires? That's the only base to determine what level of production would be required for human presence to be cost effective. A human presence that doesn't have to be sustained at first. You could just get a maintenance crew up there only once a year, until production levels and downtime require more work.

Last time I checked, high-grade materials/supersized chrystal structures production methods remain at low TRL, amongs other things because of the enormous amount of red tape and organisation that makes it extremely difficult for research programmes to show results in an acceptable, or even predictable amount of time.

What about a base for processing precious metals mined from near-earth asteroids?

As in 'purifying ore' of 'earthbound' precious metals? You would need quite a lot of ore coming in to make in-space processing cheaper than just getting all of the ore down to earth. If the concentration of precious metals is low, you would try to purify at the source to avoid hauling waste dirt across the solar system. However, the idea is that asteroids would have purer ore seams.

But if you had the 'high purity materials' industries up and running at the time when the first batch of NEO ore comes in (the two best known companies are a few years behind on starting to scout for interesting ones, so there's still quite enough time), there would be an actual in-space demand for these materials. That would make it much more interesting to get all the steps of the production chain in orbit.

All that is needed is commercially minable water in space.
The quantities needed to mine are about 1000 tons of water per year.

Same questions as always: How does commercially minable water in space result in a LEO settlement? Do you mean the gas station requires a human crew for maintenance? And where does the demand for thousand tons of water per year come from? Supplying Mars? So that's tens of thousands of people living on Mars (doing what to make money?), to require a small maintenance workforce.

In order for 1000 tons of water to be commercially mineable in space, there needs to be a demand for 1000 tons of water in space. Once there is a demand for 1000 tons of water in space, whether that water comes from space or from Earth, (or hydrogen from earth and carbon/oxygen from elsewhere, as in Mars Direct), will make less of a difference than getting people to spend a ridiculous amount of money on things that require 1000 tons of fuel per year to be schlepped across the solar system.

Offline ThereIWas3

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #38 on: 09/19/2016 03:04 PM »
These hypothetical very rich people wanting to have a vacation spot in LEO are not going to expect to microwave their own meals and maintain their own toilet.  There has to be a support staff.  Cruise Ships operate with between 1 and 2 crew for every 3 passengers.  And the passengers are not going to be travelling alone.

But space-going support staff are going to have be be much more highly trained and paid than the people working on ships.
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Offline RDoc

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #39 on: 09/19/2016 05:32 PM »
These hypothetical very rich people wanting to have a vacation spot in LEO are not going to expect to microwave their own meals and maintain their own toilet.  There has to be a support staff.  Cruise Ships operate with between 1 and 2 crew for every 3 passengers.  And the passengers are not going to be travelling alone.

But space-going support staff are going to have be be much more highly trained and paid than the people working on ships.
Sure, but that means there might be one or two "space liners" in orbit with what, 100 crew and 100 passengers? How many space tourists are going to be up at one time?

As for metals, or anything else mined in space. What materials could possibly justify the cost of retrieving them? I'm also very doubtful that there would be any need or use for human space miners or refiners, plus the cost to maintain them to do the work would be gigantic.

Offline gbaikie

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #40 on: 09/19/2016 06:17 PM »
Quote from: gbaikie on 09/18/2016 11:26 PM

    All that is needed is commercially minable water in space.
    The quantities needed to mine are about 1000 tons of water per year.

High road:
Quote
Same questions as always: How does commercially minable water in space result in a LEO settlement? Do you mean the gas station requires a human crew for maintenance? And where does the demand for thousand tons of water per year come from? Supplying Mars? So that's tens of thousands of people living on Mars (doing what to make money?), to require a small maintenance workforce.
Settlements are markets. I am talking about space policy, rather than a plan. Policy should be: start new markets in space. New being different than already existing markets in space. If one could buy rocket fuel in space- anyone could buy, including NASA, that would be a new or different market than what we have now.
Regarding 1000 tons of mined water. A plan which needed the least amount of water, is better than mining Europa which has zillions of tons of ice and one could mine millions of tons of water- but can you just sell 1000 tons of water per year, and make profit?- or do need sell vast amounts of volume of water before it's profitable.
Or the Moon seems to most viable, because it requires the least amount of demand of water. And this least demand is roughly about 1000 tons per year. Or within 10 year from the start one is mining 1000 tons per year.

Quote
In order for 1000 tons of water to be commercially mineable in space, there needs to be a demand for 1000 tons of water in space. Once there is a demand for 1000 tons of water in space, whether that water comes from space or from Earth, (or hydrogen from earth and carbon/oxygen from elsewhere, as in Mars Direct), will make less of a difference than getting people to spend a ridiculous amount of money on things that require 1000 tons of fuel per year to be schlepped across the solar system.
Well I think where is the Moon, but need exploration, and it's possible it's not the Moon.

Edit, added:
It is commonly accepted the most valuable resource/substance in space environment which is not exported to earth [used in the space environment] is water. This is the current situation. In the future after water is mined, water will *not* be the most valuable commodity in Space. Or since there is so much water in our solar system, at some point in the future, water will be cheaper. It could become cheaper in space in distance future than it is on Earth. Or if there Mars settlements, Mars will be one of the cheapest place beyond Earth of water. The total abundance of water on Mars is unknown, but there could be far more fresh water available on Mars than fresh water currently available/currently routinely used on Earth [Glaciers are not currently used and a vast amount of underground water is not used].
The Moon doesn't have much water, but it has more water for the purposes of making rocket fuel then could possible be used in time period of several centuries- unless you want to do something silly like use chemical rocket fuel to go to the stars.
There are stuff on the Moon which you could be exported to the Earth surface. Any lunar regolith is currently worth more than gold. Lunar meteorites are currently one most expensive  meteorites- and generally worth more than gold per gram. Getting lunar samples from known locations is more valuable getting them from unknown location [or having some doubt that they even from the Moon]. Lunar material has value which goes beyond the mere scarcity of lunar material. Or one could bring back 100 tons of lunar material, and a particular type of lunar material "could be" priced and bought at higher price than if one get some lunar material today. But there is also significant "value" in lower the cost and increasing availability of lunar material. In addition there things like He-3 which have some value [in total, probably much less than lunar dirt in general]. There also could stuff in PGM which if rocket fuel cost is lowered could to be exported to Earth.
I would say lunar iron as total resource is worth more than Earth iron as total resource.
Though perhaps most valuable resource on the Moon is it's solar energy. For use of solar energy in terms of solar panels [ie not counting solar energy to grow crops] there is no comparison. Lunar solar power could a viable way to harvest solar energy to make Electrical power, and in distance future make electrical power from sunlight cheaper than Earth conventional electrical power. Or cheaper than coal power plants can make
electrical power. Of course one would need to make it on the Moon rather than ship solar panels or components of solar panels from Earth. But within say 50 years of first starting lunar water mining, doing so is
possible.
Lunar water mining involves directly, a lunar electrical market, water, O2 and H2. Or if there is electrical power for splitting water, that electrical power can bought for other reasons than splitting water. Hydrogen has lots of uses other than for rocket fuel. Water use lots of uses other than for rocket fuel. Etc
« Last Edit: 09/19/2016 09:54 PM by gbaikie »

Offline Solman

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #41 on: 09/19/2016 06:47 PM »
Don't forget PROFAC. Earth atmosphere seems the most logical thing to mine from LEO.
One possibility might be a tether based system in a somewhat elliptical orbit. At perigee the lower end of the tether would enter the upper atmosphere and scoop up some air. The air would be piped via the tether itself perhaps (if it was cylindrical), to its center of mass hundreds to thousands of miles up and separated with the oxygen liquefied and stored while the nitrogen would be sent to a SEP system and exhausted at very high velocity to keep the tether up despite the drag from air collection.
The length means a lower orbital velocity making collection easier and more efficient. As time goes by, the mass of oxygen could increase with the result that increasingly heavy payloads launched from the ground could hook on without the tether losing too much altitude and be raised to the center where they could be released to orbit or sent up a tether above the center to BEO destinations.
Humans would live in a location below center at lowest altitude practical considering drag so that they would have some "gravity" and radiation protection. They might be waiting on a launch window, doing research, or tourists and staff.
Once payloads are being brought up the tether length could grow even if significant tapering is required.
The tether would get steadily slower lower and easier to get to. When I came up with this in the Nineties I thought "SpaceBridge was a good name.
« Last Edit: 09/19/2016 06:56 PM by Solman »

Offline mikelepage

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #42 on: 09/21/2016 05:02 AM »
These hypothetical very rich people wanting to have a vacation spot in LEO are not going to expect to microwave their own meals and maintain their own toilet.  There has to be a support staff.  Cruise Ships operate with between 1 and 2 crew for every 3 passengers.  And the passengers are not going to be travelling alone.

But space-going support staff are going to have be be much more highly trained and paid than the people working on ships.
Sure, but that means there might be one or two "space liners" in orbit with what, 100 crew and 100 passengers? How many space tourists are going to be up at one time?

Okay so the cruise ship analogy may not set the most appropriate for expectations in this case, because this is far more equivalent to adventure holidays: In which you might have two guides to 8 people, and yes, on those holidays it doesn't matter how much you paid, of course you prepare your own food and bury your own poop, because that's what it takes.  I'm talking about the kind of people that decide to climb Everest or visit Antartica, because they're fulfilling a dream they've had since they were children (sounds familiar yeah?).

I'm figuring it will start at 2 crew/pilots to 5 passengers, and eventually move to 1 crew for 6 passengers once it becomes routine.  Let's keep it dragon-sized to start with.  Also remember some of the passengers won't be purely tourists, but will also have science or tech demos to do while they are up there, paid by industry, so some of the same people may go quite frequently and become surrogate crew.

Imagine a rotating station (Mars gravity - 12 modules as with my printout above) capable of supporting 14 people or so.  The hub is simply a docking node where up to 2 Dragons can dock at once.   Groups of 7 (let's call them group A, B etc) come and go for two weeks at a time, staggered by one week.

So group A has been there for one week when group B arrives, and one week after that, group C has a successful launch, so group A's departure is timed to make a docking port available.  Since the departing Dragons can land anywhere, you organise the groups by where they want to land, so group A might be returning to Los Angeles, group B to Paris, group C to Sydney etc.  The Dragons are shipped back to the launch site for later reuse.

Since some education/preparation will be required for the passengers, each group would train together for 2 weeks or so before launch (whole experience is a month long).  What would you expect to pay for that?  Me personally, assuming my net worth was more than $10 mil, I'd definitely spend a million on it, no questions asked, because it's a huge dream of mine to go - it's worth far more to me than any sports car, that's for sure.

Offline mikelepage

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #43 on: 09/21/2016 05:11 AM »
Don't forget PROFAC. Earth atmosphere seems the most logical thing to mine from LEO.

Honestly had never heard of this concept before, and my initial gut reaction is that the drag would be way too high for SEP, but after reading up on it I'm cautiously optimistic (in an elliptical orbit maybe).  Worth keeping in mind.

Offline Asteroza

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #44 on: 09/21/2016 05:55 AM »
Don't forget PROFAC. Earth atmosphere seems the most logical thing to mine from LEO.

Honestly had never heard of this concept before, and my initial gut reaction is that the drag would be way too high for SEP, but after reading up on it I'm cautiously optimistic (in an elliptical orbit maybe).  Worth keeping in mind.

Ugly problem with PROFAC is you are tempted to use SSO for power all day if solar powered, but humans rarely want to go to SSO as a destination, so getting your propellant to the end user has an added cost. A waypoint transfer station for tossing pole to pole transfers to the moon maybe, but are there any other reasons for humans to want to go to SSO?

So what are the popular orbits in theory? Some sort of phasing orbit for lunar transfer orbit strikes me as win-win, but what do people want to see out the window? Do they really want to see the poles well, and are they willing to pay for the privilege?

Offline jongoff

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #45 on: 09/21/2016 06:11 AM »
Don't forget PROFAC. Earth atmosphere seems the most logical thing to mine from LEO.

Honestly had never heard of this concept before, and my initial gut reaction is that the drag would be way too high for SEP, but after reading up on it I'm cautiously optimistic (in an elliptical orbit maybe).  Worth keeping in mind.

Ugly problem with PROFAC is you are tempted to use SSO for power all day if solar powered, but humans rarely want to go to SSO as a destination, so getting your propellant to the end user has an added cost. A waypoint transfer station for tossing pole to pole transfers to the moon maybe, but are there any other reasons for humans to want to go to SSO?

So what are the popular orbits in theory? Some sort of phasing orbit for lunar transfer orbit strikes me as win-win, but what do people want to see out the window? Do they really want to see the poles well, and are they willing to pay for the privilege?

Hmm... I had been reading recently about the idea of putting up large solar reflector satellites in high Sun Synchronous LEO (above 1100km) to reflect extra sunlight down to the surface. What if you did the same, but used that to beam power to PROFAC satellites in a lower inclination orbit instead? Not crazy efficient, but it would allow you to have constant solar power, and a PROFAC concept is already crazy (my kind of crazy), so we're just adding another level of crazy on top...

~Jon

Offline hkultala

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #46 on: 09/21/2016 06:29 AM »
Don't forget PROFAC. Earth atmosphere seems the most logical thing to mine from LEO.

Earth atmosphere is moving at about 0.43 km/s velocity at equator(assuming it's moving at same velocity than ground). Craft in LEO is moving at about 7.8 km/s velocity. This means that there is about 7.37 km/s velocity difference between the craft and the atmosphere.

This also means that for stationkeeping, even if all the gas particles that the craft hits is collected and all that gas was used as propellant, it would have to be exhausted at 7.37km/s velocity. No chemical engine can do that, not even nuclear can do that if the propellant is something else than hydrogen like you suggest. So it would have to be electric.

Quote
One possibility might be a tether based system in a somewhat elliptical orbit. At perigee the lower end of the tether would enter the upper atmosphere and scoop up some air. The air would be piped via the tether itself perhaps (if it was cylindrical), to its center of mass hundreds to thousands of miles up and separated with the oxygen liquefied and stored while the nitrogen would be sent to a SEP system and exhausted at very high velocity to keep the tether up despite the drag from air collection.

Couple of thousands miles would still not decrease the delta-v by many km/s. And how would you "pipe it?".
You might have to pump it, and pumping something up thousands of miles.. not so easy.


And there is no point in the ellipticity of the orbit in this concept. It just makes it worse, because it makes the velocity at pegiree higher -> more drag losses.

Quote
The length means a lower orbital velocity making collection easier and more efficient.

Having any kind of tether means the the tether has drag, which decreases the efficiency.



So, the PROFAC is most plausable in it's original form.

Offline Asteroza

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #47 on: 09/21/2016 10:15 AM »
Don't forget PROFAC. Earth atmosphere seems the most logical thing to mine from LEO.

Honestly had never heard of this concept before, and my initial gut reaction is that the drag would be way too high for SEP, but after reading up on it I'm cautiously optimistic (in an elliptical orbit maybe).  Worth keeping in mind.

Ugly problem with PROFAC is you are tempted to use SSO for power all day if solar powered, but humans rarely want to go to SSO as a destination, so getting your propellant to the end user has an added cost. A waypoint transfer station for tossing pole to pole transfers to the moon maybe, but are there any other reasons for humans to want to go to SSO?

So what are the popular orbits in theory? Some sort of phasing orbit for lunar transfer orbit strikes me as win-win, but what do people want to see out the window? Do they really want to see the poles well, and are they willing to pay for the privilege?

Hmm... I had been reading recently about the idea of putting up large solar reflector satellites in high Sun Synchronous LEO (above 1100km) to reflect extra sunlight down to the surface. What if you did the same, but used that to beam power to PROFAC satellites in a lower inclination orbit instead? Not crazy efficient, but it would allow you to have constant solar power, and a PROFAC concept is already crazy (my kind of crazy), so we're just adding another level of crazy on top...

~Jon

There was that Indian solar grid concept that used SSO sats and more equatorial ones for relays (original grid proposal included exporting terrestrial energy for long distance transmission via relay sats as well). Whether the SSO sats are pure light relays (concentrator mirror+ beam director) or SPS with laser/microwave relay to equatorial relay sats (which seemed to be of either the concentrator/beam director or wire mesh plate reflector type) leaves interesting optimization issues. Putting an externally augmented PROFAC on more attractive orbits will work, but will make traffic control a higher issue during regular fuel scooping ops.

People seem enamored by the word scoop, but you need a long funnel form, more like a beehive of funnels. An interesting idea for achieving the beehive effect is turning the tether into a 3D tape, so that panel/tape walls form a long stack of funnels, feeding into common channels that run up/down the tether. If down, gases collect on the bottom anchor (a tank with fins), for liquification and repumping up the tether.


But getting back to the topic, what are "tourist" orbits, what are parking/waypoint/pretransfer orbits, and what are "commercial" orbits, that would define preferred large settlement locations?

Offline ThereIWas3

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #48 on: 09/21/2016 01:57 PM »
But getting back to the topic, what are "tourist" orbits, what are parking/waypoint/pretransfer orbits, and what are "commercial" orbits, that would define preferred large settlement locations?

This would require careful planning and international agreements regarding orbit altitudes, since all orbits at a given altitude interesect with each other.  And with Earth not being a perfect sphere, plus the influence of the Moon, I would expect there to be some drift in orbital nodes over time.
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Offline mikelepage

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #49 on: 09/22/2016 05:22 AM »
But getting back to the topic, what are "tourist" orbits, what are parking/waypoint/pretransfer orbits, and what are "commercial" orbits, that would define preferred large settlement locations?

For large numbers of people in LEO settlements, I think what matters is 1) amount of radiation shielding required, which affects a) how much mass you need to launch and b) how long people can stay there.  Also 2) it's important to maximise the time it takes for the orbit to decay - if you require constant reboosting like the ISS, then you can't build big structures.

On page 18 of this publication:
http://space.alglobus.net/papers/Easy.pdf
You get this table:



Which shows that low inclination is better (because of the South Atlantic Anomaly, and also extra radiation around Earth's poles).  Below 20mSv/year is virtually surface levels - and this is the annual limit for aircraft workers.  This is calculated at 600km (which gives a 10 year decay period), but if you went to 800km you get a 150-200 year decay period). 



At 1000km altitude is where the inner Van Allen belt starts to get bad, so my understanding is that you want to stay between 600-1000km altitude.  The problem is that this is where most of the space debris is:



Solving the space debris problem has a direct impact on any LEO settlements, so that should be solved as a part of any plan.  Ideally, you want a 800km equatorial LEO, because your station can stay there for decades, and people can live there for decades with minimal shielding.  ESA may well market its Kourou launch site at 5 degrees as the safest inclination LEO orbit.

Practically, I think it will end up being a 25-28.5 degree inclination because that's where the US launch sites are, having a ton of water/m2 surrounding the living quarters is not completely out of the question, and perhaps some kind of magnetic shielding can be achieved. Having an inclined orbit also enables a wider range of locations/countries that landing craft can reach, which means people are more likely to be able to return directly to country of origin.
« Last Edit: 09/22/2016 05:23 AM by mikelepage »

Offline Solman

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #50 on: 09/23/2016 01:39 PM »
Don't forget PROFAC. Earth atmosphere seems the most logical thing to mine from LEO.

Earth atmosphere is moving at about 0.43 km/s velocity at equator(assuming it's moving at same velocity than ground). Craft in LEO is moving at about 7.8 km/s velocity. This means that there is about 7.37 km/s velocity difference between the craft and the atmosphere.

This also means that for stationkeeping, even if all the gas particles that the craft hits is collected and all that gas was used as propellant, it would have to be exhausted at 7.37km/s velocity. No chemical engine can do that, not even nuclear can do that if the propellant is something else than hydrogen like you suggest. So it would have to be electric.

Quote
One possibility might be a tether based system in a somewhat elliptical orbit. At perigee the lower end of the tether would enter the upper atmosphere and scoop up some air. The air would be piped via the tether itself perhaps (if it was cylindrical), to its center of mass hundreds to thousands of miles up and separated with the oxygen liquefied and stored while the nitrogen would be sent to a SEP system and exhausted at very high velocity to keep the tether up despite the drag from air collection.

Couple of thousands miles would still not decrease the delta-v by many km/s. And how would you "pipe it?".
You might have to pump it, and pumping something up thousands of miles.. not so easy.


And there is no point in the ellipticity of the orbit in this concept. It just makes it worse, because it makes the velocity at pegiree higher -> more drag losses.

Quote
The length means a lower orbital velocity making collection easier and more efficient.

Having any kind of tether means the the tether has drag, which decreases the efficiency.



So, the PROFAC is most plausable in it's original form.

Thanks for the feedback.
I never suggested using a chemical rocket for keeping the tether up I said solar electric using nitrogen with an exhaust velocity many times orbital.
The elliptical orbit is used to give the SEP more time to make up for the drag. Higher power could allow the collector to remain in the upper atmosphere throughout the orbit.
I must disagree about length of tether not reducing delta V since length in this case results in the center of mass(where the oxygen is stored) being raised. Orbital velocity depends on altitude of the center of mass right? Otherwise the beanstalk tether would be impossible for instance. This concept could grow to that size but I see little point in getting the ultimate velocity below airliner speed and altitude. Or maybe a little faster so that the equatorial orbit would keep up with the Sun giving the facility in its ultimate form constant sunlight.

Offline hkultala

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #51 on: 09/23/2016 01:56 PM »
Don't forget PROFAC. Earth atmosphere seems the most logical thing to mine from LEO.

Earth atmosphere is moving at about 0.43 km/s velocity at equator(assuming it's moving at same velocity than ground). Craft in LEO is moving at about 7.8 km/s velocity. This means that there is about 7.37 km/s velocity difference between the craft and the atmosphere.

This also means that for stationkeeping, even if all the gas particles that the craft hits is collected and all that gas was used as propellant, it would have to be exhausted at 7.37km/s velocity. No chemical engine can do that, not even nuclear can do that if the propellant is something else than hydrogen like you suggest. So it would have to be electric.

Quote
One possibility might be a tether based system in a somewhat elliptical orbit. At perigee the lower end of the tether would enter the upper atmosphere and scoop up some air. The air would be piped via the tether itself perhaps (if it was cylindrical), to its center of mass hundreds to thousands of miles up and separated with the oxygen liquefied and stored while the nitrogen would be sent to a SEP system and exhausted at very high velocity to keep the tether up despite the drag from air collection.

Couple of thousands miles would still not decrease the delta-v by many km/s. And how would you "pipe it?".
You might have to pump it, and pumping something up thousands of miles.. not so easy.


And there is no point in the ellipticity of the orbit in this concept. It just makes it worse, because it makes the velocity at pegiree higher -> more drag losses.

Quote
The length means a lower orbital velocity making collection easier and more efficient.

Having any kind of tether means the the tether has drag, which decreases the efficiency.



So, the PROFAC is most plausable in it's original form.

Thanks for the feedback.
I never suggested using a chemical rocket for keeping the tether up I said solar electric using nitrogen with an exhaust velocity many times orbital.
The elliptical orbit is used to give the SEP more time to make up for the drag.

Higher power could allow the collector to remain in the upper atmosphere throughout the orbit.

Does not work,  you end up changing the orbit. You have to use the engine at same place where the drag is to keep the orbit same.

Taking the drag at pegiree jus drops the apogee, and using the ensine all the time raises it everywhere. You end up circulating the orbit, not keeping it elliptical.

If you are worrier about the power of the SEP, then just have the circular orbit at higher. altitude. Going to elliptical gives no gains.

Quote
I must disagree about length of tether not reducing delta V since length in this case results in the center of mass(where the oxygen is stored) being raised. Orbital velocity depends on altitude of the center of mass right? Otherwise the beanstalk tether would be impossible for instance.

Please  re-read my original comment. Important words bolded.

Quote from: hkultala}
Couple of thousands miles would still not decrease the delta-v [b
by many km/s. [/b]


Offline Solman

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #52 on: 09/25/2016 04:43 PM »
@ Hkultala
Thanks for the feedback.
Not sure I understand your point about altitude and orbital velocity. I mean if you get the center of mass to GEO altitude it matches the ground's speed and if less altitude higher relative speed.
As for the elliptical orbit what I had in mind was that apogee thrusting when it is higher and slower gives it more time to raise the perceived and thrusting then at perceived can raise the apogee lather, rinse, repeat.

Offline KelvinZero

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #53 on: 09/26/2016 02:08 AM »
Don't forget PROFAC. Earth atmosphere seems the most logical thing to mine from LEO.

Honestly had never heard of this concept before, and my initial gut reaction is that the drag would be way too high for SEP, but after reading up on it I'm cautiously optimistic (in an elliptical orbit maybe).  Worth keeping in mind.
Definitely deserves its own thread. It has been brought up a few times in the past.
Here is one old thread I started, that also points to an even earlier one. If you search PROFAC you will find several other threads though I was always more interested in the slower, electric versions because there are interesting possibilities for improving efficiency if you are dealing with ionised atmosphere, such as converting the velocity to electric energy rather than wasting it as thermal energy, or selecting for slower moving ions (wrt to the vehicle).
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=30104.0

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #54 on: 09/26/2016 05:28 PM »
The US spends over $2B annually opperating the ISS.  Russia, Europe and Japan spend hundreds of million on the ISS.  How many countries, super wealthy individuals and forward looking companies are willing to invest the opportunity to conduct space research?  This is one of the markets that ULA, Bigelow Aerospace and others are supporting.

Ultra pure fiber production, super consistant electronics, medicines, water mining for propellants, solar power beaming, ...  Who ever develops that first must have space app that demonstrats profitable manufacturing in space will open the spigot for space investment. 

Space dreams or incredibly insightful investment?  ULA's cislunar 1000 vision is betting that growing the benefits of space for humanity is much more than a dream or a hobby of the wealthy.

Offline TrevorMonty

Dennis Windows was on the SpaceShow (23sept) said the are very wealth angel investors that are willing to invest in ventures that will benefit mankind. They are not necessarily looking for a financial return but do want to see a successful result. This could be for eg funding a private spacestation,  moon or mars landing. I guessing they would back proven companies, eg Bigelow, SpaceX, Blue, ULA.

Offline Asteroza

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #56 on: 09/27/2016 12:17 AM »
Doesn't that imply a small gathering of investors, either as an ego project, or pandering to the rich survivalists a la "Elysium" then?

For a pure ego project, funding a gateway system that helps bootstrap everything else seems potentially easier. Which implies something on the order of a rotovator. Individual investors contribute mass-on-orbit, increasing the utility of the rotovator.

Offline mikelepage

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #57 on: 04/18/2017 05:39 AM »
A few things have happened since the previous activity in this thread, which might be interesting to discuss:
1) SpaceX ITS architecture announcement
2) SpaceX Circum-lunar tourist flight with Dragon+FalconHeavy
3) Timelines for both (x1.5 to normalise SpaceX optimism ;) )
4) NASA announcement of Deep space gateway plans for SLS, in Distant Retrograde orbit around the moon.

Which gives us a ~2019 cirumlunar tourist flight by SpaceX, a NASA DSG in Lunar DRO mid 2020s, and a late 2020s Mars landing by SpaceX/NASA.  Also, commercial habitats in LEO from Bigelow or Axiom seem likely to happen early to mid 2020s, as does Chinese space station(s).

Less and less does this seem like a nice linear progression: it's more like a dam bursting.  I wouldn't be surprised if by the time the ISS is deorbited mid to late 2020s, there could be 3 or more habitats in LEO, and a DSG partially constructed in Lunar DRO.  Once ITS is operational we could conceivably see large habitats being lofted into LEO, as a place for the Mars crew to prepare/kill time while the refueling of the ship is performed.

Limiting ourselves to LEO, I can see multiple needs.  You'll have an ongoing demand for scientific lab space by NASA/research organisations which is (relatively) easy to access - NASA will probably still use the space even if they don't own it.  That may or may not be compatible with the demand from industry, which may or may not be compatible with the demand from tourism.  An example of what I mean by that is that industry might be growing protein crystals for drug/pharmaceutical development, which is not compatible with large sources of vibration from tourists (because they are playing zero-gee table tennis of course... what were you thinking?  ;D )

The cis-lunar tourist trip has made me realise that the automation of current generation craft like Dragon means it is feasible for (say) a newly married couple to spend a week alone in a LEO habitat.  That's a really huge selling point.   In any case, I think that because of all the different players doing different things in space we're much more likely to see multiple BA330 sized habitats than one giant hub, which means each one can be built to purpose for a specific customer. 

Online high road

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #58 on: 04/23/2017 05:46 PM »
Let's just hope bigelow gets enough time to get any kinks out of their design before ISS comes down. Mid 22's are not that far away. OTOH, bringing ISS down sooner and have NASA use some of the liberated budget to fund a commercial space lab programme might speed up the transition.

Online Coastal Ron

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #59 on: 04/23/2017 06:40 PM »
My question is: how do the economics change in the scenario where hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people have been to LEO or beyond, and travel to LEO is simply a more exotic method of travel around the world? (since where you land is largely a matter of departure timing).  I'm not an economist/accountant, so this is largely spitballing, I would like to hear more educated assessments of the potential.

Say we end up putting hundreds of ISS-volume habitats into orbits 800-1000km altitude, where orbital altitude decay only happens on the order of hundreds of years, you still receive partial radiation protection of Earth's magnetic field.  Assume we eventually work out a solution for the space debris problem, and is some form of spin gravity so people can enjoy the novelties of seeing the Earth from space and experiencing zero gravity whilst still having the comforts of being able to bathe and go to the toilet with some sense of normalcy.

How we get from here to there:

Lowering the cost to access space is the critical first step to expanding humanity out into space (including LEO), but ultimately what will keep us out in space is a need to have humans in space.  And a funding stream.

I think there are two basic ways to financially support having humans in space:

1.  Humans create value in space through the creation of products and services
2.  Humanity in general on Earth and in space are willing to pay to expand humanity out into space.

I think Elon Musk is hoping for a lot of #2 in order to make his visions of Mars colonization happen.

As far as creating value through products and services in space, I would imagine the initial moneymaker is going to be products because services will either be paid for by entities on Earth or product makers in space.

However I don't have any specific ideas on what the products are that would create enough profit to expand a steady stream of humanity out into space.  So I will be as surprised as the rest of us when it happens - and hopefully pleasantly surprised!
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #60 on: 04/24/2017 01:56 AM »
Let's just hope bigelow gets enough time to get any kinks out of their design before ISS comes down. Mid 22's are not that far away. OTOH, bringing ISS down sooner and have NASA use some of the liberated budget to fund a commercial space lab programme might speed up the transition.

The issue with any "kill X and NASA can then do Y" is that killing X won't free up any funds, they get reprogrammed out of NASA.
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
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Offline mikelepage

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #61 on: 04/25/2017 05:47 AM »
Lowering the cost to access space is the critical first step to expanding humanity out into space (including LEO), but ultimately what will keep us out in space is a need to have humans in space.  And a funding stream.

I think there are two basic ways to financially support having humans in space:

1.  Humans create value in space through the creation of products and services
2.  Humanity in general on Earth and in space are willing to pay to expand humanity out into space.

I think Elon Musk is hoping for a lot of #2 in order to make his visions of Mars colonization happen.

As far as creating value through products and services in space, I would imagine the initial moneymaker is going to be products because services will either be paid for by entities on Earth or product makers in space.

However I don't have any specific ideas on what the products are that would create enough profit to expand a steady stream of humanity out into space.  So I will be as surprised as the rest of us when it happens - and hopefully pleasantly surprised!

How about zero-g sports?  Seriously. It's a forum where audiences are used to paying money to watch experts do something competitively in a specialised space with restricted access.

I wasn't kidding about zero-g table tennis: Imagine a clear perspex tube with a square cross-section, with 4 internal surfaces at right angles to each other, bisected by four standard-height table-tennis nets, with people with bats/footholds at either end, smashing a fluoro ball back and forth.  Points are scored if the ball gets past the player, hits the net, or bounces more than once on any surface.  You could apply a similar rationale to zero-g martial sports (e.g. MMA/Judo etc), or any other sport that is usually performed one-on-one in a small volume.

A crew of six (two competitors with head/helmet-mounted cameras, two camera crew/coaches, a director/medic, and a host/referee) could stage most one-on-one sports, with live webcasting to the world, probably sponsored by Red bull or similar.  You know you'd watch it  :D

I can imagine watching tourists experience zero-g for the first time could get old quickly, but a zero-g sports industry could grow a dedicated audience of supporters.

Online Coastal Ron

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #62 on: 04/25/2017 06:21 AM »
I can imagine watching tourists experience zero-g for the first time could get old quickly, but a zero-g sports industry could grow a dedicated audience of supporters.

I think you may have identified one of the rare reasons for humans on Earth to watch humans in space.  And as you point out, there could be money attached to it...
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #63 on: 04/25/2017 07:25 AM »
Let's just hope bigelow gets enough time to get any kinks out of their design before ISS comes down. Mid 22's are not that far away. OTOH, bringing ISS down sooner and have NASA use some of the liberated budget to fund a commercial space lab programme might speed up the transition.

The issue with any "kill X and NASA can then do Y" is that killing X won't free up any funds, they get reprogrammed out of NASA.

Unfortunately, that is indeed what is most likely to happen, no matter when ISS comes down.

Offline sevenperforce

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #64 on: 04/25/2017 04:14 PM »
I never suggested using a chemical rocket for keeping the tether up I said solar electric using nitrogen with an exhaust velocity many times orbital.
The math says that if you expend all the nitrogen with 100% efficiency, you need to have upwards of 970 seconds of specific impulse.

Just FYI.

Offline spacenut

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #65 on: 04/25/2017 05:27 PM »
I don't understand why they don't make ball bearings and crystals in space.  I've read that they can make perfect ball bearings without machining in space.  Also, that radio crystals grow bigger in zero G.  I've also hear they can make insulin more perfect in zero G.  Maybe when space transportation costs are lower, space based manufacturing and tourism will take off. 

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #66 on: 04/25/2017 08:46 PM »
I don't understand why they don't make ball bearings and crystals in space.  I've read that they can make perfect ball bearings without machining in space.  Also, that radio crystals grow bigger in zero G.  I've also hear they can make insulin more perfect in zero G.  Maybe when space transportation costs are lower, space based manufacturing and tourism will take off. 

Well, there's still
- fast, frequent and reliable (as in knowing when the rocket will launch when you book it) access to space
- cheap and reliable access to zero-g facilities with little red tape
- investors willing to invest in developing a product that's worth doing in LEO. Who's going to pay for better insulin? Even with cheaper launch, are ball bearings made in space cheaper or can they do things that a similar regular ball bearing can't do? Can crystal growth or purification of certain materials be done on a vomit comet? Will pharmaceutical companies be willing to pay for or invest in the technology to develop crystals.

There's still some way to go before we see mature manufacturing industries in space. But cheap access to space will hopefully lead to the other steps.

Offline hkultala

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #67 on: 04/26/2017 03:57 AM »
How about zero-g sports?  Seriously. It's a forum where audiences are used to paying money to watch experts do something competitively in a specialised space with restricted access.

My favourite one is long jump without space suit.

Park two spacecrafts (or different parts of same station) so that the airlocks are towards each others, but the distance between them can be adjusted.

One airlock contains the athlete(without any spacesuit). The airlocks are opened, and the athlete jumps from one airlock to another through open space. When he enters the another airlock, it's closed and pressurized.

The winner is the one who jumps the longest distance between the airlocks, and survives.
« Last Edit: 04/26/2017 03:59 AM by hkultala »

Offline FishInferno

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #68 on: 04/26/2017 04:04 AM »
How about zero-g sports?

Every time this comes up I pitch the idea of an Ender's Game-style laser tag arena
Comparing SpaceX and SLS is like comparing paying people to plant fruit trees with merely digging holes and filling them.  - Robotbeat

Offline mikelepage

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #69 on: 04/26/2017 05:51 AM »
Can crystal growth or purification of certain materials be done on a vomit comet? Will pharmaceutical companies be willing to pay for or invest in the technology to develop crystals.

I did X-ray crystallography in my honours (4th year) project - working on the androgen receptor (for prostate cancer).  It can take a few days to a few weeks to grow a good sized protein crystal, so no, the vomit comet is no good for this.

According to wikipedia (and with what I've heard, I believe it) pharmaceutical companies usually spend north of $1 billion in R&D per drug that they are able to bring to market, and the crystal growth process (for hundreds/thousands of candidates) is a large part of that.  Very labour intensive.  My impression/gut feeling has always been that launch costs won't have to come much down at all for this application to make financial sense - it's more the logistics of having a dedicated space station.

As I mentioned upthread, crystal growth is extremely sensitive to vibration.  Even our small university lab had a separate crystal growth room with sound-proofed walls/windows.  The reason for a dedicated low-vibration space station is resolution.  A mediocre crystal with some flaws (due to bumps) might give a resolution of 4-5 angstroms, where as one grown under ideal conditions could give a resolution of <2 angstroms.  That resolution is everything in drug design.  At the end of my project my best crystal had a resolution of 3.9A if I remember correctly - good for a student but not really good enough to do anything with - the phd student in my lab had one that resolved to 1.8A, and he got a paper out of that :) 

Getting sub 1 angstrom resolutions consistently would be the holy grail (which should be possible in zero-g), so yeah I'm quite sure there's a market for dedicated space stations for pharmaceutical companies. However I can't imagine the tourists will want to sit in silence without moving for their whole holidays ;D so dedicated is the word.

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #70 on: 04/26/2017 06:59 AM »
Can crystal growth or purification of certain materials be done on a vomit comet? Will pharmaceutical companies be willing to pay for or invest in the technology to develop crystals.

I did X-ray crystallography in my honours (4th year) project - working on the androgen receptor (for prostate cancer).  It can take a few days to a few weeks to grow a good sized protein crystal, so no, the vomit comet is no good for this.

According to wikipedia (and with what I've heard, I believe it) pharmaceutical companies usually spend north of $1 billion in R&D per drug that they are able to bring to market, and the crystal growth process (for hundreds/thousands of candidates) is a large part of that.  Very labour intensive.  My impression/gut feeling has always been that launch costs won't have to come much down at all for this application to make financial sense - it's more the logistics of having a dedicated space station.

As I mentioned upthread, crystal growth is extremely sensitive to vibration.  Even our small university lab had a separate crystal growth room with sound-proofed walls/windows.  The reason for a dedicated low-vibration space station is resolution.  A mediocre crystal with some flaws (due to bumps) might give a resolution of 4-5 angstroms, where as one grown under ideal conditions could give a resolution of <2 angstroms.  That resolution is everything in drug design.  At the end of my project my best crystal had a resolution of 3.9A if I remember correctly - good for a student but not really good enough to do anything with - the phd student in my lab had one that resolved to 1.8A, and he got a paper out of that :) 

Getting sub 1 angstrom resolutions consistently would be the holy grail (which should be possible in zero-g), so yeah I'm quite sure there's a market for dedicated space stations for pharmaceutical companies. However I can't imagine the tourists will want to sit in silence without moving for their whole holidays ;D so dedicated is the word.

Do you know if there are any organisations out there with the experience of building the required equipment, that have the funds and/or would be interested in cooperating with companies like Bigelow to develop space stations that have the required low vibration? Vibration on a 'standard' space station isn't negligable.

Offline mikelepage

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #71 on: 04/26/2017 07:53 AM »
Can crystal growth or purification of certain materials be done on a vomit comet? Will pharmaceutical companies be willing to pay for or invest in the technology to develop crystals.

I did X-ray crystallography in my honours (4th year) project - working on the androgen receptor (for prostate cancer).  It can take a few days to a few weeks to grow a good sized protein crystal, so no, the vomit comet is no good for this.

According to wikipedia (and with what I've heard, I believe it) pharmaceutical companies usually spend north of $1 billion in R&D per drug that they are able to bring to market, and the crystal growth process (for hundreds/thousands of candidates) is a large part of that.  Very labour intensive.  My impression/gut feeling has always been that launch costs won't have to come much down at all for this application to make financial sense - it's more the logistics of having a dedicated space station.

As I mentioned upthread, crystal growth is extremely sensitive to vibration.  Even our small university lab had a separate crystal growth room with sound-proofed walls/windows.  The reason for a dedicated low-vibration space station is resolution.  A mediocre crystal with some flaws (due to bumps) might give a resolution of 4-5 angstroms, where as one grown under ideal conditions could give a resolution of <2 angstroms.  That resolution is everything in drug design.  At the end of my project my best crystal had a resolution of 3.9A if I remember correctly - good for a student but not really good enough to do anything with - the phd student in my lab had one that resolved to 1.8A, and he got a paper out of that :) 

Getting sub 1 angstrom resolutions consistently would be the holy grail (which should be possible in zero-g), so yeah I'm quite sure there's a market for dedicated space stations for pharmaceutical companies. However I can't imagine the tourists will want to sit in silence without moving for their whole holidays ;D so dedicated is the word.

Do you know if there are any organisations out there with the experience of building the required equipment, that have the funds and/or would be interested in cooperating with companies like Bigelow to develop space stations that have the required low vibration? Vibration on a 'standard' space station isn't negligable.

Not sure.  I know they are doing some protein crystal growth on the ISS, but I haven't heard whether these have generated better results (or even results as good as) than results generated in the best Earth labs.  I did hear that the reason centrifugal experiments for the ISS usually cite for cancellation is the need for low vibration environment required by the protein crystal growth experiments.

The actual analysis of the crystals is done on an X-ray Synchrotron (these are CERN or similar institutions with particle accelerators), and taking a particle accelerator to space is not an option, so the crystals have to go through re-entry before they can be analysed.  Not sure whether that's also an issue.

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #72 on: 04/26/2017 01:42 PM »

As I mentioned upthread, crystal growth is extremely sensitive to vibration.  Even our small university lab had a separate crystal growth room with sound-proofed walls/windows.  The reason for a dedicated low-vibration space station is resolution.  A mediocre crystal with some flaws (due to bumps) might give a resolution of 4-5 angstroms, where as one grown under ideal conditions could give a resolution of <2 angstroms.  That resolution is everything in drug design.  At the end of my project my best crystal had a resolution of 3.9A if I remember correctly - good for a student but not really good enough to do anything with - the phd student in my lab had one that resolved to 1.8A, and he got a paper out of that :) 

Getting sub 1 angstrom resolutions consistently would be the holy grail (which should be possible in zero-g), so yeah I'm quite sure there's a market for dedicated space stations for pharmaceutical companies. However I can't imagine the tourists will want to sit in silence without moving for their whole holidays ;D so dedicated is the word.

For crystal growing are we talking weeks or months?
Satellites can go weeks without using their station keeping thrusters. Cubesats last about 3 months before burning up.

Can the growing equipment be automated? Or at least remote controlled.

An unmanned satellite is likely to be much cheaper than a manned spacestation. Docking 10 tonne spacecraft produces a big shock force, followed by the person moving around.

There is major vibration during launch, set up and reentry of spacecraft. In between can be very low vibration.

Offline envy887

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #73 on: 04/26/2017 01:51 PM »
Not sure.  I know they are doing some protein crystal growth on the ISS, but I haven't heard whether these have generated better results (or even results as good as) than results generated in the best Earth labs.  I did hear that the reason centrifugal experiments for the ISS usually cite for cancellation is the need for low vibration environment required by the protein crystal growth experiments.

The actual analysis of the crystals is done on an X-ray Synchrotron (these are CERN or similar institutions with particle accelerators), and taking a particle accelerator to space is not an option, so the crystals have to go through re-entry before they can be analysed.  Not sure whether that's also an issue.

Apparently high quality crystals were grown on Skylab, Shuttle and ISS. But due to a number of reasons this hasn't translated to useful study of unresolvable structures - some of the reasons might be alleviated by commercial transport and a dedicated commercial station would apparently be useful though perhaps not yet viable financially.

Quote
Although there is sufficient evidence demonstrating the potential for a microgravity environment to improve the quality of macromolecular crystals this capability has not gained widespread enthusiasm and utilization by the academic/industrial structural biology community. As noted previously, this is predominantly owing to multiple constraints associated with space research including (1) inability to utilize the microgravity environment on a regular basis, (2) launch delays that often result in sample degradation, (3) delays in retrieving crystalline samples (resulting in crystal degradation), (4) the substantial amount of paperwork associated with obtaining flight approval for protein samples, and (5) the general uncertainty related to spaceflight. The most recent NRC review of NASA’s microgravity protein crystallization program (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v394/n6690/full/394213b0.html) stated that results were inconclusive. The review concluded that many of the reported crystal quality improvements were incremental and noted that there were difficulties conducting appropriate control experiments. The review concluded that microgravity protein crystallization had thus far resulted in a limited effect on structural biology. It concluded by suggesting that future microgravity experiments focus on compelling biological problems where the production of diffraction-quality crystals is extremely challenging and the chief barrier preventing structural solutions. In response to this report, there are a number of microgravity investigations currently underway that involve challenging crystallizations for aqueous proteins, protein-protein complexes and membrane proteins. The growing availability of commercial vehicles capable of transporting experiments to and from the International Space Station is projected to provide bimonthly access in the not too distant future. The ability to provide frequent access should help investigators perform statistically relevant crystal quality evaluations for a variety of challenging, biologically significant proteins. Positive results from these investigations combined with more frequent access to the unique microgravity environment should attract a large group of users from academia and industry.

https://www.nature.com/articles/npjmgrav201510

Offline Asteroza

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #74 on: 04/26/2017 11:24 PM »
For low vibration production environments, sounds like a gateway depot tender/station and a small fleet of freeflyers leading, especially if you are using electric thrusters to counteract drag. Freeflyers could be hubbed dumbbell frames, with 27U end payload blocks and a 27U hub/thruster block, allowing gravity gradient stabilized flight using body mount only solar to reduce movement. Payloads use standard 3U/6U/9U form factors generally, allow for commoditized cargo delivery via small launchers.

We already know that ZBLAN fiberoptic production in space looks viable with 6 Dragons a year and a Bigelow module, so use that as the anchor tenant for the tender/station.

Offline as58

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #75 on: 04/27/2017 05:41 AM »
Not sure.  I know they are doing some protein crystal growth on the ISS, but I haven't heard whether these have generated better results (or even results as good as) than results generated in the best Earth labs.  I did hear that the reason centrifugal experiments for the ISS usually cite for cancellation is the need for low vibration environment required by the protein crystal growth experiments.
Apparently high quality crystals were grown on Skylab, Shuttle and ISS. But due to a number of reasons this hasn't translated to useful study of unresolvable structures - some of the reasons might be alleviated by commercial transport and a dedicated commercial station would apparently be useful though perhaps not yet viable financially.

This is quite far from my field of expertise, but my understanding is that the zero-gravity protein crystal growth application has to some extent become less important with the development of other methods (NMR, for example) for structure determination.

(Note that the Nature article that you linked to is almost 20 years old.)

Offline Stormbringer

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #76 on: 04/27/2017 05:59 AM »
i read science media feeds on a daily basis and i don't remember a lot of details sometimes but i seem to remember articles in the last decade to the effect that earth bound manufacturing techniques had been created that greatly reduce the need for most zero/micro g crystal or protein manufacturing.
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Offline mikelepage

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #77 on: 04/27/2017 06:20 AM »
For crystal growing are we talking weeks or months?

Can be as little as a week or more than a month.  More detail below.

Quote
Can the growing equipment be automated? Or at least remote controlled.
The thought that went through my head was this: imagine Chris Rock saying "oh hell no"  (but there is a caveat below :) )

Quote
An unmanned satellite is likely to be much cheaper than a manned spacestation. Docking 10 tonne spacecraft produces a big shock force, followed by the person moving around.

There is major vibration during launch, set up and reentry of spacecraft. In between can be very low vibration.

The crystals can be quite robust once they have formed, so with appropriate packaging they should be okay during reentry.  Many years ago my supervisor would travel internationally to get to a better synchrotron, and he would carry the crystals in his hand luggage, in a little ice pack about the size of two decks of cards (undeclared, because if someone found out he was carrying biological material in hand luggage! haha - difficult to explain what it was for, and if some ignorant customs agent wanted to have a look/poke at the crystals, they're just as likely to destroy them with light/heat exposure and make the entire trip a waste of money).  Not sure what he does these days.

I'll give a little summary to try and explain why it's so labour intensive: what you start with, when trying to make a protein crystal, is a small vial (maybe 50-100 microliters, so 1-2 drops) of protein in solution that some scientist has spent 6 months to a year of their lives purifying.  There's an urban myth about one of the scientists in the early days of crystallography that had spent years getting to the point where he could start crystal experiments - he was so nervous he dropped the vial and spilt it on his lab coat, and spent the next 3 days desperately trying to extract protein out of a square of his lab coat.

Anyway, you've got this small amount of very precious solution, and each attempt to grow a crystal uses 1 microliter.  I used the hanging drop method which consists of placing a single 1uL drop of solution on a circular glass slide, which is then placed upside down in a sealed chamber to "hang" above another solution which - through vapour diffusion - is meant to help that drop evaporate.  The surface tension keeps the drop in place on the top slide where you can focus on it with a microscope.  That reduction in volume gradually - hopefully - causes the protein to crystallise. 

There were about a huge number of variables for what to include in that second solution, including every possible salt combination, changing pH by increments of 0.01, changing the concentrations of various organic chemicals, etc.   There was no way you could ever test all the variables, even if you had 100uL (100 attempts) of protein solution, so you would try an initial "semi-randomised" matrix of 20 different combinations, initially based on what might have worked with similar proteins.  You then check those each day over the following days/week.  Maybe one or two of those would show some kind of crystal growth or not, but once you had some promising leads, you would set up a new batch of crystals, focussing on the specific combinations which worked, but include smaller increments in pH variation, or different salts/concentrations of sodium/potassium etc, and you keep repeating this process iteratively, refining the reagents until you eventually had a promising crystal - or you ran out of protein solution.

All this time you're making judgement calls, and ignoring the salt crystals which form quite happily in a number of different solutions.  You develop this weird hatred of pretty crystals - since the salt crystals are always pretty under polarised light, and the protein crystals are dull as, but they're what you want.  Even once optimised, you're lucky if you get a crystal more than a couple of mm across, and then you have to be super careful to extract it and package it up without crushing it or dropping it back into the solution.

So yeah, my expectation is that you'll have a crew of scientist astronauts go up, each one with dozens of vials of protein solution to work with (probably hundreds of person-years of work going up in one launch) and the astronauts will just be working continuously to physically set up ever new iterations of crystal experiments, while the scientists on the ground who created to the protein solutions should have some ability to remotely monitor crystal formation - need some sort of system to look at the crystals without bumping them - and decide what the next iteration will be for the astronauts to make up.  The whole deal might take 3 months or so.

For low vibration production environments, sounds like a gateway depot tender/station and a small fleet of freeflyers leading, especially if you are using electric thrusters to counteract drag.

Perhaps, but it might be more trouble than it's worth to keep them in separate spacecraft - like I say, they need to be looked at daily, so you don't want to lose a microscope every time you set up an iteration - I would just have a free floating rig inside a BA330 - maybe have magnetic shock absorbers to attach it to the walls, and all orbit adjustments are performed via SEP.

This is quite far from my field of expertise, but my understanding is that the zero-gravity protein crystal growth application has to some extent become less important with the development of other methods (NMR, for example) for structure determination.

Admittedly I haven't been directly involved the field since 2004 when I did my project, and given how arduous it is, I'm not surprised people have looked at other techniques, but my understanding is that X-ray crystallography is still considered the gold standard for structure determination - because it's a "direct observation" of the peptide structure, rather than a extrapolation.  If it could be done more consistently in zero-g, I have no doubt people would jump back into it in a big way.

Offline mikelepage

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #78 on: 04/27/2017 06:26 AM »
i read science media feeds on a daily basis and i don't remember a lot of details sometimes but i seem to remember articles in the last decade to the effect that earth bound manufacturing techniques had been created that greatly reduce the need for most zero/micro g crystal or protein manufacturing.

It is a pain in the neck, that's for sure.  That's why I got out of it. 

But I'm not sure what replaces it.  Computer modelling has become quite accurate - but that's based on information that came from X-ray crystallography.  I haven't heard that anything has become the new gold standard.


Offline Stormbringer

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #79 on: 04/27/2017 06:43 AM »
i meant not so much imaging and modelling but manufacturing processes the overcome that the problems of growing crystals in a gravity and or noisy environment. But it is true that modeling and imaging techniques have gotten much much better. :)
« Last Edit: 04/28/2017 04:18 AM by Stormbringer »
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Offline envy887

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #80 on: 04/27/2017 04:27 PM »
Not sure.  I know they are doing some protein crystal growth on the ISS, but I haven't heard whether these have generated better results (or even results as good as) than results generated in the best Earth labs.  I did hear that the reason centrifugal experiments for the ISS usually cite for cancellation is the need for low vibration environment required by the protein crystal growth experiments.
Apparently high quality crystals were grown on Skylab, Shuttle and ISS. But due to a number of reasons this hasn't translated to useful study of unresolvable structures - some of the reasons might be alleviated by commercial transport and a dedicated commercial station would apparently be useful though perhaps not yet viable financially.

This is quite far from my field of expertise, but my understanding is that the zero-gravity protein crystal growth application has to some extent become less important with the development of other methods (NMR, for example) for structure determination.

(Note that the Nature article that you linked to is almost 20 years old.)

The review article was published in 2015.

Offline DarkenedOne

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #81 on: 04/27/2017 05:17 PM »
Often times you'll hear people say we should concentrate on Moon/Mars/asteroids etc because we've "done" low earth orbit (LEO), meaning that ~500+ people have been there.

To me that really underestimates the commercial potential of LEO as a destination, not just for tourism (although that's what I'll concentrate on here), but for support of ongoing expansion into the solar system.  It may only be a few hundred km from the surface, but it's nearly to the other end of the biggest gravity well we have to overcome in the near future.

My question is: how do the economics change in the scenario where hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people have been to LEO or beyond, and travel to LEO is simply a more exotic method of travel around the world? (since where you land is largely a matter of departure timing).  I'm not an economist/accountant, so this is largely spitballing, I would like to hear more educated assessments of the potential.

Say we end up putting hundreds of ISS-volume habitats into orbits 800-1000km altitude, where orbital altitude decay only happens on the order of hundreds of years, you still receive partial radiation protection of Earth's magnetic field.  Assume we eventually work out a solution for the space debris problem, and is some form of spin gravity so people can enjoy the novelties of seeing the Earth from space and experiencing zero gravity whilst still having the comforts of being able to bathe and go to the toilet with some sense of normalcy.

How we get from here to there:

As a ballpark figure, the worldwide ocean cruise industry 2015 carried about 22 million people per year for a total of ~$40Billion USD revenue, giving us an average spend of $1818 per person.  Let's say as an aspirational goal, we hope that eventually, 1/1000 of those people would spend 1000x that amount for a trip to orbit for two weeks ($1.8 million ticket price, 22k people per year), and returned to destination of choice because Dragon v2 can land anywhere and be shipped back from anywhere to Cape Canaveral/Brownsville. 

7 people at a time (6 passengers, one pilot/staff), 26 flights a year to a given space station: 6*1.8 = 10.8 million revenue per flight. Revenue is $280.8 mil per year per station.  Assuming reusable rockets reduces cost to 1/10 of current $70 million/flight = $7 mil per flight.

At that rate we're talking 156 spaceflight participants, per space station per year.  To service 22k people per year, we need 141 ISS volume space stations or a smaller number of larger ones.  Either way, this means space stations themselves are coming off a production line such as Bigelow Aerospace or otherwise.  Let's stick with the smaller stations BA 330 type for now.

From $10.8 million per flight, lets say $7 million launch costs, $3 million for upkeep/downpayment of the station, and $0.8 million profit.  For the station, 26 flights a year gives $78 million/year to pay off the initial launch and ongoing upkeep of the station.  Say the initial stations are BA330s launched on a Falcon Heavy for ~$135 million. At this flight rate, the launch of the space station is paid off inside 2 years, and if the station costs $200 million, you've paid off the station itself within 5 years.

What about the doubling time? - i.e., how long to fund a second space station from the proceeds of the first?  335/78 = 4.28 years (call it 4.5 so we can calc 4x at 9years).  So if we launch the first BA330 in 2018 and need 141 space stations...
2018 = 1 commercial space station
2027 = 4 stations
2036 = 16 stations
2045 = 64 stations
~2050 = 141 stations

So yeah, I know I'm making some optimistic assumptions, but I also think I'm making some pretty conservative ones (i.e. not accounting for any synergistic effects).  I guess we can achieve "big" LEO travel rates/settlement, 22k participants per year by at least 2050, if not sooner.  Anyone think I'm being too optimistic? too pessimistic?

First of all there are some serious economies of scale in human spaceflight.  If you are going to transport 22k per year your not going to do it with spacecraft and space stations with capacities of 7 people.  It does not make sense.  Instead you would build spacecraft with capacities of at least a hundred people.  Spacecraft like the SpaceX ITS.  You would probably be building space stations with a capacity of over 1000 people. 


Offline as58

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #82 on: 04/27/2017 06:45 PM »
Not sure.  I know they are doing some protein crystal growth on the ISS, but I haven't heard whether these have generated better results (or even results as good as) than results generated in the best Earth labs.  I did hear that the reason centrifugal experiments for the ISS usually cite for cancellation is the need for low vibration environment required by the protein crystal growth experiments.
Apparently high quality crystals were grown on Skylab, Shuttle and ISS. But due to a number of reasons this hasn't translated to useful study of unresolvable structures - some of the reasons might be alleviated by commercial transport and a dedicated commercial station would apparently be useful though perhaps not yet viable financially.

This is quite far from my field of expertise, but my understanding is that the zero-gravity protein crystal growth application has to some extent become less important with the development of other methods (NMR, for example) for structure determination.

(Note that the Nature article that you linked to is almost 20 years old.)

The review article was published in 2015.

Indeed it is, I clicked the wrong link. Well, at least I proved that this really is far from my field of expertise.

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #83 on: 04/28/2017 02:05 AM »
For crystal growing are we talking weeks or months?

Can be as little as a week or more than a month.  More detail below.

Quote
Can the growing equipment be automated? Or at least remote controlled.
The thought that went through my head was this: imagine Chris Rock saying "oh hell no"  (but there is a caveat below :) )

Quote
An unmanned satellite is likely to be much cheaper than a manned spacestation. Docking 10 tonne spacecraft produces a big shock force, followed by the person moving around.

There is major vibration during launch, set up and reentry of spacecraft. In between can be very low vibration.

The crystals can be quite robust once they have formed, so with appropriate packaging they should be okay during reentry.  Many years ago my supervisor would travel internationally to get to a better synchrotron, and he would carry the crystals in his hand luggage, in a little ice pack about the size of two decks of cards (undeclared, because if someone found out he was carrying biological material in hand luggage! haha - difficult to explain what it was for, and if some ignorant customs agent wanted to have a look/poke at the crystals, they're just as likely to destroy them with light/heat exposure and make the entire trip a waste of money).  Not sure what he does these days.

I'll give a little summary to try and explain why it's so labour intensive: what you start with, when trying to make a protein crystal, is a small vial (maybe 50-100 microliters, so 1-2 drops) of protein in solution that some scientist has spent 6 months to a year of their lives purifying.  There's an urban myth about one of the scientists in the early days of crystallography that had spent years getting to the point where he could start crystal experiments - he was so nervous he dropped the vial and spilt it on his lab coat, and spent the next 3 days desperately trying to extract protein out of a square of his lab coat.

Anyway, you've got this small amount of very precious solution, and each attempt to grow a crystal uses 1 microliter.  I used the hanging drop method which consists of placing a single 1uL drop of solution on a circular glass slide, which is then placed upside down in a sealed chamber to "hang" above another solution which - through vapour diffusion - is meant to help that drop evaporate.  The surface tension keeps the drop in place on the top slide where you can focus on it with a microscope.  That reduction in volume gradually - hopefully - causes the protein to crystallise. 

There were about a huge number of variables for what to include in that second solution, including every possible salt combination, changing pH by increments of 0.01, changing the concentrations of various organic chemicals, etc.   There was no way you could ever test all the variables, even if you had 100uL (100 attempts) of protein solution, so you would try an initial "semi-randomised" matrix of 20 different combinations, initially based on what might have worked with similar proteins.  You then check those each day over the following days/week.  Maybe one or two of those would show some kind of crystal growth or not, but once you had some promising leads, you would set up a new batch of crystals, focussing on the specific combinations which worked, but include smaller increments in pH variation, or different salts/concentrations of sodium/potassium etc, and you keep repeating this process iteratively, refining the reagents until you eventually had a promising crystal - or you ran out of protein solution.

We can mix paint to produce the right colour in high street retail shops. Equipment that blends combinations of 15-20 different chemicals under remote control can be developed.

Quote
All this time you're making judgement calls, and ignoring the salt crystals which form quite happily in a number of different solutions.  You develop this weird hatred of pretty crystals - since the salt crystals are always pretty under polarised light, and the protein crystals are dull as, but they're what you want.  Even once optimised, you're lucky if you get a crystal more than a couple of mm across, and then you have to be super careful to extract it and package it up without crushing it or dropping it back into the solution.

Sounds like a job for a high precision robotic arm with a couple of soft fingers.

Quote
So yeah, my expectation is that you'll have a crew of scientist astronauts go up, each one with dozens of vials of protein solution to work with (probably hundreds of person-years of work going up in one launch) and the astronauts will just be working continuously to physically set up ever new iterations of crystal experiments, while the scientists on the ground who created to the protein solutions should have some ability to remotely monitor crystal formation - need some sort of system to look at the crystals without bumping them - and decide what the next iteration will be for the astronauts to make up.  The whole deal might take 3 months or so.

For low vibration production environments, sounds like a gateway depot tender/station and a small fleet of freeflyers leading, especially if you are using electric thrusters to counteract drag.

Perhaps, but it might be more trouble than it's worth to keep them in separate spacecraft - like I say, they need to be looked at daily, so you don't want to lose a microscope every time you set up an iteration - I would just have a free floating rig inside a BA330 - maybe have magnetic shock absorbers to attach it to the walls, and all orbit adjustments are performed via SEP.
{snip}

At hundreds of thousands of dollars a launch new microscopes are one of the smaller costs.

The microscope's eye piece would be replaced by a TV camera that sends the picture back to Earth.

Offline Asteroza

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #84 on: 04/28/2017 04:13 AM »
I suppose the hard question is can protein growth operations be adequately done remotely from earth via teleoperation of growth management tools (robot arms/actuators, fluid control), or is the lag too much? The whole manual approach currently used strikes me as mix of a nuanced realtime operation (which might be automatable), and a tools problem (which may be easier AND harder in zero-g).

Online tdperk

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #85 on: 04/29/2017 12:59 AM »
" Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement "

Oh they are plausible.  But if you saw the movie Copland, you know they lead to trouble.

Oh you meant low earth orbit!

Nevermind that then.

I know of no reason, before we can move great big chunks of shielding mass, for settlements to be on anything but a body able to provide shielding by it's mass.

Offline QuantumG

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #86 on: 04/30/2017 02:01 AM »
The issue with any "kill X and NASA can then do Y" is that killing X won't free up any funds, they get reprogrammed out of NASA.

It'd be awesome if that ever happened, but it doesn't. Constellation was killed, it freed up funds which were used to do other stuff. NASP was killed, it freed up funds which were used to other stuff. Shall I go on? It's a pretty long list.
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? The slowest possible.

Offline as58

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #87 on: 04/30/2017 05:44 AM »
The issue with any "kill X and NASA can then do Y" is that killing X won't free up any funds, they get reprogrammed out of NASA.

It'd be awesome if that ever happened, but it doesn't. Constellation was killed, it freed up funds which were used to do other stuff. NASP was killed, it freed up funds which were used to other stuff. Shall I go on? It's a pretty long list.

Of course, 'other stuff' that the freed-up funds are used for doesn't necessarily make any more sense than the old killed program.

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #88 on: 04/30/2017 11:21 PM »
Try and have a small version of the new program going before the old one is cut. Transferring money is easier than simultaneously stopping one program and starting a second.

Offline Patchouli

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #89 on: 04/30/2017 11:38 PM »

First of all there are some serious economies of scale in human spaceflight.  If you are going to transport 22k per year your not going to do it with spacecraft and space stations with capacities of 7 people.  It does not make sense.  Instead you would build spacecraft with capacities of at least a hundred people.  Spacecraft like the SpaceX ITS.  You would probably be building space stations with a capacity of over 1000 people. 



  I think something similar to Skylon flying several times a day from multiple launch sites would be better suited for passenger transport as not everyone is going to be coming and going to the same location at a the same time.

« Last Edit: 04/30/2017 11:44 PM by Patchouli »

Offline stefan r

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #90 on: 05/01/2017 06:47 PM »

First of all there are some serious economies of scale in human spaceflight.  If you are going to transport 22k per year your not going to do it with spacecraft and space stations with capacities of 7 people.  It does not make sense.  Instead you would build spacecraft with capacities of at least a hundred people.  Spacecraft like the SpaceX ITS.  You would probably be building space stations with a capacity of over 1000 people. 



  I think something similar to Skylon flying several times a day from multiple launch sites would be better suited for passenger transport as not everyone is going to be coming and going to the same location at a the same time.




yes, commuter rail makes economic sense.  Most commuters going to and from JPL are driving cars.  They did manage a commuter van pool.  With carpools, bikes and trains they are totaling around 20% non-automobile transport.  The other 80% are still driving solo. 

Not sure where "100 passengers" comes from.  Aircraft are limited by the width of existing airport terminals and hangars.  Airlines and manufacturers would like to build bigger jets.  I am not sure if any such limit for rockets exist.  Space planes might want to use airports which means the same width as commercial jets.  That will be a much smaller number of passengers.  Space elevators are efficient with small loads.  Might want a few passengers to prevent insanity from solitary confinement unless video conferencing is good enough.  Magnetic launch is likely to be high frequency and low mass/volume.  Orbital rings and tethers can load small shuttles without much inefficiency.

Offline QuantumG

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #91 on: 05/02/2017 02:09 AM »
Try and have a small version of the new program going before the old one is cut. Transferring money is easier than simultaneously stopping one program and starting a second.

aka "cannibalize" the existing program to fund the new one. It's how ISS was funded.

Put in that context, the reason Constellation was cancelled was that the idea of splashing ISS in 2015 was rejected.
« Last Edit: 05/02/2017 02:11 AM by QuantumG »
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? The slowest possible.

Offline mikelepage

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #92 on: 05/02/2017 08:04 AM »
(snip)

What about the doubling time? - i.e., how long to fund a second space station from the proceeds of the first?  335/78 = 4.28 years (call it 4.5 so we can calc 4x at 9years).  So if we launch the first BA330 in 2018 and need 141 space stations...
2018 = 1 commercial space station
2027 = 4 stations
2036 = 16 stations
2045 = 64 stations
~2050 = 141 stations

So yeah, I know I'm making some optimistic assumptions, but I also think I'm making some pretty conservative ones (i.e. not accounting for any synergistic effects).  I guess we can achieve "big" LEO travel rates/settlement, 22k participants per year by at least 2050, if not sooner.  Anyone think I'm being too optimistic? too pessimistic?

First of all there are some serious economies of scale in human spaceflight.  If you are going to transport 22k per year your not going to do it with spacecraft and space stations with capacities of 7 people.  It does not make sense.  Instead you would build spacecraft with capacities of at least a hundred people.  Spacecraft like the SpaceX ITS.  You would probably be building space stations with a capacity of over 1000 people.

Well of course, but at first, you're going to be ramping up the flights/numbers of current generation technology, and only adding larger stations/transport later.  I was talking about "141 stations in 2050" the same way they still talk about shipping container cargo capacity in 20-foot-equivalent units, even though 40 ft containers are now used more.  The exponential curve is of capacity of travellers, not so much which particular vehicle is used.

In 2027, I find it conceivable (if optimistic) to have 4 separate commercial space stations in LEO, being used variously for crystal growth/science and tourism/zero-gee sport.  If you were having fortnightly flights of 7 astronauts, to each of 4 separate stations... that would mean you're already close to that benchmark where more people go to space every year than had been in space prior to the so-called "Space 2.0 era" (536 by 2013). 

The idea that hundreds of people travelling to orbit, every year within 10 years, is plausible, is pretty exciting in its own way.  Also a good trial run for all the people who are planning to go to Mars/Moon.

« Last Edit: 05/02/2017 08:06 AM by mikelepage »

Offline DarkenedOne

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #93 on: 05/04/2017 05:58 PM »

First of all there are some serious economies of scale in human spaceflight.  If you are going to transport 22k per year your not going to do it with spacecraft and space stations with capacities of 7 people.  It does not make sense.  Instead you would build spacecraft with capacities of at least a hundred people.  Spacecraft like the SpaceX ITS.  You would probably be building space stations with a capacity of over 1000 people. 



  I think something similar to Skylon flying several times a day from multiple launch sites would be better suited for passenger transport as not everyone is going to be coming and going to the same location at a the same time.

There are economies of scale in both flight rate and passenger size, but given the existence of launch windows I think that space travel will favor larger vehicles launched less frequently over smaller launch vehicles launched more frequently. 

Offline envy887

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #94 on: 05/04/2017 06:45 PM »

First of all there are some serious economies of scale in human spaceflight.  If you are going to transport 22k per year your not going to do it with spacecraft and space stations with capacities of 7 people.  It does not make sense.  Instead you would build spacecraft with capacities of at least a hundred people.  Spacecraft like the SpaceX ITS.  You would probably be building space stations with a capacity of over 1000 people. 



  I think something similar to Skylon flying several times a day from multiple launch sites would be better suited for passenger transport as not everyone is going to be coming and going to the same location at a the same time.

There are economies of scale in both flight rate and passenger size, but given the existence of launch windows I think that space travel will favor larger vehicles launched less frequently over smaller launch vehicles launched more frequently.

A  launch window to each LEO orbital plane comes around every day, so if each launch site can launch one vehicle per window, then the minimum vehicle size is simply the maximum number of passengers per day divided by the number of launch sites. This is true regardless of the geographic distribution of launch sites.

If each launch site can handle more than one launch per day, then stations can be located in orbital planes such that the planes pass overhead at intervals at least as long as the time required to reset the launch site. E.g. if each site can launch every 6 hours then 4 planes each 90 degrees apart can be serviced, each at the same max passenger/day rate as a single plane.

For 22,000 passengers/year or 60/day average, assuming the peak is 120/day and 3 launch sites servicing one orbital plane, the minimum vehicle size is 40 passengers/vehicle. But if the 22k/year are going to stations in 4 different planes and can launch 4 vehicles per day, then a 10 passenger/vehicle size is sufficient to handle a peak rate of twice the average rate.

Offline mikelepage

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #95 on: 05/05/2017 07:03 AM »
A  launch window to each LEO orbital plane comes around every day, so if each launch site can launch one vehicle per window, then the minimum vehicle size is simply the maximum number of passengers per day divided by the number of launch sites. This is true regardless of the geographic distribution of launch sites.

If each launch site can handle more than one launch per day, then stations can be located in orbital planes such that the planes pass overhead at intervals at least as long as the time required to reset the launch site. E.g. if each site can launch every 6 hours then 4 planes each 90 degrees apart can be serviced, each at the same max passenger/day rate as a single plane.

For 22,000 passengers/year or 60/day average, assuming the peak is 120/day and 3 launch sites servicing one orbital plane, the minimum vehicle size is 40 passengers/vehicle. But if the 22k/year are going to stations in 4 different planes and can launch 4 vehicles per day, then a 10 passenger/vehicle size is sufficient to handle a peak rate of twice the average rate.

Interesting calculation that... And it also assumes only 3 launch sites.

To be fair, I'm sure there will be some use cases, where you want dozens or hundreds of people all in the one habitat/ship for some purpose (e.g. trans-Mars injection), but I think there's a good case to be made that the majority of travellers to LEO will travel in smaller groups (limited by the size of launch-able habitats such as BA330 or Olympus), at least for the first few decades until larger launch vehicles/systems are created.

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #96 on: 05/16/2017 12:58 PM »
Let's just hope bigelow gets enough time to get any kinks out of their design before ISS comes down. Mid 22's are not that far away. OTOH, bringing ISS down sooner and have NASA use some of the liberated budget to fund a commercial space lab programme might speed up the transition.

Be careful what you wish for! Shuttle was cancelled years ago and we're still waiting for a replacement!

Better a gapless transition

Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #97 on: 05/16/2017 01:02 PM »
How about zero-g sports?  Seriously. It's a forum where audiences are used to paying money to watch experts do something competitively in a specialised space with restricted access.

My favourite one is long jump without space suit.

Park two spacecrafts (or different parts of same station) so that the airlocks are towards each others, but the distance between them can be adjusted.

One airlock contains the athlete(without any spacesuit). The airlocks are opened, and the athlete jumps from one airlock to another through open space. When he enters the another airlock, it's closed and pressurized.

The winner is the one who jumps the longest distance between the airlocks, and survives.

I would definitely pay to watch this. It's absolutely nuts, I love it.

And maybe the table tennis thing too. Would be neat to see.

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #98 on: 05/16/2017 09:09 PM »
Don't bother decompressing for an extra kick.

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Re: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement
« Reply #99 on: 05/17/2017 10:07 AM »
Weightless sport is a great idea! Maybe one could make an adversary immobile by leaving her floating still in mid air. I've seen a video I can't find now of a test with basket players. They wore glasses that somehow distorted their view. But they quickly adapted and scored even when the basket wasn't where their eyes immediately told them. I suppose something similar will happen with the "proprioception" in weightlessness. An alternative sport is Japanese binocular soccer where the players wear binoculars back to front. Only space could add to Japanese TV shows by now:



Concerning economics in space, an economy consists of human action. The value of specialization is evident to us all in everyday life. Imagine trying to survive alone in the wilderness without any objects manufactured by other people. Economic specialization is as necessary for human survival as the trunk is for an elephant's. That's why so many hundreds of millions die in socialist economies where the coordination of specialization fails and most work thus transforms more valuable resources to less valuable junk and garbage. Socialists don't measure values, they don't make reality based decisions, and therefor they necessarily work themselves poorer and poorer. Elon Musk is aiming for a million people on Mars because that's the kind of numbers you need in order to have a self-sustained economy all the way from raw materials to brain surgery.


The alternative would be specialization by a few in space integrated with the economy on Earth. The application of weightlessness in manufacturing seems to be a big disappointment thus far. I think the problem basically has been that the ability to make perfect enough crystals on Earth has improved. You don't compete with what is done today, you compete with what will be done in ten years. And if there's a better way of doing things you are not creating value but destroying value.
« Last Edit: 05/17/2017 10:08 AM by TakeOff »

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