Author Topic: Plausibility/Economics of "big" LEO settlement  (Read 12729 times)

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.

Online 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.

Online 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?

Online 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.
"If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea" - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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.

Online 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. 

Offline 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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