Poll

How many people do you think there will be in orbit, elsewhere in space or on a planetary/lunar surface other than Earth - simultaneously - on December 31st 2030?

None
4 (4.1%)
1-10
10 (10.3%)
11-20
27 (27.8%)
21-40
25 (25.8%)
41-80
12 (12.4%)
81-160
9 (9.3%)
161-320
2 (2.1%)
More than 320
8 (8.2%)

Total Members Voted: 97

Voting closed: 12/05/2022 01:50 pm


Author Topic: Poll: Number of people in low Earth orbit or beyond on December 31st 2030?  (Read 10848 times)

Offline mikelepage

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I'm interested to see the educated guesses of NSF forum users to this question, as I think the actual answer will be a fair indicator of the success (or failure) of human space flight programs in the near future. Tell us your reasoning in the comments below, and hopefully 8 and a bit years is not too far away for us to find out if we were right.

Offline Eer

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So, number of continuously staffed positions across all orbital stations, civilian or military, in LEO where lunar stations are in a different category?

I’ll say 50. I’m not on an interface that lets me vote.
From "The Rhetoric of Interstellar Flight", by Paul Gilster, March 10, 2011: Well build a future in space one dogged step at a time, and when asked how long humanity will struggle before reaching the stars, well respond, As long as it takes.

Online DanClemmensen

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41-80.   20 in LEO, 50 on the Lunar surface. I doubt CLD will be very popular except for a possible single ISS replacement plus the Chinese station, but a continuous human presence on the Moon with 50 people at any one time is possible.  Eight years is not very long, so I'm discounting Mars and the Lagrange points.

Offline mikelepage

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41-80.   20 in LEO, 50 on the Lunar surface. I doubt CLD will be very popular except for a possible single ISS replacement plus the Chinese station, but a continuous human presence on the Moon with 50 people at any one time is possible.  Eight years is not very long, so I'm discounting Mars and the Lagrange points.

Interesting. I also voted 41-80, but Id reverse your ratio. Im pretty optimistic about the industry that will support CLDs and also the idea that Starships might be used as temporary space stations.

Personally I think it will be a number of decades before the numbers in LEO amount to less than 50% of the total in space. So Id guess 50 in LEO and 10 on the moon for end of 2030.

Online DanClemmensen

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41-80.   20 in LEO, 50 on the Lunar surface. I doubt CLD will be very popular except for a possible single ISS replacement plus the Chinese station, but a continuous human presence on the Moon with 50 people at any one time is possible.  Eight years is not very long, so I'm discounting Mars and the Lagrange points.

Interesting. I also voted 41-80, but Id reverse your ratio. Im pretty optimistic about the industry that will support CLDs and also the idea that Starships might be used as temporary space stations.

Personally I think it will be a number of decades before the numbers in LEO amount to less than 50% of the total in space. So Id guess 50 in LEO and 10 on the moon for end of 2030.
Oops. I forgot about six-month Starship science missions, or even two-week Starship tourist excursions. I think that a small normally-uncrewed station in LEO like Lunar Gateway, visited by long-duration crewed scientific Starships, makes more sense than a permanently-crewed station. I still don't see the average going above 30 in LEO.

Offline nicp

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I put none for no reason other than having a bad day.

Offline gbl

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I believe the highest number ever was 14, so doubling that in 8 years would be an accomplishment. I voted 21-40.

Offline Eric Hedman

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I voted 11-20 though it might be between 20 and 30.  I don't think there will be any permanent presence on the Moon or lunar orbit yet.  So there might be a chance of 4 people at most on a stay of a month or less in lunar orbit or on the Moon on that date.  I also don't think between the US and partners and China that there will be too many more people in lunar orbit by 2030.  2030 isn't that far away.  I think the following decade is when the numbers start to rise.  By 2040 I would guess the number would be around a 100 and by 2050 possibly a thousand.  That's my two cents.

Offline markbike528cbx

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The Kessler syndrome will have advanced such that no astronauts will be in orbit.
Too many SLS launches? /s
« Last Edit: 10/08/2022 08:40 am by markbike528cbx »

Offline AmigaClone

I believe the highest number ever was 14, so doubling that in 8 years would be an accomplishment. I voted 21-40.

I voted 21-40 as well. That would depend on a couple of factors. I would not expect anyone living beyond LEO at that date, although I can see a short term visit to Lunar Orbit (Dear Moon 2?) on that date.

In LEO, I would expect the Chinese modular space station, the Axion Station, and possibly another commercial station. I agree with the possibility of there being one or more crewed Starships in orbit each serving as a temporary space station (although I would not dismiss them being able to exchange crew or receive fresh supplies via Crew Dragon or Cargo Dragon respectively.
« Last Edit: 10/10/2022 07:03 am by AmigaClone »

Online sdsds

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I chose "41-80," predicting essentially linear growth. (Warning: GIGO.)
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Offline jebbo

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Interesting one. I'm only counting continously in orbit** and have 3 scenarios:

ISS not quite de-orbited.
- ISS capacity = 16 (8 baseline, up one from now + 8 Axiom Hab1/2 + 4 temp for rotation)
- Tiangong capacity = 6 (i.e. they launch the spare modules)
- Total 22

Pessimistic:
- Axiom capacity = 8
- Tiangong capacity = 6
- Total 14

Optimistic:
- Axiom capacity = 8
- Orbital Reef capacity = 8
- A.n.other capacity = 4
- Tiangong capacity = 6
- Total 26

So being optimistic, the low end of 21-40

** the max temporarily in orbit numbers probably in the 26 - 35 range.

--- Tony
« Last Edit: 10/07/2022 07:28 am by jebbo »

Offline Zed_Noir

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Presuming the Starship (not the Artemis HLS lander) will be operational by 2026.

There will be the ISS & the Chinese LEO stations plus several commercial LEO stations and maybe some International LEO stations. Also in LEO will be the SX propellant depot complex with occasional crew.

The Lunar gateway and maybe other Lunar orbital stations along with several research stations on the Lunar surface. Also in LLO will be the SX propellant depot complex with occasional crew.

More optimistic than other forum members that there will be at least a small long stay research base/colony on Mars.

Finally there are the occasional daredevil tourist exclusion flyby flights to the Moon, Mars & Venus.

So maybe between 120 to 160 persons off Earth.

add't note - Don't included P2P Starship crews & passengers for my estimate.
« Last Edit: 10/10/2022 09:03 am by Zed_Noir »

Offline high road

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10-20  FTE's. ISS on the way out, no permanent base on the moon, commercial stations struggling to find early commercial customers, countries still paying for their astronauts on whatever stations there are

Offline Robotbeat

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10-20  FTE's. ISS on the way out, no permanent base on the moon, commercial stations struggling to find early commercial customers, countries still paying for their astronauts on whatever stations there are
China's space station has up to 6 crew at a time, currently 3. ISS is fully crewed at 7, but currently has 11 on-board.

Plus, there are private Dragon missions, of like 4 people for a week or so at a time, plus Artemis for 4 crew for a couple weeks. As of right now, there are 10 people in space.

So the current FTE is already about the same as your range. You're assuming there's no growth. Not disagreeing, but just want to make clear what you're saying.

I don't think I agree. I expect at least some growth, maybe 30-50 FTE.

Axiom, the Chinese space station growing, maybe a Russian station. ISS crewed just a little bit longer. Possibly longer term Gateway mission. Gravitics, Vast, etc.

I think 30-50FTE isn't that unreasonable. Could be over 100.
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Online crandles57

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China SS 6
Axiom 8
rest of ISS prep for deorbit 3
ISS replacement early stages 3
Lunar surface/orbit probably not permanent by 2030 but possibly ~4 on temp basis
Another commercial station - possibly ready for crew 4 not great confidence in this and in addition might happen to be empty on 31 Dec.

20 - 28 in orbit/lunar surface
This is not counting low possibility of suborbital flight(s) on the specific date of 31 Dec
Crew changeover could mean higher maximum number than above but unlikely on a specific date like 31 Dec so not included.

Around 20 seems more plausible than above 25 for 2030, but this is just a wild guess. Might start to accelerate in early 2030s assuming Starship is successful with refuelling etc in the next couple of years. 

Offline DeimosDream

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By 2030 I'd expect Starship to be human certified and planning a follow up to Dear Moon so...

80-160.
<60 in long-term habitats, plus a fully booked 100-person Starship Luxury Space Cruise conducting a New Year's Lunar free return flyby.

Offline mikelepage

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I'm glad I made the 161-320 category now. I nearly had the catch-all <more than everything else> category starting at >160. But the lack of votes for 161-320 shows there's definitely a gap between those of us who are 1) optimistic or pessimistic - but holding our expectations within an order of magnitude of what has happened so far in history, and 2) those who see a fundamental shift happening in the next 8 years.

Out of curiosity, for those who voted "More than 320", are all of you basing that on Starship's potential? And do you see it as long duration flights like Dear Moon? or is your expectation around point to point flights around Earth?

Just realised that if you were responding to the topic question you could have assumed you just need 4 or more, 80-person point-to-point flights per day by end of 2030 to get over 320 people in space in a single day, and I muddied the water slightly by specifying over 320 people *simultaneously* in the more detailed question (which suggests more like dozens of PtP flights per day).

Offline eriblo

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What about all the New Years Starship cruises??
(Mostly joking but choosing that specific date has a theoretical chance of skewing the result...)

Offline mikelepage

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What about all the New Years Starship cruises??
(Mostly joking but choosing that specific date has a theoretical chance of skewing the result...)

Ha!  ;D Okay then: If the number of people off-world on Dec 31st is more than one standard deviation higher than the number for the rest of 2030, I shall eat my hat probably not the best way to tempt fate in this business, but it worked out for Peter Beck, right?
« Last Edit: 10/11/2022 10:50 am by mikelepage »

Online sdsds

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It seems surprising how low the mode is. There could be that number of people in orbit on Dec 31, 2023!
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Offline deltaV

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I voted 1-10 but anywhere between 0 and 40 people in space seems plausible to me for a typical day in 2030. I only see more than 40 people in space happening for at most 60 days in 2030, not the whole year.

Offline Nemzoj Otikeun

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I tried adding up real/planned space stations from wikipedia:
*) 8 for Axiom - unless large schedule slip
*) 7 for ISS - unless major breakage
*) 4 for Starlab - unless Axiom and Orbital Reef succeed
*) 6-10 for Orbital Reef - if New Glenn launches enough Kuipers
*) 6 for Tiangong - if China do minimal upgrades from current capacity of 3
*) 3 for an Indian space station - if low schedule slippage
*) 4 for LOP-G - If an Artemis mission gets scheduled for the right date
*) 2 for ROSS - if wishes were horses

Current plan for ISS is funded for 2030, deorbit in 2031. I think NASA will rent from about two commercial space stations so I would not bet on both Starlab and Orbital Reef. If Starlab looks uncertain I think Nanoracks will make a deal with Axiom or Blue. ISRO is not planning continuous occupation for their proposed space station but I think they will rent out space to visitors with their own rides to orbit.

That gives somewhere between 15 and 40 people in orbit - not counting transients. Next: Guess the Starship numbers. I will leave out the sub-orbital hops. If successful, those will also eat the market for Vomit Comets, New Shepard and Virgin Galactic. The next step up would getting a ride on a Crew Starship visiting one of the space stations. Tourists might or might not visit the space station while Starship provides extra crew rotation for astronauts. One day, one of those Starships will get stuck in LEO because of a damaged heat shield. I think it will be refitted as a LEO Hotel - the next step up holiday destination from a crew rotation ride share. The real step up will be a proper Moon base: Crew Starship doing Earth to Lunar orbit and back, HLS Starship doing Lunar Orbit to the Moon and back and a dead HLS Starship as a Lunar base. I think trips around the Moon will be dead by 2030 but tourists on a ride share with lunar base crew rotation could be a thing.

I am assuming the tourist market provides opportunities for LEO crew rotation rather than the other way around and that most tourists will be happy with a few days in orbit rather than the minimum duration stay at a space station. I will guess 12 people in Hotel LEO Starship, 12 in the Christmas / New Year crew rotation Starship, 12 astronauts on the Moon and 0 in transit to/from the International Moon Base.

The 41-80 range looks good to me but so does 11-160.

Offline mikelepage

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It seems surprising how low the mode is. There could be that number of people in orbit on Dec 31, 2023!

Im surprised too, especially given the number of SpaceX watchers on the site. I honestly dont think my guess of 41-80 is super optimistic at all.

I guess it could be the way I asked the question - I thought making the groups factors of 2 multiplied by 10, would be a reasonable way to get a sense for ROM.

Offline freddo411

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I voted 21 - 40.   I think 8 years is a bit short where we will see large numbers of people in space

8 years away is an interesting future look ahead.   It's nearly short enough that programs that are flying then, will have to be under design/construction now.   However, it's far enough out that things can change rather significantly.

8 years before today was 2014.   Did anyone foresee SX flying 60 flights a year, operating more satellites than all of the rest of the world combined in a billion dollar communication business? (wow!)

The success of starship is the most important factor in this prediction.   Is it successfully and safely launching and returning people in 2030?    If it is (and i think it will), then there could be 100s of people off earth.   If Starship is not a reliable people mover by then, then the numbers will likely be in the low tens.    I think the financial viability of any of the commercial stations rests on cheap flights to orbit (much cheaper than dragon or other hypothetical vehicle)

I'm interested in everyone's "wild" or unlikely predictions.   What might be an X factor that could appear before 2030 that is not evident now?   My unlikely wildcard is continental point to point delivery service




Offline AmigaClone

I voted 21 - 40.   I think 8 years is a bit short where we will see large numbers of people in space

8 years away is an interesting future look ahead.   It's nearly short enough that programs that are flying then, will have to be under design/construction now.   However, it's far enough out that things can change rather significantly.

8 years before today was 2014.   Did anyone foresee SX flying 60 flights a year, operating more satellites than all of the rest of the world combined in a billion dollar communication business? (wow!)

The success of starship is the most important factor in this prediction.   Is it successfully and safely launching and returning people in 2030?    If it is (and i think it will), then there could be 100s of people off earth.   If Starship is not a reliable people mover by then, then the numbers will likely be in the low tens.    I think the financial viability of any of the commercial stations rests on cheap flights to orbit (much cheaper than dragon or other hypothetical vehicle)

I'm interested in everyone's "wild" or unlikely predictions.   What might be an X factor that could appear before 2030 that is not evident now?   My unlikely wildcard is continental point to point delivery service

My 'wild' prediction would involve Starship being rated as capable of launching crew faster and more successfully than I currently expect it. The prediction would have several parts:

1) Circa 40-80 people split between Geocentric and Selenocentric (Lunar) orbits.
2) About 20-40 people living on the moon between a Chinese surface base and a base built by SpaceX and at least partially funded by Jared Isaacman as a Mars pathfinder. The SpaceX Lunar Base proposal ironically would be one rejected by NASA.
3) About 20-40 people living on Mars.
4) Not sure about the timing. If there is an launch window from Mars to Earth in the correct timeframe, up to 10 individuals in a Starship returning to Earth - with some samples taken from near SpaceX's landing site.
5) Up to 3 Starships on 'Year end cruise' with 10-20 tourists on each.

The optimistic view could have nearly 1000 people in LEO or beyond 31 December 2040.

Offline IsaacKing

The record as of now is 19 people in space at once. https://www.arcaneknowledge.org/science/spaceflt.htm has a nice graph up to the end of 2020 showing how gradual the increase has been. (Though it's started going up faster in the past 2 years.)

Judging by how frequently space missions are delayed (https://xkcd.com/2014/) and how often they encounter unexpected problems and/or run over-budget, I'm quite skeptical that we'll have a functioning lunar base by then. A mission to Mars seems plausible, but I wouldn't expect it to have more than ~10 people. So the primary factor is people in orbit along with any suborbital transport. I do see space tourism catching on in popularity, and SpaceX has floated around the idea of surface-to-surface transport by Starship. (e.g. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/04/us-military-rocket-cargo-program-for-spacexs-starship-and-others.html)

But that's still going to be a rich person's pastime, there's no way to make that economical with only chemical rockets. Given that the question isn't "what's the most people who will ever be in space at once by the end of 2030" but rather "how many people will be in space on that exact day", I think anywhere from 10-50 is reasonable.

Of course the speed of technological progress and social upheaval has been increasing, and a paradigm-shifting breakthrough in the next 7 years is not out of the question. (e.g. artificial intelligence improving to the point where it can design new spacecraft and related technology faster and more effectively than humans can, a new space race emerging between the US and China, or a nuclear war.) But given the difficulty of predicting the actual impact of such a change, I'm choosing to excluding it from my analysis.

If anyone's interested, there's a prediction market on a similar question here:

https://manifold.markets/IsaacKing/will-there-be-100-people-in-space-a

Offline Vahe231991

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If a growing number of Americans and Chinese agree that interstellar or intergalactic travel is beyond humanity's technological capacities, then the number of people living in low earth orbit or beyond LEO by the 2030s could hover around 35 to 40. Irrespective of the Russian Orbital Service Station and Lunar Gateway being completed under budget, polls will come out this decade showing that majorities of Americans consider permanent human settlement in areas of space beyond Mars or the broader solar system an impossibility.

 

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