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Thread: Privatization of Space

  1. #1
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    Privatization of Space

    I received this email from Rick Tumlinson, co-founder of the Space Frontier Foundation. He is very pro-space, in the sense of getting private companies to finance it. He thinks NASA has its place, but has lost its way, and needs outside thinkers to steer America back on course.

    I post this article in its entirety (with permission) with no implied endorsement or criticism. I'm just curious what people here think. I have my own opinions, but I'll wait a while before posting them, so as not to bias the conversation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Tumlinson

    This email is being sent to my private list, the Foundation's list, the media
    and will appear in Space News Monday morning.

    It is completely my responsibility. Enjoy, and pass on to anyone you wish.
    Feel free to forward the addresses of anyone else you believe should get
    this mailing, and, if offended or afraid of corporate or management issues
    that might arise due to reciept of these emails, please feel free to let
    me know and your name will be removed from future mailings. Also, if
    you think someone else should hear these opinions I urge you to
    forward them this piece and any and all future mailings you might wish to send.

    I appreciate all of the wonderful feedback to date, including those few who
    have had issues with my words. I learn from them all.

    Our goal is the stars.

    Rick Tumlinson



    Private Industry Can Help NASA Open the Space Frontier
    By Rick Tumlinson
    Space News Feb. 14, 2005

    There are three initiatives from 2004 that if built upon the right way will
    rapidly accelerate the human breakout into space.

    The first was U.S. President George W. Bush's vision of permanent human
    presence beyond Earth orbit, which was endorsed by congressional funding
    and clarified by the Aldridge Commission.


    The second was the flight of SpaceShipOne, the first major triumph of the new
    space movement and its goal of opening space to the people. This was
    solidified by a multi-million-dollar contract from Virgin Galactic to build a fleet of
    commercial spaceships.

    Finally, the passage of legislation in Congress that begins to create re
    gulatory certainty in the New Space transportation field clears the way for the
    long-term development of this nascent industry.

    Thus we have both a mandate for our government to explore and open space to
    permanent habitation, and the birth of a private sector space industry which
    can power, sustain and capitalize that expansion of our civilization beyond the
    Earth. But of course, this means they will have to work together, which is a
    bigger challenge than the physical act of opening space itself. But I believe
    it can be done with benefits to all.

    However, there is one point that needs to be made early in this discussion
    that clearly is not understood by the traditional space establishment. I believe
    the new space frontier movement can survive and even begin the opening of
    space completely on its own, even if NASA vanished tomorrow.

    I am not expressing a desire, just a reality that should be part of all
    future discussions of national space policy. Momentum is building, and the
    funneling of several independent fortunes into the cause is creating networks of
    mutual support and interest.

    For example, we will soon witness the launch of Bigelow Aerospace hotel test
    articles on a SpaceX rocket. Projecting this trend further, we arrive at
    another critical milestone on the way to an open frontier, when the first private
    space facility is serviced and supported entirely by a private transport firm
    or firms. This is a real take-off point, for when this happens if we should
    lose the government space program entirely the frontier will still be at hand.

    I am not stretching reality. At some point in the next 10 years the private
    sector will attain the ability to transport relatively large numbers of people
    and payloads to and from low Earth orbit on its own, to house them while they
    are in orbit and to develop the infrastructure needed for industrial
    development. This part of the frontier formula is simple: Transportation + Destination
    = Habitation + Exploitation + Industrialization.

    As SpaceX and Bigelow begin to develop their infrastructure, Richard Branson,
    who created Virgin Galactic, will have been flying suborbital commercial
    space flights for years, as will have Jeff Bezos, the Amazon.com founder who just
    announced a new commercial spaceport in West Texas. Branson and Burt Rutan,
    the man behind SpaceshipOne, already have said they want to go to orbit and even
    beyond, as do Bigelow and Bezos, including trips to and around the Moon.

    Again, this is serious stuff. I am not wildly chanting L-5 in '95 as the
    early followers of the late Gerard O'Neill of the Space Studies Institute in their naivete
    used to do. I am not betting on some pie-in-the-sky magic
    product like Iridium and the mythical little Leo constellations to fund start up rocket
    companies. I am certainly not betting on some magic government X vehicle
    like the X-33 space goose.

    These new O'Neillians have their own money, their own business models and the
    ability to finance what they are doing all by themselves.

    The new imperative that must be faced by our government space leaders is not
    just to carry out a formal national mandate, and do so on a tight budget, but
    to maintain their relevance in a field that may well be moving faster than
    they are.

    How does NASA justify its intention to spend tens of billions of dollars in
    taxpayer funds to build what will probably be a far less efficient space
    transportation system than what the commercial space industry is developing for its
    own purposes.

    Look at the contrasts. Bigelow is assuming that his $50 million dollar America's
    Prize will result in a safe and reusable passenger capsule for roundtrips
    between Earth and low Earth orbit. NASA is expecting to spend over $10 billion
    dollars to develop the same sort of capability. Yes, Bigelow expects the
    winner to spend far more than the actual prize amount based on hopes of follow-on
    markets; and yes, the winning capsule will have fewer bells and whistles that
    anything NASA builds, but the magnitude of difference in the development costs
    is ridiculous.

    NASA, the White House and Congress are being driven more by the power of
    traditional aerospace lobbying and the need to maintain political constituencies
    than practical and common sense understanding of the changes at hand. NASA must
    be made to grasp this now and stop all of its current plans for the Moon/Mars
    initiative, or it will fail.

    Although the current Crew Exploration Vehicle plans incorporate a very small
    wedge of new space players, the new White House space transportation policy
    and the bulk of U.S. government funding is still targeted at the old space
    industry.

    How do self- and investor-funded innovators compete against government
    subsidized systems? How does this help America compete in global markets in the long
    run?

    The government is ignoring the need to grow a wide-ranging and robust space
    transportation and low Earth orbit industrial base to support all of our
    activities from here to the Moon in favor of drawing up monster space vehicles such
    as a new heavy-lift launcher.

    They want to be able to toss giant elements of government-designed space
    facilities and craft into orbit all at once, a la Saturn 5. This may have been
    necessary when we were in a race to the Moon, but a much wiser, long-term
    solution now would be to use smaller vehicles over time to get the people and
    infrastructure to where they are needed.

    If the goal is to have a thriving Earth-Moon-Mars economy as an end point, it
    makes sense to begin creating the low Earth orbit anchorage and industrial
    port element as early as possible.

    Pay for delivery contracts and prizes tied to tax incentives for investment
    in space transportation would greatly accelerate the growth of New Space
    transportation systems. On orbit assembly would teach us how to really operate in
    space, while developing expertise and potentially profitable orbital businesses.
    Fuel depots in space could be developed now using new space and old space
    transportation systems to fill them and preparing a technology base for the day
    when we begin to harvest and refine propellants from space resources. Breaking
    payloads down into small elements expands the pie greatly. It also mimics how
    we do things on Earth, which seems to have worked very well so far.

    If handled the right way, even the dinosaurs of aerospace could be coaxed
    into evolving or spinning off innovative space transportation divisions to
    service this new mixed private- and public-sector market. After all, Boeing,
    Lockheed and Northrop Grumman are not doing their stockholders any favors by clinging
    to a dying market, when an expanding frontier-based market would not only be
    potentially huge, but by definition infinite.

    The president has said we should go back to the Moon and on to Mars, this
    time to stay. Of course from his mouth to the ears of NASA is a journey far
    greater than the distance to the Moon.

    Already, the concept of permanence has been redefined by those who are
    mono-maniacally focused on the end point of Mars. They have jettisoned lunar
    development, instead opting for touch-and-go missions to the Moon on the way to a
    grand-flags-and-footprints mission to Mars. They prefer Apollo redux rather than
    the careful build up of an Earth-Moon infrastructure that can teach us how to
    go and live anywhere in space forever.

    Yet there is hope that some in NASA and the space community are shaking free
    of old ways of thinking. I have met many, including the oft maligned and yet
    ignored planetary scientists who really are beginning to get it when it comes
    to frontier-style thinking. At recent NASA sanctioned meetings, I was stunned
    to hear many of them rejecting a return to the Moon based on scattershot
    landings for so-called scientific purposes as some at headquarters had been
    planning.
    Apollo on steroids, as it was called, seemed to be roundly trounced in favor
    of a careful build-up to one community on the south pole of the Moon.

    There are those who fear we will get bogged down on the Moon, that NASA will
    simply be replacing the Albatross of the international space station with a
    large grey boulder called the Moon, weighing itself down so much with lunar
    infrastructure it cannot proceed to Mars. This is a completely valid point. We
    must learn from the mistakes of the space station and not repeat them on the
    Moon.

    NASA must never again tie itself to facilities or buildings, or to trying to
    manage transportation and other infrastructure. NASA will need not an exit
    strategy from the Moon, but rather an entrance strategy to open the Moon, and the
    basics of this new way of doing business must be locked in this year.

    The actual construction and operation of the lunar community must be carried
    out by the private sector. Meanwhile, NASA can develop its own pure Mars
    analog base a few kilometers around the other side of the Moon, using what it
    learned from the first buildup and focusing purely on studying the elements needed
    for Mars. The Mars analog can be placed outside of the view of Earth, where
    the astronauts there can be isolated, delays can be simulated, and yet supported
    and backed up by staff at the main community-whose facilities and habitat
    rentals can feed into the economy.

    This will require revolutionary thinking on the part of the U.S.
    government, especially in its relationship to the private sector. These changes will
    have to extend far beyond technologies and operational considerations, to the
    legal, regulatory and contractual aspects of space.

    The United States must develop a package of tax and investment incentives to
    open the spigots of Wall Street and other capital sources. The normal methods
    of cost-plus contracting -- awarding contracts to develop capabilities rather
    than paying for provision of services -- must be done away with. But it will
    not be sufficient for the government to simply pay for the delivery of goods,
    people and services if we want to kick start the space economy. The nation must
    go further. We must create a package of incentives that together make it
    irresistible for private investors to want to get involved on the frontier.

    One example is what I call a Catalytic Contingency Contract. Let's say NASA
    needs a laboratory for long-term research. The government, rather than
    building or contracting a module as was done on the international space station
    program, would instead offer to lease a certain number of square feet for an
    extended period from the first private developer who demonstrates the capability to
    provide it.


    This lease would be part of an overall package designed to make it so sweet a
    deal that the firm and its investors would be able to see past any potential
    risks. Such a contract would include: The right of the developer to rent out
    any volume beyond the government's to anyone it pleases at whatever rate it
    chooses; the right to own all intellectual property it may develop while building
    the facility; the right to sell any advertising based on its contract and
    involvement in the project; and freedom from any taxes it might be assessed on
    profits realized from any activities generated by the project.

    The privately funded new space firms will push into space if the money
    continues to flow and it doesn't turn out to be a billionaire's fad. NASA
    eventually might be able to spend billions and get something or someone to the Moon in
    a couple of decades -- if politicians and presidents continue their support.

    For now NASA has billions of dollars and a mandate to push outward into
    space, but it needs a partner that thinks outside the box. The new space firms live
    outside of the box and if given the right support they could accelerate the
    push into space and make it permanent.

    Last year both the government and the people said they want to open space.
    Working separately the public and private sectors might be able to stagger and
    stumble into the future, or they might trip and fall back into the past.
    Together, using the strengths of each, we can create an amazing future and take the
    first strong steps now. I don't know about you, but I don't want to wait any
    longer.

    Rick N. Tumlinson is the founder of the Space Frontier Foundation.

  2. #2
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    =D>

    It all makes sense. I'd even go so far as saying that what the US government does at this point is irrelevant-- the private space industry is going to surpass NASA’s manned LEO programs in the mid-future. After all, if Bigelow’s contest works out, there will be private manned sub-orbital craft several years ahead of NASA’s CEV plans.

    That isn’t to say NASA shouldn’t have a role—there are common infrastructure issues to solve (ie communications, etc), and the government has its own interests in space (ie defense). Plus, NASA is impressively innovative; it is mostly the bulk of bureaucracy and political meddling that holds it back. Put someone like Jack Welch in charge, give him the power to make real changes, and we’ll be getting somewhere.

    I must temper my enthusiasm though; there is still a big gap between sub-orbital flight and LEO. I still only give 50:50 odds that somebody will even win Bigelow’s contest—he has set the bar really high with the rendezvous/docking requirement. Government over-regulation is also a non-trivial risk. It is hard enough for a conventional airline to be profitable.

  3. #3
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    I'd go along with it generally. We have a NASA-industry space complex with no great motivation to make access to space cheaper, since most of the money going to space goes to NASA and the associated industries. NASA should focus more on ends - sending a probe to Mars or into orbit - and let private industry figure out how best to do it.
    Everything I need to know I learned through Googling.

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    The only thing that bothers me with privatization of space is the ability to impose some level of regulation upon them. Once the genie is out of the bottle, its loose, and not much can stop it. Once private companies have unrestrictable access to space, there's not much a government can do to impose regulations upon them. By this I mean, environmental (space junk), occupational hazard (how many safety regs would corporations follow if there was no OSHA or local equivalent breathing down their neck?), and operational safety (why bother with upkeep if cheap access makes lofting a new whatever less expensive?).

    Not casting stones at any of the current players in the field, but think a generation or two down the line. Major corporations aren't known for caring for much beyond the bottom line once something is considered a commodity. That is the risk we face if space access becomes a commodity, not a luxery or experimental pursuit.

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    Re: Privatization of Space

    First impressions: Rick seems a "tad" upset with NASA, and aerospace contractors. When you need support from a group, it's probably not a good idea to characterize them as dinosaurs.

    My major problem with the idea is this...

    The privately funded new space firms will push into space if the money
    continues to flow and it doesn't turn out to be a billionaire's fad.
    In a "nutshell", it's going to take LOTS
    of money to make this "work", and that's why I can't get too excited about it. I just don't see this in the near (or even far) future as being anything other than a "rich man's" game.

    ...and that's my opinion...I hope I'm wrong...

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    I am not stretching reality. At some point in the next 10 years the private sector will attain the ability to transport relatively large numbers of people and payloads to and from low Earth orbit on its own, to house them while they are in orbit and to develop the infrastructure needed for industrial
    development.
    It would be nice if he could explain why this isn't stretching the reality.
    It would be nice if he would be right, but I just don't see it. SSO was a nice thing, but by being designed just to reach the goal of the X-Prize, it could avoid nerly everything that makes real spaceflight difficult and expensive.
    I see one advantage a private space transportation sector would have: Accidents wouldn't lead to such outcries as they happen when the system is operated by a governmental body.

    Harald

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    Quote Originally Posted by kucharek
    I am not stretching reality. At some point in the next 10 years the private sector will attain the ability to transport relatively large numbers of people and payloads to and from low Earth orbit on its own, to house them while they are in orbit and to develop the infrastructure needed for industrial
    development.
    It would be nice if he could explain why this isn't stretching the reality.
    It would be nice if he would be right, but I just don't see it. SSO was a nice thing, but by being designed just to reach the goal of the X-Prize, it could avoid nerly everything that makes real spaceflight difficult and expensive.
    I see one advantage a private space transportation sector would have: Accidents wouldn't lead to such outcries as they happen when the system is operated by a governmental body.

    Harald
    What's to stop a private company from contracting a few Ariane jumbo boosters to loft space station components? Heck, why modulize, a purpose built Salyut style single module habitat supported by privately built crewed capsules. Especially if these inflatable stations turn out to be worth anything.

    Governments might flinch at strapping a crewed capsule onto one of these things without a bible-thick book of safety certifications, but once a booster is certified as operational, there's nothing saying a private company has to do more than ensure the capsule they strap to the nose is under the mass limit.

    The infastructure is in place, you just have to conform your launch package to the limits of the booster it uses.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doodler
    Governments might flinch at strapping a crewed capsule onto one of these things without a bible-thick book of safety certifications, but once a booster is certified as operational, there's nothing saying a private company has to do more than ensure the capsule they strap to the nose is under the mass limit.
    I don't like to disagree with you but...

    You're talking about "cutting corners", and that leads to accidents. Now I'm not saying that a "loss of vehicle" would lead to discontinuence of private space ventures. But lose enough people and we might start to see a lack of confidence by the "investors".

    Spaceflight is inherently a "risky business", and it's going to be a LONG time before it is not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by R.A.F.
    Quote Originally Posted by Doodler
    Governments might flinch at strapping a crewed capsule onto one of these things without a bible-thick book of safety certifications, but once a booster is certified as operational, there's nothing saying a private company has to do more than ensure the capsule they strap to the nose is under the mass limit.
    I don't like to disagree with you but...

    You're talking about "cutting corners", and that leads to accidents. Now I'm not saying that a "loss of vehicle" would lead to discontinuence of private space ventures. But lose enough people and we might start to see a lack of confidence by the "investors".

    Spaceflight is inherently a "risky business", and it's going to be a LONG time before it is not.
    In response to your last sentence, I agree, which is why my scenario was looking down the line to the point when corporations could launch independently of government oversight. The first launches would be from ESA, RSA, or NASA approved launch facilities and would be appropriately drumhead tight. I'm thinking down the line to when these companies have their own launch facilities in Third World countries that could give a hoot. Call me nuts, but lets look at the cost/benefit analysis. A few million a year as a kickback to some petty dictator is a drop in the bucket to the money saved by launching from a position on the equator. Bye bye First World oversight.

    Also, losing people is bad, BUT as long as the profit margin is there, what's to keep investors out? It doesn't necessarily need to get to the point where people die from immediately apparent causes either. The cost of lofting manned vehicles into space is likely going to be far more expensive a proposition than unmanned, so whats to prevent a company from extending manned missions to durations that aren't very good for the long term health of the crews? Its space, its an adventure, think they'll be short on volunteers? The damage done by corners cut doesn't have to be so dramatic as a violent death in a launch accident, those are bad PR, those are to be avoided. But other more subtle corners, what's to stop them from cutting those and hiding behind an army of lawyers? Cost/benefit is the core. If they can accept the risk for the sake of increased profit, don't believe there aren't companies that won't walk across that line.

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    Poor safety by itself doesn't necessarily condemn a new industry; daily train wrecks in the 1800s didn't ruin the Railroad industry, and the early airline industry had more than a few planes go down (the Comet comes to mind) before they got it right.

    The difference with space, however, is that for the foreseeable future it is merely entertainment, and will thus be held to safety standards more akin to amusement parks than transportation systems.

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    The only thing that bothers me with privatization of space is the ability to impose some level of regulation upon them. Once the genie is out of the bottle, its loose, and not much can stop it. Once private companies have unrestrictable access to space, there's not much a government can do to impose regulations upon them. By this I mean, environmental (space junk), occupational hazard (how many safety regs would corporations follow if there was no OSHA or local equivalent breathing down their neck?), and operational safety (why bother with upkeep if cheap access makes lofting a new whatever less expensive?).
    You have a point that these areas will require regulation, but I disagree that government will not be able to regulate this (currently) hypothetical burgeoning private space industry. The government will not, and in truth, can and should not be cut out of the loop. As private space traffic increases, there will have to be a merging of Airport Control systems with new Space Control Systems for directing of traffic. There will have to be regulations for safety, disposal of hazardous materials, working conditions, import/export tariffs etc., which is true of ANY private industry, especially if that industry has proven that it can not regulate itself.

    Government and NASA are limited by taxes and budgeting constraints, private organizations are limited in their ingenuity of creating a profit from the space industry.

    I would have to agree with the view that privatization of space as necessary to providing humanity with a firmer, surer stepping stone in preparation for our jump into a truly space faring culture.

    *** Edit to say, I believe I'd like to see this thread as a Sticky

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    I think the privatisation of space is somewhat inevitable but no one has put as much money into space as has gone into NASA. We haven't exactly used space to its full potential with the amount of money that has gone into it, umm i wonder why #-o

    Oh yeah, NASA's the one developing all the propulsion technologies. Like the VASIMR system is probably the best hope we have for efficient travel to Mars or other planets and it is also the fastest by far. The deceleration is a bit of a problem as half of the trip has to be deceleration but that could be cut down by sling shoting around the planet and decelerating to get into an orbit. This would make the trip even shorter, or heck strap a chemical rocket on to help slow it down quicker.

    I don't hold much promise for privatisation of space until companies start putting more long term applications into their plans.

    Also without a policing in space it could well develop into a privateering situation between rival companies. If a ship conveniently gets damaged and drifts off course no ones likely going to find out if there was foul play involved.

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    They're going to have to bring ticket prices down to considerably lower than $200,000--AND offer more by way of "entertainment" than "go up, come down, go home", before it'll ever turn into a money-making proposition.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jigsaw
    They're going to have to bring ticket prices down to considerably lower than $200,000--AND offer more by way of "entertainment" than "go up, come down, go home", before it'll ever turn into a money-making proposition.
    Helium 3 on the moon and asteroid mining which would lead to the ability to efficiently build space stations that are micrometeroid safe, which leads to space hotels etc. It may be a long time but once it starts it will boom fast.

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    Re: Privatization of Space

    I like the gist of the email. What seems to be lacking are the details. But all things in good time I guess.

    If Tumlinson would like to get going now, one idea for getting some equipment into orbit which could be used as habitats might be the shuttle external tank, once the STS gets flying again. If I recall correctly the tank only needs a slight delta V increase in order to achieve orbit. There have been studies done about how to make it habitable. These actions might be supportable through non-heavy lift boosters and their attendant spacecraft, and would act as a short cut to getting manned habitats in orbit to serve as the "anchorage and industrial port" Tumlinson talked about.

    As it is now, NASA throws every ET away. All it accomplished after its fuel is spent is providing the folks in the southern hemisphere with a spectacular entry light show.

    Re the difference between NASA and private industry, there's the drive to make a profit that's in the latter, but not in the former. As Jay pointed out either here or another BB, compared to its composition in the 1960s, today's NASA has significantly fewer engineers, and many more bureaucrats. The main goal of a bureaucrat is protecting one's territory and self-preservation, of the individuals position, the department, and the organization.

    This is a problem that NASA will always have. It should be decisive in evolving NASA from a space flight "company" back to its original concept as indicated in its name "National Aeronautics and Space Administration". Its role would be the primary regulator of space travel, much like the FAA, etc., but hopefully without the FAA's charter to promote air travel while attempting to regulate airlines, etc., and ensure safety, which led to conflicts of interest in the past.

    The principles described by Tumlinson are sound. Now let's get into the details, and start planning/executing.

    Speaking of executing, a quick aside to Demigrog. About the last person I'd like to see in charge of one of these space companies is Jack Welch. What he did to GE was reprehensible. His misuse of Six Sigma to ensure short term gains was unconscionable. The effect this had on the quality of GE products and the quality of the work environment at GE was nothing but negative.

    The only positives were for Welch and his inner circle, who departed with the most golden parachutes imaginable. His disregard for safety of GE employees and the safety of persons using GE products was arrogance personified. His books demonstrate that he continues to be proud of how he gutted the company.

    No Welch, nor Iacocca, Ellison, Lutz, and their ilk. We need company heads who are in favor of innovation, quality, and safety as equal in stature to profits. Companies with these priorities tend to be profitable by nature (as opposed to profitable by brute force), and typically require little if any government agency intervention.

    Great piece of writing by Mr. Tumlinson. I hope the responses he gets are positive, meaningful, and tangible!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doodler
    The first launches would be from ESA, RSA, or NASA approved launch facilities and would be appropriately drumhead tight. I'm thinking down the line to when these companies have their own launch facilities in Third World countries that could give a hoot. Call me nuts, but lets look at the cost/benefit analysis. A few million a year as a kickback to some petty dictator is a drop in the bucket to the money saved by launching from a position on the equator. Bye bye First World oversight.
    Sure an equator launch helps. That's why ESA launches from French Guiana in South America. The Kourou spaceport is at latitude 5° 3' north, just 500 km from the equator. And they don't even have to finance some third world dictator as French Guiana is actually part of France.

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    I dont think Humans will live/work in space until a propusion system is developed that doesnt't require reaction mass. Until then, the smallest movements in space require a huge amount logistical support. Correct me if Im wrong, but even all the nuclear plans require huge amounts of reaction mass. It is neither a financial nor willingnees problem, it is a technological problem. Currently we think the technology required is simply not physically possible.

    Right now the economics are this... It costs 20 million for the Russians to put a person in orbit for a few weeks, it costs NASA about 80 million for same. Orbit is only a staging ground, it is not even an interesting destination, as there is zero possibility of living in orbit for any amount of time without said, massive overwhelming logistical operation.

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    Historically exploration worked best in terms of achievement when there were competing enterprises. It worked in the 16th century for ships, the 19th for rail, and it worked in the 20th century with airlines. For there to be serious competition in space exploration, and thus make significant advances, I don't see any other option than to privatize it. I do find the '10 year' prediction to be far too optimisitic but that is a layman's opinion.

    A key difference between space exploration and my historical examples is that there is no concrete economic reward for developing it. The 16th century explorers were lured by trade with the Orient, trains and airlines by passenger traffic and trade. Such rewards are not really there for space exploration. Until tangible economic benefits above and beyond 'space tourism' are embraced by the private sector the drive to advance space technology will not materialize like Tumlinson hopes.

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    The first thing that's going to make or break private space is profitability and dependence. Someone will have to demonstrate that there's something that can be built, found or created in space that is in some way more efficient, effective or somehow marketable back on Earth. You don't innovate for no reason (unless you're a software company), you're trying to outdo yourself and stay ahead of a curve of some kind. Space industry has to find a niche in some field that produces something that's going to last beyond the novelty of doing it in space. Once you have that unique process or resource, the rest of the support base comes with it.

    Its got to be something unique, finding water and oxygen on the moon aren't going to do it, you've got more than enough of those on Earth. Platitudes like "eggs in one basket" won't cut it either. It doesn't have to be exotic, like HE3, it could be as basic as say, lunar regolith has some effect on concrete mixes that make them stronger, or cure differently in a manner beneficial to construction on Earth. Pull something like that off, then its a matter of developing the means to return massive quantities of it back home.

    The other challenge in space industry will always always always be the first hundred miles. The Earth/Space interface is the biggest chokepoint in the whole works, because its the most expensive hurdle to overcome. If it weren't for that, this whole business would be academic. Cripes, economic trade between the Moon and Mars, should it ever come about, will be less of a neckpain than trading anywhere in space with the Earth. Gravity, re-entry rigors, volatile launch requirements, and the 6 billion potential moving targets thereon make getting into and out of the atmosphere a major hassle. Think of the challenge of those first hundred miles this way: Once you're in Earth orbit, you're halfway to wherever you want to go.

    Those are the two big factors that will make or break this thing IMHO.

  20. #20
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    Re: Privatization of Space

    Quote Originally Posted by Maksutov
    Speaking of executing, a quick aside to Demigrog. About the last person I'd like to see in charge of one of these space companies is Jack Welch. What he did to GE was reprehensible. His misuse of Six Sigma to ensure short term gains was unconscionable. The effect this had on the quality of GE products and the quality of the work environment at GE was nothing but negative.
    Ouch… I didn’t realize GE was on such a downslide. I guess two decades of steadily increasing revenue and market share are a bad sign for quality, innovation, and safety…

    Quote Originally Posted by Maksutov
    The only positives were for Welch and his inner circle, who departed with the most golden parachutes imaginable. His disregard for safety of GE employees and the safety of persons using GE products was arrogance personified. His books demonstrate that he continues to be proud of how he gutted the company.
    Not going to derail the thread defending Welch, but you’re pretty close to libel here without supporting evidence.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maksutov
    No Welch, nor Iacocca, Ellison, Lutz, and their ilk. We need company heads who are in favor of innovation, quality, and safety as equal in stature to profits. Companies with these priorities tend to be profitable by nature (as opposed to profitable by brute force), and typically require little if any government agency intervention.
    My point was that successful businesses thrive by cutting costs, reducing bureaucracy, producing products that customers want to buy, and leveraging the products and skills that they are best at. Innovation, quality, and safety are not mutually exclusive with profit. Products with poor quality and safety do not sell particularly well, and companies that are not innovative simply die on the vine.

    This basically the old socialism versus capitalism debate in a nutshell.

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    Yes! =D> There have to be incentives, tax write offs, and above all "advertising!" Pretty darned good stuff.
    I'd venture a little further and say that once we open space, we should allow claim staking of asteroids. Open the belt to private miners and the like. I know mars is far, and the asteroid belt farther. I know the inherent dangers of space travel.
    I'd gladly pay my life savings for a 1 way ticket to mars for a dead-end job.
    I'm not sure about you all, but that last statement got me: "...I don't want to wait any longer."
    It should have been done a long time ago.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doodler
    The other challenge in space industry will always always always be the first hundred miles. The Earth/Space interface is the biggest chokepoint in the whole works, because its the most expensive hurdle to overcome. If it weren't for that, this whole business would be academic. Cripes, economic trade between the Moon and Mars, should it ever come about, will be less of a neckpain than trading anywhere in space with the Earth. Gravity, re-entry rigors, volatile launch requirements, and the 6 billion potential moving targets thereon make getting into and out of the atmosphere a major hassle. Think of the challenge of those first hundred miles this way: Once you're in Earth orbit, you're halfway to wherever you want to go.

    Those are the two big factors that will make or break this thing IMHO.
    Im not being critical... But dont underestimate the trouble of leaving earth orbit either. For LEO you have go be going about 17,000 MPH, then to leave earth orbit you need to be going (IIRC) 25,000 MPH, so basically its almost as much work to leave Earth orbit, as it is to get into orbit from the surface of Earth (On the space shuttle you need another set of solid rocket boosters... or another million gallon tank full of hydrogen/oxygen fuel).

    Also, even with nuclear rockets, you still need reaction mass. If I understand the problem correctly this is the central reason for all the interest in solar sails and propulsion systems that shoot a beam of energy from Earths surface.

    Also, I repeat myself, reason people are not living/working is space yet has nothing to do with financing or willingness. It has to do with technology. People simply do not have the technology available to live/work in space in anything resembling (or even imaginable) a self sustaining way. The economics of it are really simple. It currently costs about 10x the total lifetime earning potential of a person to visit space for a couple of weeks. That fact has nothing to do with government corruption and graft. It has to do with the necissity of entering space requires the use of a skyscraper sized piece of equipment once, then throwing away. I dont care how much Mexican and Chinese slave labor you put on the task, it is still going to be expensive. Hence a pipe dream.

    I would venture the guess that even in the case of He3, it would cost less to put He in an existing research reactor then processed through a farm of cycletrons, then it would cost to go to the moon and bring it back.

    For the forseeable future (not saying a breakthrough couldnt happen any day) private industry in space is limited to communications and inteligence satelites. Maybe a fundraiser style science project.

  23. #23
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    Re: Privatization of Space

    Quote Originally Posted by Demigrog
    Quote Originally Posted by Maksutov
    Speaking of executing, a quick aside to Demigrog. About the last person I'd like to see in charge of one of these space companies is Jack Welch. What he did to GE was reprehensible. His misuse of Six Sigma to ensure short term gains was unconscionable. The effect this had on the quality of GE products and the quality of the work environment at GE was nothing but negative.
    Ouch… I didn’t realize GE was on such a downslide. I guess two decades of steadily increasing revenue and market share are a bad sign for quality, innovation, and safety…
    Often they are, when the former is achieved at the expense of the latter three. BTW, various GE units have recently been experiencing downgrading by financial institutions. Not unexpected.

    Quote Originally Posted by Demigrog
    Quote Originally Posted by Maksutov
    The only positives were for Welch and his inner circle, who departed with the most golden parachutes imaginable. His disregard for safety of GE employees and the safety of persons using GE products was arrogance personified. His books demonstrate that he continues to be proud of how he gutted the company.
    Not going to derail the thread defending Welch, but you’re pretty close to libel here without supporting evidence.
    Relating facts, even if they're ones some people would rather not hear, isn't libel. Try this link for some of those facts. There are many documents out there of how GE managed to increase market share and revenue by creative financial shuffling, etc., as opposed to pursuing such things as product improvements, increased quality, etc.

    Re safety, here's one example. OSHA cited the company for 858 workplace safety violations from 1990-2001. Here's a link that documents quite a few more. Also here's one reason why I included GE's customers among those whose safety is threatened.

    Concerning general ethics, General Electric has been involved in so many cases of fraud that in the 1990s the Pentagon's Defense Contract Management Agency created a special investigations office specifically for the company, which indicted GE on 22 criminal counts and recovered $221.7 million. In one case, in 1992, GE entered a guilty plea to criminal and civil charges for defrauding the Pentagon in a case where money was funneled to the Israeli military. GE was fined $69 million for violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

    In addition I have many professional associates who worked at GE in that time period (it was 17 years) and know what actually went on. It wasn't pretty. But running a business for short-term gains can make the books look good for a while.

    Quote Originally Posted by Demigrog
    Quote Originally Posted by Maksutov
    No Welch, nor Iacocca, Ellison, Lutz, and their ilk. We need company heads who are in favor of innovation, quality, and safety as equal in stature to profits. Companies with these priorities tend to be profitable by nature (as opposed to profitable by brute force), and typically require little if any government agency intervention.
    My point was that successful businesses thrive by cutting costs, reducing bureaucracy, producing products that customers want to buy, and leveraging the products and skills that they are best at. Innovation, quality, and safety are not mutually exclusive with profit. Products with poor quality and safety do not sell particularly well, and companies that are not innovative simply die on the vine.

    This basically the old socialism versus capitalism debate in a nutshell.
    No it isn't. Criticism of how a company is run is not automatically translatable into an attack on capitalism. I'm probably as much a proponent of free markets as you appear to be, but I also recognize abuse when I see it.

    Re "die on the vine", that they do. But unfortunately there's a period of inertia before that happens where the brand's reputation is what sells, political connections keep the government contracts coming in, and the profits are directed toward compensation (always the highest echelons) rather than reinvestment in the company.

    "Neutron" Jack, Lutz, and company were (whew!) just old-time Theory X managers disguised in trendy new costumes, like Six Sigma, etc.

    But like you I don't want to derail this thread. So that's all I'll post re GE and Jack. Interested parties can find plenty of well-documented information on the web. Let's get back to discussing space exploration.

    PS: a suggestion: please cool it with the "libel" stuff. This isn't GLP.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by electromagneticpulse
    Oh yeah, NASA's the one developing all the propulsion technologies. Like the VASIMR system is probably the best hope we have for efficient travel to Mars or other planets and it is also the fastest by far. The deceleration is a bit of a problem as half of the trip has to be deceleration but that could be cut down by sling shoting around the planet and decelerating to get into an orbit. This would make the trip even shorter, or heck strap a chemical rocket on to help slow it down quicker.
    Actually, one of the cool things about VASIMR is that it's throttable so that you can greatly increase thrust, albeit at the expense of efficiency.

    Personally, I think some sort of workable fusion powered propulsion is what we're going to need to REALLY get out there good. Perhaps some sort of nuclear (fission) reactor powered ship that uses laser assisted fusion of hydrogen pellets to create a fusion reaction inside the engine and a magnetic bottle that's opened on one in to direct the thrust out the back. Even if you're not at the break even point, you're okay since the nuclear reactor is providing the power, not the fusion reaction.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Avatar28
    Quote Originally Posted by electromagneticpulse
    Oh yeah, NASA's the one developing all the propulsion technologies. Like the VASIMR system is probably the best hope we have for efficient travel to Mars or other planets and it is also the fastest by far. The deceleration is a bit of a problem as half of the trip has to be deceleration but that could be cut down by sling shoting around the planet and decelerating to get into an orbit. This would make the trip even shorter, or heck strap a chemical rocket on to help slow it down quicker.
    Actually, one of the cool things about VASIMR is that it's throttable so that you can greatly increase thrust, albeit at the expense of efficiency.

    Personally, I think some sort of workable fusion powered propulsion is what we're going to need to REALLY get out there good. Perhaps some sort of nuclear (fission) reactor powered ship that uses laser assisted fusion of hydrogen pellets to create a fusion reaction inside the engine and a magnetic bottle that's opened on one in to direct the thrust out the back. Even if you're not at the break even point, you're okay since the nuclear reactor is providing the power, not the fusion reaction.
    Well i've actually been doing some research on VASIMR the old design would require a 200 MW fission plant and the VASIMR could get the whole thing there (with half the time slowing down remember) in 39.5 days IIRC. Significant advances has made it even less power consuming and other advances could make it even more efficient, but using gravity to decelerate the object while using the drive to help slow you down would make it even more efficient. Remembering that Mars only has a rough 3N gravity which makes it more manoeuvrable, plus with good simulations it could be plotted to use mars and then one of the moons to give a greater deceleration distance. Here's my take on the possible first wave of transports.

    I don't know the exact weight of a KTL-40 reactor but that doesn't completely matter while in space as it doesn't have to worry about taking off. It can't be too heavy because of its small size but i would think one of the shuttles SRB's would easily get one of my above linked craft in orbit as the two produce 71% of the thrust of the total craft. If not the Saturn V easily could as once in geostationary orbit throttle up the VASIMR and you would be travelling too fast and accelerate out of orbit.

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    I don't know the exact weight of a KTL-40 reactor but that doesn't completely matter while in space as it doesn't have to worry about taking off. It can't be too heavy because of its small size but i would think one of the shuttles SRB's would easily get one of my above linked craft in orbit as the two produce 71% of the thrust of the total craft. If not the Saturn V easily could as once in geostationary orbit throttle up the VASIMR and you would be travelling too fast and accelerate out of orbit.
    IIRC a single shuttle srb doesn't have enough power to launch itself into orbit let alone any significant payload. (they are used for the first two minutes of the flight to get the whole thing moving) I also think the chances of NASA (or anyone else for that matter) pulling the designs for a 30+ year old money gussling mega rocket such as the Saturn V are very low indeed.
    I do remember reading somewhere that the U.S. navy have developed nuclear reactors (albiet for submarines) that can put out the appropriate wattage to power VASIMR and also be of a reasonable size and weight to be lofted by existing heavy lift launchers like the Delta IV heavy. (correct me if I'm wrong on that one though)

    I have no idea how much the rest of the spacecraft would weigh but perhaps a modular design with in orbit assembly could be feasable?

    Just speculating really here, I for one am highly eager to see some real progress with VASIMR. I feel the project has been unduly marginalised given it's enormous potential.

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    Do we currently have reactor designs that do not rely on bouyancy/convection for power generation? Will it need a rotating assembly for the reactor? I've wondered about the feasability of a Laser-Initiated Fusion-Capsule Pulse-Jet, but never arrived at any acceptable answers, except the lasers would probably need to be powered by a fission reactor.

    The OP article makes some interesting points, but I'm not sure it offers any real direction. I think we could reform NASA and separate its aerospace administration from its pure science and applied science work. That might make them happy. Instead of one bureaucracy, we'd have two or three... but it could work to our advantage. Either way, we shouldn't rule out government support. Privatization will only get us so far as illustrated in this article: The Political Economy of Very Large Space Projects

    I think Rutan may be able to get to Low Earth Orbit eventually with some new design, but that doesn't necessarily provide impetus for anyone to follow. There's not much to do in space right now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Davros
    I don't know the exact weight of a KTL-40 reactor but that doesn't completely matter while in space as it doesn't have to worry about taking off. It can't be too heavy because of its small size but i would think one of the shuttles SRB's would easily get one of my above linked craft in orbit as the two produce 71% of the thrust of the total craft. If not the Saturn V easily could as once in geostationary orbit throttle up the VASIMR and you would be travelling too fast and accelerate out of orbit.
    IIRC a single shuttle srb doesn't have enough power to launch itself into orbit let alone any significant payload. (they are used for the first two minutes of the flight to get the whole thing moving) I also think the chances of NASA (or anyone else for that matter) pulling the designs for a 30+ year old money gussling mega rocket such as the Saturn V are very low indeed.
    I do remember reading somewhere that the U.S. navy have developed nuclear reactors (albiet for submarines) that can put out the appropriate wattage to power VASIMR and also be of a reasonable size and weight to be lofted by existing heavy lift launchers like the Delta IV heavy. (correct me if I'm wrong on that one though)
    My understanding was the SRB provides 2,993,709.64 kilograms of thrust where as the three Liquid hydrogen/oxygen thrusters provide 544,310.84 kilograms of thrust. With the ET and shuttle with maximum payload it totals out at excess carry weight of 53,523.8997 kilograms (53 tonnes) making it roughly 26 tonnes per SRB. So although it producing the majority of the thrust i would have to agree a single one couldn't get to orbit especially with a payload in the tonnes.

    Also i had size requirements for the reactor that i couldn't well break and the KLT-40 fitted perfectly (well .2 meters out) so i decided on it almost straight off.


    Quote Originally Posted by Davros
    I have no idea how much the rest of the spacecraft would weigh but perhaps a modular design with in orbit assembly could be feasable?
    Well the manufacturing of this specific craft i intended was specifically done on orbit. But the reactor manufacturing was taken from the original models of the class.

    Quote Originally Posted by Davros
    Just speculating really here, I for one am highly eager to see some real progress with VASIMR. I feel the project has been unduly marginalised given it's enormous potential.
    I agree, i see great promise in the VASIMR design especially of its throttle. Just have to hope it doesn't have the thrust of an original skoda


    Quote Originally Posted by Jpax2003
    Do we currently have reactor designs that do not rely on bouyancy/convection for power generation?
    Simple answer, Not as far as i'm aware.

    Longer answer, i picked the KLT-40 because the coolant system is pumped and the backup for pump failure is convection. The steam generator wouldn't work in space, which is why i chose it should be thermoelectric generator especially as the 'cold end' would be put in liquid hydrogen and all excess heat is radiated away from the fuel compartment.

    A rotating vessel would be hard to build but if we are talking about a trip to mars we would need artificial gravity to prevent bone degradation as the trips to the moon could have possibly caused serious long term problems for bone matter. But i think we should seriously build a non gravity dependant fission reactor as the best option for propulsion would be a fusion drive, except it would be way too heavy of any modern design and sustained fusion hope depends on ITER expected 2015 IIRC.

  29. #29
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    Fun space employment link:

    http://www.spacejobs.com/

    The first thing that's going to make or break private space is profitability and dependence. Someone will have to demonstrate that there's something that can be built, found or created in space that is in some way more efficient, effective or somehow marketable back on Earth.
    Exactly right.

    What about some of the following:

    1. Energy production
    2. Pharmaceuticals - http://www.fda.gov/fdac/special/newdrug/spacemed.html
    3. Could special smelting processes create stonger and lighter materials if done in space?

    ** Edited for a couple links I came across.

    4. Superconductive materials
    http://www.space.com/missionlaunches...le_030529.html

    Made in Space: Space Investor's Guide

    http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore...x?bookid=15126
    http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore...x?bookid=15126

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    Items that provide tangible, ready-to-grab profits will be the only thing that really drives a private sector space-race. I figure that mining will be that item, which means that the Moon is the first target. All that is needed is to find a resource on the Moon that, if space travel can be made more efficient and less costly, would make acquiring that resource profitable. This in turn will drive competition to get at those resources.

    Another poster mentioned He-3 but at this point in time we don't really need it. Were He-3 to become the new petroleum there would be hundreds of billions of private sector dollars funding ways to get to the Moon to acquire it, much like the spice trade drove the Age of Exploration in Europe.

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