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[SA]Jump-Starting the Orbital Economy

post #1 of 10
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http://www.scientificamerican.com/ar...rbital-economy

Quote:
Two years ago deceased Star Trek actor James “Scotty†Doohan was granted one last adventure, courtesy of Space Exploration Technologies Corporation. SpaceX, a privately funded company based in Hawthorne, Calif., had been formed in 2002 with the mission of going where no start-up had gone before: Earth orbit. In August 2008 SpaceX loaded Doohan’s cremated remains onto the third test flight of its Falcon 1, a liquid oxygen- and kerosene-fueled rocket bound for orbit. Yet about two minutes into the flight Doohan’s final voyage ended prematurely when the rocket’s first stage crashed into the second stage during separation. It was SpaceX’s third failure in three attempts.
Private industries have an incredible ability to find profit margins.
NASA has an incredible ability to put incredibly complex science-magic to practical use and make it work.

???

PROFIT!!
    
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post #2 of 10
This is pretty interesting actually.

For private industry to work in this field we need a high demand though; they'll have to see profit.

Still; it has plenty of potential.
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post #3 of 10
I read the article, but it looks like its just pointing out failures of companies and limits to entry of an Orbital economy, not anything particularly informative about the benefits, profits, or anything substantial.

Id love to see countries start having a major presence in space, more than just the ISS or whatever small space station a few astronauts stay on. I think if you could get a decent station up and running that you could start mining operations from, there would be huge profit out there. We've got an asteroid belt, and a lot of those would contain minerals we could mine. Start developing some tech to do it autonomously, to get the jump on it, then set up a station that it could be refined and used without having to be lifted out of earth orbit again. Keep the operations in orbit, and you use a lot less fuel, and stay a lot safer. Entry/exiting the Earth's atmosphere is where the expense and danger is largely focused.

On building a station to do this from, look at the space shuttle. Its got 2 small bosters, and the main tank, that big brown tank. That makes it to space, then they jettison it back to Earth. Its empty, why not leave it in space, and connect a bunch of them to make a big station?

Im sure there'd be some big profits to be made if a serious effort could be made in developing the initial technology. Im sure some companies could make an asteroid harvester that was automated that could drop a couple tons of material into the atmosphere when it was full. After a few loads, it would be profitable to make the things.
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post #4 of 10
A sad step in the wrong direction imo. Yes I would like to see private companies take to the heavens. But the fact remains NASA has been worth the investment. It unifies the greatest minds to solve these problems and has benefited the U.S. in many many ways big and small. Privatization will only set us back by dividing those minds in different directions. Private companies are great for the consumer market but for research and development unification is the better answer.
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post #5 of 10
Keep in mind this is only the first two paragraphs of the article. The rest is subscribers only.
post #6 of 10
Full article in PDF form is here...

https://docs.google.com/fileview?id=...CN6XracL&pli=1
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post #7 of 10
If it wasn't for Satellites, Communications, & National Defense, I'd be 100% against anything concerning space..
Edited by _GTech - 2/12/11 at 10:30pm
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post #8 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by 0rion View Post
Id love to see countries start having a major presence in space, more than just the ISS or whatever small space station a few astronauts stay on.
From what I've read, China will be doing a good deal more in this area. They have their eyes set on the moon, though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 0rion View Post
I think if you could get a decent station up and running that you could start mining operations from, there would be huge profit out there. We've got an asteroid belt, and a lot of those would contain minerals we could mine. Start developing some tech to do it autonomously, to get the jump on it, then set up a station that it could be refined and used without having to be lifted out of earth orbit again. Keep the operations in orbit, and you use a lot less fuel, and stay a lot safer. Entry/exiting the Earth's atmosphere is where the expense and danger is largely focused.
The asteroid belt is roughly one and a half AU from the Earth. That's around thirteen light minutes, which mean YEARS of travel time for most anything we currently have. Which means, of course, we'll need to automate a mass driver and some massive solar arrays to power it. Just use the dark side of the moon as the target, and have a lunar base nearby to process the materials and ship them back towards Earth. Or, we could aim them just right with enough force that they'd get caught in lunar, or even Earth's orbit, and that way we don't lose material from the lunar impact, as well as no need to ship it up-gravity.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 0rion View Post
On building a station to do this from, look at the space shuttle. Its got 2 small bosters, and the main tank, that big brown tank. That makes it to space, then they jettison it back to Earth. Its empty, why not leave it in space, and connect a bunch of them to make a big station?
That would be the "hobo" version of a space station, honestly. Or like people that use shipping containers to make a house. Yes, you COULD build a house out of shipping containers. It's going to echo like nothing you've ever heard before, though, and it's going to be cramped, and it's likely not going to be anywhere near as good as a house that was designed to be a house and not a shipping container.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 0rion View Post
Im sure there'd be some big profits to be made if a serious effort could be made in developing the initial technology. Im sure some companies could make an asteroid harvester that was automated that could drop a couple tons of material into the atmosphere when it was full. After a few loads, it would be profitable to make the things.
The only way any sort of harvest operation will work anytime soon (extremely high cost of fuel, extremely long distances, etc) is to bypass the need for fuel and use a mass driver. Besides that, a couple tons of material times a few hundred would not be anywhere near as profitable, unless it was an extremely rare Earth metal (and even then, well, read on). The main reason why is because of how the market works. If you have a ton of gold, at today's currently gold price of 1,356.05$ an ounce, that'd mean that you would have, per pound, 21,696.80$, or at two thousand pounds roughly, 43,393,600.00$ from selling your gold. Now, if you tried to sell all of that gold at once, I doubt you'd find a buyer. Specifically because putting 43.4 million dollars of gold into the gold market would likely cause a decent drop in the price, which would likely go down even further if anyone knew where you were getting your gold from (and that you'd likely be coming back with more, too).

And secondly, 43.4 million dollars is really not that much money. It was somewhere around ten billion for ALL Apollo programs, which is about how difficult I would rate this single mission. That means you'd need to male roughly two hundred and thirty-one trips at a single ton each trip.

Again: The real money comes from a constant mining operation followed by using an extremely speedy and low-cost transportation method. Mass drivers are the way to go, but any organization would still be looking at MASSIVE start up costs, and running in the red for many many many years until they broke even (or even came close).

~~~

Quote:
Originally Posted by _GTech View Post
If it wasn't for Satellites, Communications, & National Defense, I'd be 100% against anything concerning space..
Well, it's good to see that reason, because of a few key aspects, wins out against ignorance, after all!
post #9 of 10
This article is 2 months old?

Thanks for pointing out another Obama fail moment.
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post #10 of 10
I'll invest $1

Hopefully I become a billionaire by 2020
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