Updated: May 9
True commercial success is clearly emerging for the space industry. Space enthusiasts are fortunate that Elon Musk and other true believers in the future of space are leading the way.
From the late 1960s to the 1970s, there was hope for a space boom. This era had the L5 Society and the idea that there would be orbital and Lagrange point colonization and space power satellites. The predicted space boom did not happen because space access and space systems were not made affordable. The Apollo, Starlab era was killed with the bureaucracy that created insanely expensive systems. The Space Shuttle was supposed to be the beginnings of affordable space with a planned $5 million per launch cost. However, the Space shuttles ended up costing over $1 billion per launch.
This time rocket launch and satellite construction costs have been continually improving for the last 6+ years so that there is a proper foundation for continued profits and new business models. Satellites are dropping below a million per satellite and launch costs are dropping below $50 million for 20 tons and soon $10-20 million for 100 tons.
$5.7B was invested into 80 space companies in Q42020. There has been $177.7B of equity investment into 1,343 unique companies in the space economy over the past 10 years. $25.6B was invested in 2020. $9.4B went to U.S. companies, representing 6% of the $156.2B in total venture dollars invested during the year, according to data from Pitchbook and NVCA.
Prices will continue to drop and SpaceX and other space companies are establishing very profitable businesses. Profits and revenues will make this a permanent space boom.
The greatest value from space will be transforming the technology and economy of the world.
Starlink Space Communication – Gigabit and multi-gigabit internet access all over the world. SpaceX’s current and next generation Starlink will move up from 300 Mbps and 20-millisecond latency at the end of this year towards multi-gigabit access over the next 5 years.
How SpaceX Starlink could displace terrestrial fiber optics in the 2030s?
The average cost to build a cell tower is about $175,000, but the cell tower lease cost is $45,000 per year. The cellphone companies do not own most of the land where the celltower sits. They have to pay rent.
The Starlink satellites have launch costs but do not have lease costs. The SpaceX Super Heavy Starship could launch 600 Starlink satellites at one time. A $12 million Starship Super Heavy launch could bring the per satellite launch cost down to $50,000.
There are 5 million cellphone towers in the world. The potential exists for Starlink satellites to replace cellphone towers on a one-for-one basis.
Low earth orbit satellites have the advantage that light travels about 1.5 times faster in the vacuum of space compared to the light in a fiber glass fiber. Any transmission over 3000 miles will be faster via the low earth orbit satellite communication network.
Cargo Planes and then Passenger Air Travel
The reality of SpaceX mass production rockets is unfolding before our eyes. SpaceX Starships will cost over ten times less than current cargo planes, have over twice the range and will be thirty times faster. These massive advantages will give SpaceX dominance of the cargo business.
The global cargo airline industry generated revenue streams of $117.7 billion U.S. dollars in 2020 and is projected to make $140 billion in 2021.
The commercial rocket launch market is about $10 billion each year.
SpaceX will be able to make ten times more from point to point cargo delivery on earth than from the space launch industry.
SpaceX already dominates the commercial rocket launch business with over 60% market share.
SpaceX will create a new category of rocket air delivery for same-day international deliveries and four to six-hour delivery between continents or from east coast to west coast.
The rocket cargo delivery business will be comparable to the eventual global Starlink internet revenue.
Air cargo will be a training area where SpaceX will master volume operations and improve operational safety. Eventually, SpaceX will achieve the safety needed to move people. They will prove safety by safely flying a few thousand cargo Starships hundreds of times a year. In a normal year, commercial passenger air travel is a $600 billion a year business.
Thousands of Reusuable Starships Makes Industrializing Earth Orbit and Colonization Trivial
Thousands of reusable Starship makes it D-day invasion scale colonization.
Within five days of landing in Normandy, the Allies had landed 326,547 troops, 54,186 vehicles and 104,428 tons of supplies. In the weeks that would follow the two huge pre-fabricated Mulberry Harbours would be constructed. It had taken 55,000 workers more than 6 months to construct the components, using 210,000 tons of steel and 1,000,000 tons of concrete. The harbor in the American sector – “Mulberry A” – was all but destroyed by a huge storm on 19th June, but the surviving “Mulberry B” port at Arromanches would operate for 10 months despite only be envisaged to operate for three. The Mulberries cost £40,000,000 to construct and transport across the Channel, but “Mulberry B” (also known as Port Winston) would see the unloading of approximately 2,500,000 men, 500,000 vehicles and 4,000,000 tons of supplies.
1000 Starships flying once per day to orbit = 120,000 tons per day. It would take 35 days to put 4 million tons into earth orbit.
After the Normandy Factory and Port Beachheads in Orbit and the Moon
Lunar and orbital cities will be made to house workers, build factories, build power plants and other industrial capabilities. This will further reduce costs by 10-20 times because water, energy and metals will be generated in space for space usage.
We can then build the nuclear power plants, nuclear drives and laser array propulsion systems in orbit and on the moon.
The nuclear bomb-powered Project Orion was a program in the 1950s and 1960s. They did use tin cans of C4 to verify that pulse propulsion would work. They were concerned about the nuclear weapons treaties and the fallout radiation from launching using nuclear bombs from the earth. Project Orion built on the moon would not have any fallout radiation concerns. The radiation would never be in the atmosphere.
Scaled up Project Orion rockets could achieve up to 3% of the speed of light with improved deuterium nuclear devices.
More straight forward early Project Orion would be a 10,000 ton version that could reach about 100 kilometers per second. This would only be about 5-6 times faster the Pluto Express flyby. The Pluto express had to use gravity slingshots.
A 10,000 ton Project Orion would be two times the mass of fully fueled SpaceX Super Heavy Starship. 100 km/second is 21 AU per year. We would want to get the optimizations for 1000 km/second and beyond. If we cannot get well beyond 100 km/second easily then this would not be that useful. The Advanced Interstellar Orion could add about 100 km/second for each stage. A two-stage advanced Orion could reach 200 km/second and likely weigh about 30,000 tons. A three-stage large Orion could then reach 300 km/second. This would likely be about 100,000 tons.
The other approach for massively speeding up solar system space travel would be make multi-gigawatt power stations to drive massive arrays of lasers for laser pushed sails. Massive multi-gigawatt laser arrays would be built all over the solar system to accelerate and decelerate the vehicles. Massive lasers could also send power to lithium-ion drives which could achieve 60,000 ISP.
People could complain but what about the weaponization of space?
Many people would not have noticed but I just said there would be thousands of SpaceX Starships and Super Heavy Starships. Those vehicles fly at mach 20 to mach 30. This is roughly ten times faster then the SR71 Blackbird spyplane. They would each have payload capacities in the 80-200 ton range. This is 2 to 7 times a b52 bomb load. A B52 carries up to about 30 tons of bombs and missiles.
I also indicated that over 3 million tons of material would be put into orbit every month.
Kinetic Damage from Orbital Bombardment
The US Air Force and Navy looked closely at tungsten rod kinetic energy weapons on several occasions. A 47 page Congressional Research Bureau report Conventional Prompt Global Strike and Long-Range Ballistic Missiles: Background and Issues was written by Amy F. Woolf, Specialist in Nuclear Weapons Policy.
If it cost $100 per pound to launch a 12-ton rod then each rod would cost $2.4 million. Tungsten costs about $20 per pound and there are reserves of about 3.5 million tons. There are 90 million tons of lead reserves. Tungsten shells could cover the lead. Lead costs 20 to 70 cents per pound. A fully deployed tungsten rod would be about $3 million each.
The Navy considered two types of warheads in the near term for kinetic weapons. One warhead would be designed to destroy or disable area targets like airfields or buildings, using a reentry vehicle loaded with tungsten rods—known as flechettes—that would rain down on the target and destroy everything within an area of up to 3,000 square feet.
It seems the 3000 square foot area destruction estimate seems low. If a tungsten cylinder contained 1 pound bullet-sized pieces of shrapnel, then there would be about 20,000 fragments inside. Each would be hitting with hypersonic speed. If there was even distribution then they would be hitting 144 X 144 across some area. Each one would hit like a few sticks of dynamite. Each would take out about 30 square feet.
So one rod with 144 by 144 pieces would take out about 800 feet by 800 feet. 36 rods would pulverize a square mile with the kinetic equivalent of high explosive. Ten thousand rods could be launched every day with once-daily launches of a fleet of one thousand SpaceX Super Heavy Starships.
Nuclear Missiles Obsolete
The kinetic systems would have all the damage of nuclear weapons but the option for more precision and no fallout radiation.
Conventional ICBMs would be obsolete. Currently, an anti-missile system has to either chase down a missile in boost phase. A destroyer with anti-missiles could be stationed 100 miles away from a North Korean launch site and then the anti-missile would chase down the North Korean ICBM. The alternative is to wait for the missile to come towards its target and hit it mid-flight.
Kinetic rods and lead balls raining down on a launch site would hit any missile or plane as it is taking off. Drop 40 rods and anything in a square mile gets wiped out. Your satellite overhead waits for the launch and within 20 seconds crushes what is trying to launch. ICBM boost phase getting to 100,000 feet of altitude takes about 60 seconds.
Satellites will detect a launch within 5 seconds and launch the kinetic counter within 2 more seconds. A hypersonic flight of 20-30 seconds and any launching ICBM gets taken out.
Use Obsolete Nuclear Bombs for Project Orions
It will probably take decades before planners accept that nuclear weapons have been made obsolete from the space revolution. The correct and obvious choice for using nuclear materials for moon launched Project Orions may not be made. It would be correct choice for a rapid buildout of advanced solar system space travel.