How one region’s space industry represents the world


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On October 2 I attended for the first time a monthly meeting of the Arizona Space Business Roundtable, an informal gathering put together by Stephen Fleming of the University of Arizona’s Strategic Business Initiatives and designed to allow the various space businesses of southern Arizona to network together as well as highlight what they are accomplishing to themselves and to others.

This particular meeting involved the presentation to the business community of a study that looked into the potential growth possibilities for space within the Tucson region. The study had been financed by the University of Arizona, several local venture capital companies, and the local county government, and had found that southern Arizona’s most likely source of space business in the near future would revolve around the need to track and monitor the large number of satellites expected to be launched in the coming decades. This would also involve substantial military work, as well as related space junk clean-up duties. The study also found that the southern Arizona space industry is well suited to provide much of the growing support services that future space missions, both governmental and private, will need. You can read more about the study’s results and the meeting at this Arizona Star article.

What struck me most about this gathering and the space industry of southern Arizona, however, is how much it resembles the regional space industries in numerous other places throughout the United States and the world. In fact, during a panel discussion after the presentation Fleming specifically asked the panelists — made up of several local companies (Vector, Worldview, Paragon) and two venture capital companies — what other regions in the U.S. posed the most competitive threat to southern Arizona. The panelists quickly listed Denver-Boulder, Silicon Valley in California, Huntsville in Alabama, the Space Coast in Florida, and New Mexico. They also made it clear that this list was not complete.

All of these regions are presently prospering and, more important, growing. All see a bright future in space, and all are aggressively competing to grab as large a market share in this future as they can. Even more significant, there appears to be more than enough business to go around. With numerous new countries pushing their own space efforts (China, India, UAE, Great Britain, Luxembourg, to name only a few), and both the American government as well as private companies attempting their own missions to the Moon and beyond, the possibilities appear endless. A lot of government money and investment capital is presently being poured into space, and numerous regions throughout the world are reaching for that money and the future profits it will bring.

And all of these regions are stock full of numerous independent and private companies and individuals, all pushing their own ideas about how space should be explored and conquered.

There are many aspects of the present charge to explore and settle the solar system that I do not like and believe will actually hamper and slow that exploration and settlement. Nonetheless, this charge is happening worldwide, and with amazing and increasing vigor. Even the worst proposals, such as NASA’s Gateway project, are going to eventually lead to new space technologies and capabilities that will sooner or later make it possible for the human race to routinely travel throughout the solar system.

It appears that the next two decades will lay the groundwork for the next few centuries of space exploration. And much of that groundwork will take place out of sight of the general public, with small companies located in regions like these. As with all great endeavors, the structure is that of a pyramid. At the top is the leader (such as SpaceX) that everyone watches and admires. Below it however is a vast subculture that provides the foundation for that leadership, even as it pushes upward to compete against it.

These are exciting times. I suggest if you love space you climb on the rocket now, before it picks up so much speed it will be beyond your reach.

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21 comments

  • This is not the beginning of the end, it is only the end of the beginning. Space travel will become a massive segment of the economy – provided we don’t trip over ourselves in getting there. As the roadblocks come down I expect more of them to be erected just to keep the masses out. Paperwork is the biggest impediment to space, not the actual flying or rockets. Space is hard. Space regulations are harder.

  • Peter Francis

    I want that bumper sticker!

  • wodun

    Unless you go from the Earth’s surface to the lunar surface and then straight back to the Earth’s surface, you will need something like Gateway. BFR/BFS promises this capability but nothing else does and certainly isn’t as far along in development. Gateway could be replicated on a per launch basis but using something like Gateway allows more of your payload be devoted to things you take to the lunar surface.

    Gateway has two big weaknesses. One, that it relies on SLS/Orion to be constructed. Two, that BFR/BFS renders it mostly obsolete.

    There should be a major lunar prospecting push so that when BFR/BFS are flying, they have someplace to go. But it looks like all of the lunar plans people are throwing around skip the work part and jump straight to building sexy lunar villages, ice mines, and what not. Thinking there could be ice nearby but not being sure exactly where, how much, or if alternatives are better means that plopping down even small habitats and the sundry that goes along with them, could be just as big a waste as SLS/Orion.

  • m d mill

    Show me a business model that is realistic.
    Satellites…low earth orbit missions related to satellites…all proven.
    The rest seems more like fantasy unless it is driven by government funding (ie scientific research and military applications).

  • Edward

    m d mill wrote: “Show me a business model that is realistic.

    Well, that is the problem. Right now, the industry is beginning a new phase with many unknowns. Because of these unknowns, only the proven models are realistic, and the rest are speculative.

    Many new companies are putting much of their efforts closer to the proven models but hope to be able to invest in more speculative models later. Early adopters were the Earth observation satellites, such as Ikonos, who invested in something that people wanted but no one really knew how much the market was worth. That speculation on a somewhat-proven model paid off, and now there are many companies vying for business as they improve the observation services.

    Other early adopters tried single stage to orbit rockets, but that speculation did not pay off. Planetary Resources, an asteroid mining company, is in serious financial trouble; its speculation may not pay off.

    SpaceX created an expendable Falcon 9 rocket, which was only mildly speculative (breaking into the government-controlled launch market didn’t work for Kistler), and once they were somewhat established they speculated on reusable first stage technology. That speculation paid off very well, disrupting the entire launch market.

    Right now there is some amount of speculation on a need for space tugs and commercial weather-data gathering.

    Beyond speculation are visions for the future. ULA has a vision, but it seems to be a couple of years slower than expected (largely due to delays initiating commercial manned spaceflight); it may be 2023 or so before commercial space habitats are available to house the envisioned 14 workers in space, in addition to the 6 aboard the ISS. Water mining for propellant, manufacturing goods in space, and solar power from space seem likely to happen in the not-so-distant future.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxftPmpt7aA (CisLunar 1000, 7-minutes)

    As new technologies are proved and developed — or not — we will see where the realistic expectations are so that we can make realistic business models.

    Government funding need not be the entire driver for these new technologies. Many companies would prefer to have proprietary research rather than have their research put in the public domain within five years as required by NASA for use of the ISS. Much of the future manufacturing in space would not be for government consumption but for commercial consumption.

    Right now, some research on ISS tries to find what is possible so that we can find ways to make that possibility on Earth. However, since that possibility is easily done in space, making it in space could be easier to do. As the cost of transportation to, in, and from space continues to come down, the resources there become more efficient to use. The industrial revolution may be moving into space.

    An analogy with the railroads may be appropriate. Early railroads did not know the extent of their usefulness, and there was doubt as to their ability to replace horse and cart transportation. However, speculative investment paid off, because railroads turned out to be inexpensive per ton carried and they opened up frontiers that had never been seriously considered before. Often, railroads were less expensive and faster than river or canal transportation.

    Originally, the industrial revolution was limited to sites where waterwheels could provide power. The invention of the steam engine helped, but was still limited to sites with access to fuels, such as coal. The railroad provided fuels to virtually any site that wanted an industry. Railroads allowed for farms that were far from conventional forms of transportation, such as rivers and canals.

    With a similar opportunity for such success in space, these are exciting times indeed. Not all endeavors will succeed, but even with realistic business models not all endeavors succeed.

    Right now, we are finally realizing a long fantasized reduced cost of access to space. With propellants available in space, rather than lifted from the Earth, we should realize reduced costs of transport throughout the solar system. These reduced costs should allow any region on Earth, including the Tucson region, to successfully invest in space projects.

    Or are these visions of the future considered fantasy and science fiction?

  • m d mill

    Edward:

    I would still say there is a lot of fantasy going on these days.
    I just don’t see how extra earth missions are going to see a profit,
    although i am all for exploration for its own sake.

    The recovery of asteroids for rare metals is the only venture (of which i an aware) that has some
    slight theoretical basis for profitability. Similarly, is there any evidence the moon has rare valuable metals in abundance so much greater than the earth, that the extraordinary cost is worth while? I would guess not. This was stated as fact on the video, but is there any proof ? I would be happy to be wrong

    The advantages of zero G manufacturing have been considered for years, but is there any evidence it would be worth the extraordinary costs, after decades of “experiments”. I would guess not, but I would be happy to be wrong.

    Energy from space “at pennys per kwhour” …do you really believe that. I would guess that is just not reasonable, but I would be happy to be wrong.

    Are there enough tourists able and willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to visit a hotel in space and or the moon(and don’t forget the considerable risks involved)? Well, maybe… there are 36 million millionaires (in theory) in the world. Oddly enough, this may actually be the most realistic business model of all, millionaires piggybacking on the back of the satellite launch business.

    I always think “Earth is a Paradise…Space wants to kill you…you better have be a real good reason for leaving”.

  • Tom Billings

    m d Mill said:

    “I just don’t see how extra earth missions are going to see a profit,
    although i am all for exploration for its own sake.

    The recovery of asteroids for rare metals is the only venture (of which i an aware) that has some
    slight theoretical basis for profitability.”

    This is another example of “imperial economics” thinking. The standard model for imperial economics is that people in a central capital invest resources to go to a peripheral area, and bring back more resources that are in short supply in the capital area, making a profit by doing so. This worked in colonizing Latin America, though it did little to settle this area with newcomers beyond imposing a new ruling class of “Peninsulares”. In North America that model repeatedly failed, because almost all the sources of gold and silver were much too far from the East Coast to be accessible to East Coast colonies, and native nations’ populations died at least as fast as in Latin America from Eurasian diseases, inhibiting long range trade.

    In North America, what finally worked was “settlers’ economics”. This was where large numbers of people settled the periphery, on the East Coast of North America, to get away from factors of living in the old world they disliked, from religious coercion to simple lack of farm land that was productive during the Little Ice Age. Similar factors will drive settlement in the rest of the Solar System. *First* will come settlers, leaving behind something here. *Then* they will trade between themselves, and eventually they will find economic advantages in producing things for export to Earth.

    The idea that all economics must follow the imperial economics model is common in academia, to the point that few like talking about settlers, except in pejorative terms. Academic multiculturalism’s anti-colonial attitudes add their own levels of distaste for any positive role for settlers, much less for settlers numerous enough to trade productively among themselves. Settlers and settlements are treated in most discussions in a similar tone to “don’t do it in public, …and wash your hands afterwards”. Whenever it is not hostile, outright, it is distinctly low key.

    It is in serving settlers, and in making it cheaper to settle the Solar System, that the first extraction industries will be profitable, by selling resources to settlers. This means water comes first, not Platinum Group Metals(PGMs). After water will come carbonates, hydrocarbon “kerogen-like” bodies, and finally the Iron and Nickel that contain a few percentages of residues, that in turn contain PGMs. While those will find uses in the settlers’ industrial plants, they may be first to have unsalable surpluses *in*Space* that get them sent back to Earth for sale.

    Such a settler’s economy will give you a good idea of how much cheaper space transportation has to become in order to get a space economy started.

  • Bill Sellers

    IMHO, Tucson couldn’t sell itself on this in a tall canyon. The political & economic leadership stinks. Elliott Pollack did a presentation in Phoenix on 9/25 showing how badly the actual economic disparities were since Sept. 2010 & present. The Tucson metro only garnered 6.9% of the state’s total growth in that 8 yr. period. UoAZ just loves to pump this stuff up, but the fact is—they can’t deliver. If there’s to be a “space force”, you’d think Tucson would look at David-Monthan AFB and ask, “why not trade it for a national laboratory?” Every branch of the DoD has ’em. New Mexico has 2 DOE NatLabs….wanna bet they’re chomping-at-the-bit to get in on some of this action? Gimmeabreak. Tucson is a “3-G Town” (govt-govt-govt), they wait around to be handed something; passively.

  • m d mill

    Tom Billings:

    The settlers you mention could emigrate and live for relatively little money. They were not generally wealthy people. Everything about space travel AND settlements is exceptionally expensive. And some supplies must be brought up from earth eventually, which is again extremely expensive in an ongoing basis. This only works if you have a source of large space based income (which i do not foresee), or you are extremely wealthy in the first place. Unlike settlers of the past, space settlers must be wealthy adventurists, or government sponsored, I would think.

  • Edward

    m d mill asked: “is there any evidence the moon has rare valuable metals in abundance so much greater than the earth, that the extraordinary cost is worth while?

    Titanium, for one. But many people incorrectly believe that the intention is to send raw extraterrestrial material to Earth. Much of the thought is to manufacture in space what is difficult to manufacture on Earth then send it down. As with the solar power satellites, quite a bit of material is intended for use in space.

    The extraordinary cost is only because raw material must be lofted from Earth. The idea is that material already there is relatively inexpensive to retrieve. The cost of extraterrestrial mining may not be that much more than terrestrial mining. Earthbound mines are pretty expensive. 3-D printing (additive manufacturing) may greatly aid in the reduction of the cost of manufacturing in space.

    Part of the beauty of solar power is that it does not require expensive fuels. Part of the problem is that the atmosphere, especially clouds and even wispy clouds, blocks usable energy. In space, more energy is available for conversion to electricity. The biggest problem we would have is transmission losses, which we already have with our large, remotely located power plants.

    I just don’t see how extra earth missions are going to see a profit,

    My father has this same problem. We individually don’t have to see how to make a profit in space. There are 7 billion other people who also have this opportunity. Few people thought that we could make a reusable first stage, but it only took a few people willing to take the financial risks to make it come true. The other seven billion of us did not need to see it or get involved with it for it to happen. The best part is that only the investors willing to take the risk will take the risk, unlike government programs, which spend everyone’s money on endeavors that are limited in scope and success but are unlimited in spending cash.

    Earth may be paradise, but until we tamed it, it tried very hard to kill us, especially through hungry animals. Now the Earth only succeeds in killing a few thousand of us annually, largely through extreme weather, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc.

    As with North American settlement, which relied heavily on in-situ resources, there are plans afoot to rely just as heavily on in-situ resources in space. As with North American settlement, some early resources will have to be shipped at great expense, but eventually the settlers will become self reliant; they will have economic incentive to do so. As with North American settlement, there will be relatively few settlers at first, until the infrastructure is in place and several of the problems worked out. As with North American settlement, there may be a high rate of losses until the problems are worked out. Unlike North American settlement, a ride back home will not require awaiting the next ship, just awaiting the next transfer window.

    SpaceX is dropping the price of space transport. If BFR can do what is expected, then a trip to and from Mars will be shockingly inexpensive. A pioneer may only need to sell his house in order to afford the trip, similar to early North American settlers selling their farms for their trips.

  • m d mill

    I wonder how long it will be for a lunar titanium mine to become profitable.
    I would like to think it could be, but I don’t see it happening with technology and economics that exist or are realistically envisioned for at least several generations.

    Similarly with space solar power in geosynchronous orbit–22000 miles? That’s a long way to transmit power, or even focus a beam precisely. Not impossible some day perhaps, but not economically or even technically(?) feasible now…unless someone can show me how. [Actually it sounds more like an ersatz death star death ray!]

    Anyone willing to spend upwards of half a million dollars to travel to mars and be provisioned and outfitted for long term survival, is to me a wealthy adventurist. As I said previously, if such people are willing to expend this capital (and risk the dangers and radiation exposure) then that venture/adventure is at least realistically conceivable (and thus probably inevitable), but not at all cost effective…unless they strike “gold” in them, thar hills.

    I am not saying these things are impossible to achieve, or should not be done. But they will not be cost effective in any realistic conception, for at least many generations, IMO. [I would guess a total global economic collapse is more certain in that time frame, which would slow the endeavor more so.]

    Only time will tell who is being, generally speaking, more realistic.

  • pzatchok

    Anything harvested on the Moon will stay on the Moon.
    Even if someone is willing to pay a huge price for Lunar Guava the real price that must be paid for any food stuff coming from the moon is the water that needs to be replaced. For every pound of food that comes back from the Moon almost a pound of water must go back to the Moon.

    Any metals mined there will be used there. The real cost of processing metals on the Moon is the energy needed. Just how large of a solar array will be needed for a smelter? Any chemicals needed will have to be reprocessed and or manufactured right there on the moon.

  • Edward

    m d mill,
    You wrote: “I wonder how long it will be for a lunar titanium mine to become profitable. I would like to think it could be, but I don’t see it happening with technology and economics that exist or are realistically envisioned for at least several generations.

    Once again, you are thinking that raw material will be brought back to Earth rather than the valuable manufactured goods that the material can become before coming to Earth.

    [Actually it sounds more like an ersatz death star death ray!]

    As I said, we don’t rely on just one person’s imagination in order to make things better; we rely on 7 billion imaginations, and that pays off very well. The seemingly impossible not only becomes possible but becomes cost effective.

    Right now, NASA spends hundreds of millions of dollars per year on a very limited amount of Martian exploration. Put just one human on Mars for $100 million (and BFR should be able to put around 100 people on Mars for less than that price), and he can do more ground exploration far faster than two rovers. He is even more adaptable to newly found conditions. To me, that alone sounds cost effective.

  • m d mill

    edward:

    “Once again, you are thinking that raw material will be brought back to Earth rather than the valuable manufactured goods that the material can become before coming to Earth.”

    No, I just think that this is even less likely. Your logic is faulty. Shipping raw Titanium to earth from the moon or elsewhere, once it is mined and purified is the relatively easy part, and makes the most economic sense. I don’t have as much a problem with that. It’s the first part that’s more problematic. [as Steve Martin once said “I can show you how to become a millionaire and not pay taxes…first get a million dollars”]

    “[Actually it sounds more like an ersatz death star death ray!]”
    This statement was meant as humor, maybe you did not take it that way.

    And you may missunderstand my position anyway. My original statement was
    “Show me a business model that is realistic.” with regards to current extra earth commercial proposals in RZ’s posting. I did not say it can never happen, or that it is not an admirable goal, or don’t try, or even that it does exist now…just show me. Surely that is fair. And saying that someday someone in the earths 7 billion will overcome these problems and prove your case is not germane to my position.
    But fanciful visions that are not currently even remotely realistic are not helpful in this cause, and should at least be revealed as such.

    You also may have assumed I oppose private space ventures over government programs[ NASA is a joke, as RZ has taught]. Not at all…but government funding may be necessary for extra earth missions currently proposed that are not otherwise profitable; unless wealthy adventurers can provide the funds…which is more of a possibility (as I wrote above) than it has been in my original thinking on this subject.

    On reflection my, original post was reasonable and correct.

    If you or others want to invest in such current extra earth ventures you are of course free to do so.
    Nothing would make me happier ;)

  • wayne

    Titanium:
    The Kroll Method of manufacture
    https://youtu.be/oWyrzZh3We0
    4:58

    “16,000 lbs input material + about 12 days of (high temperature 2,000 degrees F. +/-) reaction, yields about 6,000 lbs of hi-grade Titanium.”

    Then you have to actually mill it, which is also very difficult.
    We have no idea on Earth, how to actually extract & mill titanium in low gravity.

  • wayne

    Titanium:
    The Armstrong Method of extraction
    https://youtu.be/73HLzYuIfx0
    1:37

    This method reduces waste by 95%, and the re-melting step, but presents it’s own unique problems in low G. (reacting titanium chloride vapor with molten sodium)

  • wayne

    here we go…..

    “industrial scale hydrogen production from water”

    Advanced water electrolysis
    Thyssenkrupp
    https://youtu.be/g243uT_r4ZQ
    2:34

  • Edward

    m d mill,
    You wrote: “No, I just think that this is even less likely. Your logic is faulty. Shipping raw Titanium to earth from the moon or elsewhere, once it is mined and purified is the relatively easy part, and makes the most economic sense.

    First you tell me that you are not thinking that raw material will be brought back to Earth, then you suggest that is your expectation. Something is faulty, but it is not the logic.

    A company called Made In Space is demonstrating that manufacturing in space may not be as difficult as many people assume.

    just show me.

    Was I unclear in my answer to your original request? Later you deviated from this request, so I replied to those deviations (as I am about to do in the next paragraph).

    NASA itself is not the joke. It has talented, knowledgeable, and skilled workers. Its management may be motivated more by politics than science or exploration, and it is most definitely not well used by Congress. It was Congress that directed NASA to make SLS without giving a mission for it to accomplish, and Congress even directed some of SLS’s design to NASA, as though Congress is the rocket scientist rather than NASA’s workers, resulting in an expensive rocket in search of a purpose (hence the proposed (F)LOP-Gateway). These problems do not make NASA a joke, they make some of NASA’s most publicized projects jokes.

    JPL is fantastic, and — although I did not like working with its personnel — Goddard produces excellent science at a fairly reasonable cost.

    On reflection my, original post was reasonable and correct.

    Apparently, in your mind, if you can’t “see how extra earth missions are going to see a profit” then you project your lack of imagination onto everyone else, too, and there is no convincing you otherwise. Meanwhile, I am going to continue celebrating the other seven billion people, their imaginations, and their ability to make their own dreams come true, even when — like SpaceX’s reusable first stage — they do have to accomplish the “impossible” in an economical manner.

  • m d mill

    Edward :

    Your responses (once you get into a snit) so often seem bizarre, whether in politics [Edward:”Well it was far, far better the last time that the Democrats owned both houses and the presidency than it is now with the Republicans in all three positions…If we vote for Democrats in November, we have a greater chance of a slowdown in the shift to the left…”] ,or here.

    1)
    By raw titanium I mean 90 to 100% pure titanium, as to distinguish it from some end product as you stated (ie “Once again, you are thinking that raw material will be brought back to Earth rather than the valuable manufactured goods that the material can become before coming to Earth.”) By raw titanium I did not mean titanium ore..although we may just have a miscommunication on my meaning.
    IF you can produce titanium (raw) metal economically on the moon (which is what I question), then I was willing to accept that lifting it from the lower lunar gravity well to earth may be an acceptable “secondary” cost.
    But since titanium is only $25 a pound (I find!) even this secondary cost might be prohibitive. The concentration of titanium on the moon would really have to be several orders of magnitude greater than earth mines to make it profitable at 25$ a pound, I would think (but i would be happy to be proven wrong). [further, there may be better earthbound alternatives: https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/innovation/strong-titanium-cheap-dirt-new-steel-alloy-shines-n301226 ]

    Read my statement again:
    “No, I just think that this is even less likely. Your logic is faulty. Shipping raw Titanium to earth from the moon or elsewhere, once it is mined and purified is the relatively easy part, and makes the most economic sense. I don’t have as much a problem with that. It’s the first part that’s more problematic. [as Steve Martin once said “I can show you how to become a millionaire and not pay taxes…first get a million dollars”] ”

    Is this not clear and reasonable? I think just about any other independent reader would say so.

    Further, the idea that moon manufactured produces will be more economical that earth bound products (even if material costs are not an issue) is even less reasonable. Remember the titanium mass in any manufactured product sold will eventually have to be moon-lifted back to earth anyway, so there is no cost advantage there. So the idea that you can do better by selling manufactured products from the moon makes no sense…unless there is some further large manufacturing/production advantage (vacuum packaging?), which is highly problematic.

    2)
    “These problems do not make NASA a joke, they make some of NASA’s most publicized[and expensive(mdm)] projects jokes.”
    Your attempt to make a distinction here seems really churlish, Goddard and JPL not withstanding.
    I was obviously criticizing their rocket program design and implementation and staggering cost.
    But you had to try to find something to disagree with. I think most any other BTB reader would agree.

    3)
    “Apparently, in your mind, if you can’t “see how extra earth missions are going to see a profit” then you project your lack of imagination onto everyone else, too, and there is no convincing you otherwise.”

    Once again your “interpretation” of my statement seems bizarre .

    I stated:
    ” “Show me a business model that is realistic.” with regards to current extra earth commercial proposals in RZ’s posting. I did not say it can never happen, or that it is not an admirable goal, or don’t try, or even that it does exist now…just show me. Surely that is fair. And saying that someday someone in the earths 7 billion will overcome these problems and prove your case is not germane to my position.”
    And I stated many times in the discussion above “I would be happy to be proven wrong.”

    I can be convinced, but nowhere in the above comments have you or excitable CEOs proven or even made a good case that current extra-earth ventures will be profitable, In My Opinion (remember for example, titanium is only $25 a pound! Earthside). It is not “lack of imagination” to reasonably question these assertions. Good scientists and engineers always question, especially when the claims are extraordinary.
    I think most any independent reader would find these statements reasonable, even if I turn out to be (happily) incorrect in some cases.

    Incidentally, I never used the word “impossible” in this thread except to say NOT impossible. It was you who used the word. And incidental, there was never anything “impossible” in reusable first stages…it was all well within the current science,technology and engineering methods…no FUNDAMENTAL scientific breakthroughs were required to my understanding. And I never said it was impossible at any time. It did require a great deal of imagination and great solid engineering.

    I never said “don’t try” or “impossible”…Just that I was very much unconvinced, for now. If you disagree with that ..so be it. Time will tell who is more correct (and I will be happy if it is NOT me). If you or others want to invest in such current extra earth ventures you are of course free to do so.
    Nothing would make me happier ;) … As they say “put your money where your mouth is”, it is a true expression real confidence.

    I have no doubt you will continue to misinterpret or misquote my statements (often in exact opposition to my direct statements) as you feel the need to, but that is your own psychosis.
    My problem, admittedly, is feeling the need to reply to such inanities…just stubborn I guess.

  • Edward

    *Sigh*

    There is no convincing you, m d mill,but I will reply anyway, because …

    By raw titanium I mean 90 to 100% pure titanium, as to distinguish it from some end product as you stated

    … I knew what you meant. I understand such complex words as “purified.

    Obviously (although not to you) the advantages of space manufacturing can only be accomplished in space, so to send refined titanium to Earth loses the advantages of in-space materials processing. What a horrible waste of opportunity to do the processing on Earth.

    On Earth titanium (or any material) may be worth very little per pound, but in space it is worth thousands (hopefully soon only hundreds) of dollars, due to launch costs. The added strengths and other properties that should be attainable with zero g processing would make these materials and their alloys rather valuable on Earth, too, but we won’t have to spend thousands (or hundreds) of dollars lifting these materials to space for processing.

    Refining materials in space should not be nearly as difficult as you imagine. This is the problem with having so little research in space — even after spending a hundred billion dollars on a space station. We do not yet have as much space research as we had wanted or expected forty years ago, but that is because of Congress’s poor use of NASA’s monopoly on space research.

    A small space station in the 1980s could have been put in place quickly and could have gone a long way, for a couple of decades. But no, Congress chose to start big and then go smaller until we had to wait three decades for an operational hundred billion dollar space station in which only six people work at maintaining the station and only having time for research after the maintenance is finished.

    This is what we get when the business model “is driven by government funding.

    Government funding depends upon the imagination, desires, and foresight of only a few hundred people, not seven billion, thus if we depend upon government we would only continue to get what government wants, not what the other seven billion of us want. Congress’s misuse of NASA has demonstrated that. Commercial funding will lead to the development of technologies that many of the rest of us want, such as space manufacturing and space mining.

    2)

    OK. When you say NASA, you only mean the rocket program. Check.

    Orion, (F)LOP-Gateway, JWST, and WFIRST spacecraft are OK to you. Or did you mean a word other than “rocket“? I would hate to misinterpret what you mean just because you choose your words poorly and said something other than what you meant.

    I think that Robert makes a reasonable distinction between the parts of NASA that he thinks is not doing well and all of NASA, which includes the awe inspiring parts. To me, he seems to be rather impressed with NASA, with the obvious exceptions (e.g. the current manned space programs and the habitual overspending).

    I stated:

    You are the one who stated that you “just don’t see how extra earth missions are going to see a profit.” I didn’t make that up, otherwise I would have used the word extraterrestrial. As my link to ULA’s Cislunar 1000 video shows, plenty of other people see how extraterrestrial missions are going to see a profit. I’m not worried that profits will not be made just because you cannot see it today.

    I did not say it can never happen, or that it is not an admirable goal, or don’t try

    No, you didn’t. You said that they were fantasy if they are performed by non-governmental organizations. You also suggest that you cannot be convinced until these business models become less “fantastic,” which cannot happen until certain technological developments occur. They aren’t even unimaginable developments, either. Before the telegraph was invented, who would have imagined the telephone or radio (AKA wireless)? But what is proposed now is foreseeable (except by some people); we just have to learn how to do it.

    I can be convinced, but nowhere in the above comments have you or excitable CEOs proven or even made a good case that current extra-earth ventures will be profitable

    Which is my point. If you can’t see it …

    You completely fail to take into account any technological development — even that which is now being developed.

    Incidentally, I never suggested that you had said “impossible,” as the word was not italicized. The quotes were to suggest that the impossible is in statement only, not in reality, as many “impossible” feats have in reality been accomplished. Reusing first stages being the explicit example of the reality. I hope you did not misinterpret my comment that I thought you had stated that reusable first stages were impossible.

    I have no doubt you will continue to misinterpret or misquote my statements

    This is exactly why I include the exact quote that I am commenting upon. It is an attempt to avoid misinterpretation and to avoid someone claiming I have misquoted. I choose my words carefully in order to be clearly understood. However, you consider to be inane any enthusiasm for the future and the advancement of technology, unless the non-governmental business model is currently realistic. Check.

    No non-governmental research for you, as you consider it unrealistic to expect profitable technological advancement. Check.

    Do I think that you are now convinced that technology will solve many of the problems of working in space that we currently have? No. You have little faith in the abilities of your fellow human being, especially those who invest in researching technological advancement (ten years ago, this would have included SpaceX’s reusable first stages), because they are not government. My takeaway: for you if a realistic business model does not exist now, then (in your own words) “The rest seems more like fantasy unless it is driven by government funding.” Or did I “misinterpret” that self-explanatory statement.

  • Edward

    Here is an opinion that we don’t need much technological advancement in order to make a robust space economy:
    https://spacenews.com/op-ed-toward-a-robust-space-economy/

    For instance, transportation to space is currently a limiter.

    A robust space infrastructure is one where rides to space are plentiful, regular and predictable. Where customers can reasonably expect to get transport for themselves or their payloads at an assigned time, much as they would get a train or a plane. And when the customers involve multi-hundred-million-dollar spacecraft, cadence really matters.

    and:

    But to maintain a robust market, SpaceX’s competitors must step up, offering a similarly predictable and reliable transportation. Low cost or not, anyone planning large constellations or regular commercial human spaceflight will want transportation diversity and assured access to space to ensure service. This means regular, frequent and perhaps on-demand service from existing launch providers as well as new entrants.

    Small launcher companies seem to be moving in this direction. The technology is not new, it is just that we are returning to smaller payloads with greater utility than in the past.

    No fantasies or government funding is needed, nor do business models have to change much. Just do it.

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