Paths to Space Settlement

The latest paper in the NSS Journal of Space Settlement is “Paths to Space Settlement” by Al Globus.

ABSTRACT

A number of firms are developing commercial sub-orbital launch vehicles to carry tourists into space. Let’s assume they attract many customers and become profitable. The next, much more difficult, step is to develop orbital tourist vehicles and space hotels to go with them. These hotels will require maids, cooks, waiters, concierges and so forth, some of whom may decide to stay, becoming the first permanent residents in space. A luxury hotel plus good medical facilities could provide low-g living for wealthy disabled individuals where wheelchairs and walkers are unnecessary.

In the meantime, humanity could choose to solve, once and for all, our energy and global warming problems by developing space solar power. To supply a substantial fraction of civilization’s 15 TW energy consumption would require an extremely large number of launches, the ability to build extremely large structures in orbit, and eventually tapping the Moon and Near Earth Objects (NEOs) for materials to avoid the environmental cost of mining, manufacturing, and launch from Earth.

The first step towards NEO mining is to locate them. As a large fraction, roughly 30%, of these will eventually impact Earth, locating and characterizing the NEO population is essential for planetary defense. Furthermore, it would be prudent to deflect a representative set of non-dangerous NEOs to insure that we know how to do it should a NEO on an imminent collision course with Earth be found. A representative set would include at least one of each major type of NEO since these have different physical properties and thus may require different deflection techniques. This would give orbital space settlement designers a known source of materials and the means to move them if necessary.

If these paths are taken, each step of which is justified in its own right, humanity will have excellent launch, small orbital living facilities, the ability to build large objects in orbit, and access to extra-terrestrial materials — most of what is needed to realize Gerard O’Neill’s orbital space settlement vision. At that point, some extremely wealthy individuals may build themselves a small orbital habitat so they live only with like-minded individuals. The first, and most difficult, orbital space settlement will be built.

These are paths to space settlement.

Full paper.

NSS Website Server Fails

The NSS website servers suffered a catastrophic failure September 4 and the site is still down. We anticipate return to service on or before Monday morning September 10. The site uses donated space on private servers so it is taking a while. The NSS Blog is still functional.

Update: The site has been restored Saturday September 8 but will have some additional downtime over the weekend during some more hardware changeouts.

Suborbital Reusable Vehicles: A 10-Year Forecast of Market Demand

A new 102-page study “Suborbital Reusable Vehicles: A 10-Year Forecast of Market Demand” is now available in the NSS website Space Transportation section as a 10 MB PDF file.

Suborbital reusable vehicles (SRVs) are creating a new spaceflight industry. SRVs are commercially developed reusable space vehicles that may carry humans or cargo. The companies developing these vehicles typically target high flight rates and relatively low costs. SRVs capable of carrying humans are in development and planned for operations in the next few years. SRVs that carry cargo are operational now, with more planned.

This study forecasts 10-year demand for SRVs. The goal of this study is to provide information for government and industry decision makers on the emerging SRV market by analyzing dynamics, trends, and areas of uncertainty in eight distinct markets SRVs could address. This study was jointly funded by the Federal Aviation Administration Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST) and Space Florida, and conducted by The Tauri Group.

Eleven SRVs are currently in active planning, development, or operation, by six companies. The payload capacity of these SRVs ranges from tens of kilograms to hundreds, with the largest currently planned vehicle capacity at about 700 kilograms. A number of SRVs can carry humans, with current designs for one to six passengers, in addition to one or two crew members in some cases. Some will also launch very small satellites.

The study concludes that demand for suborbital flights is sustained and appears sufficient to support multiple providers. Total baseline demand over 10 years exceeds $600 million in SRV flight revenue, supporting daily flight activity. The baseline reflects predictable demand based on current trends and consumer interest. In the growth scenario, reflecting increased marketing, demonstrated research successes, increasing awareness, and greater consumer uptake, multiple flights per day generate $1.6 billion in revenue over 10 years. In a constrained scenario, where consumer and enterprise spending drop relative to today’s trends, multiple weekly flights generate about $300 million over 10 years. Further potential could be realized through price reductions and unpredictable achievements such as major research discoveries, the identification of new commercial applications, the emergence of global brand value, and new government (especially military) uses for SRVs.

More Videos from the International Space Development Conference

The following presentations from the 2012 NSS International Space Development Conference in Washington, DC, are now available on the NSS website.

Jim Muncy Jim Muncy, Government Relations Consultant at XCOR. 64 minute video.
Alexandra Hall Alexandra Hall, Senior Director, Google Lunar X Prize. 44 minute video.
Rick Tumlinson Rick Tumlinson, Founder of Earthlight Institute. 52 minute video.
NSS Awards NSS 25th Anniversary Awards Presentations. 2 videos, 2 hours total.
Paul E. Damphousse Conference Wrap-Up: Paul E. Damphousse, NSS Executive Director. 52 minute video.

More Videos from the International Space Development Conference

The following presentations from the 2012 NSS International Space Development Conference in Washington, DC, are now available on the NSS website.

Michael Lopez-Alegria Michael Lopez-Alegria, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and former NASA astronaut and International Space Station commander. Saturday Luncheon Keynote Address. 73 minute video.
Doug McCuistion Doug McCuistion, Director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. 58 minute video.
Mike Simpson International Space Sustainability Panel: Sarah Factor, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy; Philippe Hazane, CNES Representative and Space Attache, French Embassy; Ade Abiodun, Former Chairman of UN COPUOS; Lynn Cline, NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, Retired. Chaired by Mike Simpson, Secure World Foundation. 81 minute video.

More Videos from the International Space Development Conference

The following presentations from the 2012 NSS International Space Development Conference in Washington, DC, are now available on the NSS website.

Jeff Greason Jeff Greason: The 20 Year Plan? Saturday Dinner Keynote Address. Greason is president of XCOR Aerospace and was a member of the President’s Human Space Flight Review Committee (Augustine Committee) in 2009. 54 minute video.
Hugh Downs NSS 25th Anniversary Governors Gala at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum featuring Master of Ceremonites Hugh Downs (Chairman of the NSS Board of Governors), Senator John Glenn, Commander Scott Carpenter, and Mark Sirangelo (Chairman, Sierra Nevada Space Systems). 70 minute video.

Videos from the International Space Development Conference Online

Videos of presentations from the 2012 NSS International Space Development Conference in Washington, DC, are now available on the NSS website.

Charles F. Bolden Charles F. Bolden, Administrator of NASA. Opening Keynote Address. Prior to becoming NASA Administrator, Bolden was a Shuttle astronaut who flew four missions, including the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope. 60 minute video.
SpaceX Dragon SpaceX Update. The historic docking of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft with the International Space Station occured during the ISDC on May 25th. This brief update by SpaceX as it was happening is accompanied by an announcement from NSS Director Jay Wittner that a portion of the remains of the late former NSS Chairman of the Executive Committee, Chris Pancratz, was aboard the Falcon 9 as it launched the Dragon. 10 minute video.
Eric Anderson Eric Anderson is Co-Chairman and Co-Founder of Planetary Resources, Inc., a private asteroid mining venture. He is also Chairman and Co-Founder of Space Adventures, and has sold nearly half a billion dollars in spaceflight missions, including all of the self-funded private citizens to have visited the International Space Station. Eric is a member of the NSS Board of Governors. 60 minute video.
Mark Sirangelo Mark N. Sirangelo, Corporate Vice President, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Chairman of SNC Space Systems, whose products range from spacecraft actuators that power the Mars rovers, to hybrid rocket technologies that powered the first commercial astronaut to space, to Dream Chaser, a winged and piloted orbital commercial spacecraft. 39 minute video.
Steve Cook Steve Cook is Director of Space Technologies at Dynetics, which has been involved in both NASA and commercial space ventures, including the NASA Space Launch System, Stratolaunch Air Launch System, and the Google Lunar XPrize. 32 minute video.
Art Dula Art Dula, CEO and founder of Excalibur Almaz, a private spaceflight company, makes major announcements of what his company has been doing and plans to do (including private human cis-lunar flights). Mr. Dula is a member of the NSS Board of Governors. 57 minute video.

Mirrors in Space for Low-Cost Terrestrial Solar Electric Power at Night

The latest addition to the NSS Space Solar Power Library is a paper by Lewis M. Fraas of JX Crystals Inc, Issaquah, WA, on “Mirrors in Space for Low-Cost Terrestrial Solar Electric Power at Night.” An abstract is below; the link goes to a PDF of the full paper.

Abstract: A constellation of 18 mirror satellites is proposed in a polar sun synchronous dawn to dusk orbit at an altitude of approximately 1000 km above the earth. Each mirror satellite contains a multitude of 2 axis tracking mirror segments that collectively direct a sun beam down at a target solar electric field site delivering a solar intensity to that terrestrial site equivalent to the normal daylight sun intensity extending the sunlight hours at that site at dawn and at dusk each day. Each mirror satellite in the constellation has a diameter of approximately 10 km and each terrestrial solar electric field site has a similar diameter and can produce approximately 5 GW per terrestrial site. Assuming that in 10 years, there will be approximately 40 terrestrial solar electric field sites evenly distributed in sunny locations near cities around the world, this system can produce more affordable solar electric power during the day and further into the morning and evening hours. The typical operating hours or power plant capacity factor for a terrestrial solar electric power site can thus be extended by about 30%. Assuming a launch cost of $400/kg as was assumed in a recent NASA Space Power Satellite study for future launch costs, the mirror constellation pay back time will be less than 1 year.

KISS My Asteroid

Here is the Introduction to “Asteroid Retrieval Feasibility Study” by the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, released April 2, 2012, and available on the National Space Society asteroid page under the “See also” section.

Illustration of an asteroid retrieval spacecraft in the
process of capturing a 7-m, 500-ton asteroid.
(Image Credit: Rick Sternbach / KISS)

The idea to exploit the natural resources of asteroids is older than the space program. Konstantin Tsiolkovskii included in The Exploration of Cosmic Space by Means of Reaction Motors, published in 1903, the “exploitation of asteroids” as one of his fourteen points for the conquest of space. More recently this idea was detailed in John Lewis’ book Mining the Sky, and it has long been a major theme of science fiction stories. The difference today is that the technology necessary to make this a reality is just now becoming available. To test the validity of this assertion, NASA sponsored a small study in 2010 to investigate the feasibility of identifying, robotically capturing, and returning to the International Space Station (ISS), an entire small near-Earth asteroid (NEA) – approximately 2-m diameter with a mass of order 10,000 kg – by 2025. This NASA study concluded that while challenging there were no fundamental show-stoppers that would make such a mission impossible. It was clear from this study that one of the most challenging aspects of the mission was the identification and characterization of target NEAs suitable for capture and return.

In 2011 the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) sponsored a more in-depth investigation of the feasibility of returning an entire NEA to the vicinity of the Earth. The KISS study focused on returning an asteroid to a high lunar orbit instead of a low-Earth orbit. This would have several advantages. Chief among these is that it would be easier from a propulsion standpoint to return an asteroid to a high lunar orbit rather than take it down much deeper into the Earth’s gravity well. Therefore, larger, heavier asteroids could be retrieved. Since larger asteroids are easier to discover and characterize this helps to mitigate one of the key feasibility issues, i.e., identifying target asteroids for return. The KISS study eventually settled on the evaluation of the feasibility of retrieving a 7-m diameter asteroid with a mass of order 500,000 kg. To put this in perspective, the Apollo program returned 382 kg of moon rocks in six missions. The OSIRIS-REx mission [6] proposes to return at least 60 grams of surface material from a NEA by 2023. The Asteroid Capture and Return (ACR) mission, that is the focus of this KISS study, seeks return a 500,000-kg asteroid to a high lunar orbit by the year 2025.

The KISS study enlisted the expertise of people from around the nation including representatives from most of the NASA centers (ARC, GRC, GSFC, JPL, JSC, and LaRC), several universities (Caltech, Carnegie Mellon, Harvard, Naval Postgraduate School, UCLA, UCSC, and USC), as well as several private organizations (Arkyd Astronautics, Inc., The Planetary Society, B612 Foundation, and Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition). The people listed below participated in the KISS study and developed the contents of this report. The study was conducted over a six-month period beginning with a four-day workshop in September 2011 followed by a two-day workshop in February 2012, and concluding with the submission of this report in April 2012.

NSS Space Settlement Journal

The NSS Space Settlement Journal has commenced publication this month, beginning with two new papers:

A Contemporary Analysis of the O’Neill – Glaser Model for Space-based Solar Power and Habitat Construction by Peter A. Curreri, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, and Michael K. Detweiler, Amadeus Consulting

Abstract: Solar Power Satellites, SPS, is a technology that promises unlimited energy free from chemical pollution and green house gas emissions. First expounded by Peter Glaser in 1969, the economic viability was in doubt primarily due to Earth launch costs. Concurrently Gerard O’Neill demonstrated that using 1970’s technologies, SPS could be economically viable if space based materials and labor were utilized, but only after large investments in in-space infrastructure. More recently the O’Neill – Glaser model was reevaluated finding that optimization of space worker habitat size results in substantially improved economics. This paper compares the optimized O’Neill – Glaser economic model with that of Earth launched SPS for the classical electrical power scenario and for the more ambitious scenario to arrest global climate change. The conclusion is that for the energy levels necessary to mitigate global increases in CO2, Earth launched SPS are not economically viable (even with more advanced technologies and more optimistic decreases in launch costs), however with this increase in energy demand the space derived SPS become even more economically compelling and in addition enhance human survival probabilities by enabling a substantial human population to live in space.

The Space Grid: Sun-synchronous orbiting SBSP Satellites with Equatorial orbiting Reflector Satellites for Earth and Space Energy by Royce Jones

Abstract: The development of an economically viable space-based solar power (SBSP) system is critical to the Earth’s future and for future space development. PowerSat technology is also critical to supporting sustainable private and government space ventures, including space lift, space exploration and space infrastructure development. Such a system would greatly expand the need for space lift capability from small reusable launch vehicles for SBSP satellite maintenance to large expendable launch vehicles for deploying GW class SBSP satellites into orbit. The technology needed for SBSP is also needed for in-space solar electric transportation systems needed for space colonization as the technology is the same. The hope has been that gradual improvement in photovoltaic or other technologies such as thermal systems would solve the mass to orbit problem for SBSP systems. However, this in itself does not appear sufficient to make SBSP economically viable. This paper presents a new architectural option for SBSP using a Sun -synchronous orbit (SS-O), wireless power transmission (WPT) and a space power relay (SPR). This new concept is called The Space Grid. The Space Grid relies on the use of two separate satellite constellations. The power satellite (PowerSat) constellation is placed in SS-O dusk to dawn orbit at 800km and has access to constant sunlight and is used to produce the power. The Equatorial reflector satellite (ReflectorSat) constellation is in a 4,000km equatorial orbit and is used to distribute the power to the rectenna on the Earth’s surface. The power is produced by the PowerSats in SS-O and beamed to the ReflectorSats in equatorial orbit and then bounced to the rectenna on the ground. This combination allows for the production and distribution of power to the Earth’s surface without the problems normally associated with non-Geostationary (GEO) PowerSat concepts and without having to place the PowerSats in GEO. The Space Grid reduces the mass of a PowerSat transmitter by approximately 67% by moving it closer then past GEO concepts and allows for higher power levels and therefore much smaller (60%) and less costly rectenna on the ground and reduces the minimum size from 5GW to only 2GW allowing quicker deployment of space energy to solve the Earth’s energy problems. WPT transmission could be microwave or laser but for this paper microwave will be used for easier comparison with past concepts.

The NSS Space Settlement Journal is an online, high-quality, peer-reviewed journal. NASA Liaison for the Journal is Simon “Pete” Worden, NASA Ames Research Center. Editors of the Journal are:

Al Globus, San Jose State University, Editor in Chief
Fred Becker, National Space Society
Anita Gale, International Space Settlement Design Competition
Peter Garretson, National Space Society
Mark Hopkins, National Space Society
John Lewis, University of Arizona
Scott Pace, George Washington University
Joseph Palaia, 4Frontiers Corporation

See Call for Papers if you are interested in contributing to the Journal.