Launch Development Strategy
Personal opinion of user: Farred
- This is in reply to John McGowan's article in "The Space Review" at http://www.thespacereview.com/index.html That website considered my reply to long to publish.
- I disagree with John McGowan's contention that the solution to the frustrated failure of the space industry to accomplish significant tasks such as asteroid mining and placing solar power stations in GEO is (obviously) improved power and propulsion technology. What is obvious to me is that such improvements would be nice, but it is far from certain that they are possible. I will not be surprised if improved structural materials and improved thrust to weight engines someday make SSTO vehicles practical cargo carriers with reasonable maintenance requirements and fast turn around. I will be surprised if the decrease in cost to orbit from that amounts to a factor of ten or more. It will not be enough to make simply lifting a solar power station to GEO an economic proposition.
- The problem is the failure of the space community to deal with the nature of the challenge of people operating industry in space. Life support for people in space can avoid enormous shipments of expendables, but only at the cost of very considerable industry devoted to a recycling life support system. The capital investment per person on the ISS is insufficient.
- The solution is to operate in space by remote controlled devices until the needed development of off Earth resources and industry is achieved to support people economically. There is a potential to launch cargo from Luna for less than a dollar a pound when the necessary development is completed. That is sufficient to make space based solar power economic.
- There have been objections that the needed remote controlled manipulators and rovers can not last long term in the vacuum of space because their joints become dewetted when conventional lubricants are used. NASA would not put a robot in a space suit or even cover its joints with a gas tight protective flexible housing. Have they been too fixated on astronaut problems to even give a passing glance to robots? There have been objections that remote controlled rovers could not have found the orange soil on Luna because they do not have human intelligence. The controller on Earth provides the intelligence and the number of colors that an exploratory probe can detect has no definite limit. The entire set of objections amounts to NASA has not tried remote controlled industry on Luna and does not want to.
- If the number of tons of stuff sent to Luna is limited by a reasonable NASA budget, as it ought to be, it would take quite a few years to set up an industrial base on Luna by producing as much of the infrastructure as possible by the local industry previously established. It has been more than twenty years since the technology has existed to get started on this, but next to nothing has been done. It might take fifty years for an economic result, but it will result in space based solar power before fixating on launcher development will.