I would like to actually have the Science Fiction future I felt was come when I was young.
Falcon Heavy links.
A “Coast Guard for Space“…
Over the years, analysts have proposed several alternative schemes for organizing the American space sector. Most of these proposals have related specifically to the nation’s military space activities. So, for instance, some proposals call for the creation of a Space Corps that would relate to the Air Force in much the same way that the Marine Corps relates to the Navy: autonomous, but under the control of the Secretary of the Navy, and relying on the Navy for various functions such as legal and medical services. Other proposals would adopt the model of the historical Army Air Corps or the later U.S. Army Air Forces, making space a quasi-autonomous service within the parent service.
There is another proposal, however, that would restructure not just military but also civilian space activities. This proposal would create a U.S. Space Guard on the model of the U.S. Coast Guard, charged with carrying out a variety of infrastructure, support, constabulary, and regulatory tasks. The Space Guard would assume some functions now performed by the Air Force, NASA, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Zubrin: It’s time to build a transorbital railroad
The core idea is simple. The space shuttle program is ending. So, instead of funding NASA to spend the next decade developing another white elephant to replace it, let’s just take a quarter of the shuttle’s budget and use it to set up a regularly scheduled launch service to orbit using the most cost-effective boosters on the commercial market.
One-quarter of the shuttle program would provide a budget of $1.2 billion per year. Right now, the choice of most cost-effective launcher is a horse race…
Having bought these launches for $80 million each, the NASA transorbital railroad office would then turn around and sell payload space on board at a steep discount price of $50 per kilogram. Thus, a 53-ton-capacity launch could be offered for sale at $2.5 million or divided into 5-ton compartments for sale at $250,000 each, with half-ton compartments made available for $25,000. While recovering just a tiny fraction of the transorbital railroad’s costs, such low fees (levied primarily to discourage spurious use) would make spaceflight readily affordable.
As with a normal railroad here on earth, the transorbital railroad’s launches would occur in accordance with its schedule, regardless of whether or not all of its cargo capacity was subscribed by customers. Unsubscribed space would be filled with containers of water, food or space-storable propellants. These standardized, pressurizable containers, equipped with tracking beacons, plumbing attachments, hatches and electrical pass-throughs, would be released for orbital recovery by anyone with the initiative to collect them and put their contents and volumes to use in space. A payload dispenser, provided and loaded by the launch companies as part of their service, would be used to release each payload to go its separate way once orbit was achieved.
As noted above, the budget required to run the transorbital railroad would be 25 percent that of the space shuttle program, but it would accomplish far more. The U.S. government could use it to save a great deal of money because its own departments in NASA, the military and other agencies could avail themselves of the transorbital railroad’s low rates to launch their payloads at trivial cost. Much greater savings would occur, however, because with launch costs so reduced, it would no longer be necessary to spend billions to ensure the ultimate degree of spacecraft reliability. Instead, commercial-grade parts could be used, thereby cutting the cost of spacecraft construction by orders of magnitude. While some failures would result, they would be eminently affordable and, moreover, would enable a greatly accelerated rate of technological advance in spacecraft design, because unproven, non-space-rated components could be put to the test much more rapidly. With both launch and spacecraft costs so sharply reduced, the financial consequences of any failures could be readily met by the purchase of insurance by the launch companies, which would reimburse both the government and payload owners in the event of a mishap.
With such a huge amount of lift capability available to the public at low cost, both public and private initiatives of every kind could take flight.
I want my Science Fiction Future.
Filed under: Public Policy, Science, Science Fiction, Technology and Gadgets | Tagged: Space | 2 Comments »