The Pathway to Earth’s Trillion Dollar Space Economy
Today’s global $350 billion space economy will soon bloom into a trillion-dollar economy. Join the National Space Society for the virtual webinar LEO Commercialization: The Pathway to Earth’s Trillion Dollar Space Economy on September 30 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time (10 a.m. Pacific), as we present a group of thought leaders who will engage in a 90-minute discussion of what it will take to get us to that first trillion dollars in low Earth orbit.
Lynn Harper, Lead, Integrative Studies, Space Portal at NASA Ames Research Center,
Moderated by Bruce Pittman, Chief System Engineer at NASA Space Portal and NSS Senior Vice President.
Topics include government policy and funding to support emerging space industries, near-term profitable space manufacturing, medical and technological products, and much more.
Research and development platforms, both government and commercial, are needed in space. Some will be attached to the International Space Station, while others will be free flyers in various orbits around the Earth. The space ecosystem will soon be full of multiple providers and a world-wide customer base, resulting in an economically thriving low Earth orbit marketplace, eventually extending into cislunar space and beyond. But this bright future will require intelligent legislation and strong financial support to succeed—and this discussion will outline the path ahead.
Join us on September 30 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time (10 a.m. Pacific) for a presentation about our exciting future in space and the steps we need to make it a reality. This extraordinary event will be simulcast by e360tv.com over Facebook, YouTube, Roku, Amazon Fire, and other streaming media. Be sure to mark your calendars—you don’t want to miss this!
advantage of the processing that the unique lunar geology has already performed. Micrometeoroid bombardment has already broken most solid material in the upper part of the regolith into fine grains. This includes solid material of all compositions, including the ice, which is as hard as granite at PSR [Permanently Shadowed Regions] temperatures and is therefore essentially another type of rock. These ice grains are intermixed with all the other minerals, so a simple, ultra-low-energy grain-sorting process can extract the ice without phase change.
As another benefit it can extract the 1 wt% free metal known to be in lunar soil, again with very little energy. The ice can then be hauled to the chemical processing unit in solid phase and converted into rocket propellant. We estimate the 800 kW power needed for thermal extraction can be reduced to less than 100 watts using the new method. This affects the entire architecture of the mining operation producing extensive economic benefit, which we will quantify in this study.
We will study it in the context of a mission to mine propellants commercially for space tugs that boost commercial communication satellites from Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) to Geostationary Orbit (GEO) then return to the lunar surface for refueling. This simple architecture requires the minimum number of in-space elements, and notably does not require an in-space propellant depot, so it provides the lowest cost and lowest risk startup for a commercial operation. The study will also test the innovative Aqua Factorem process through laboratory experiments, and this will produce basic insights into the handling of lunar resources.
Expanding our economic sphere beyond Earth will bring humanity greater prosperity and security. A space-based economy has already taken root. There are hundreds of communications satellites in geosynchronous orbit, the Global Positioning System has made terrestrial navigation with cell phones commonplace, weather satellites warn us of approaching hurricanes, wealthy tourists are paying for space adventures, and the International Space Station has welcomed numerous commercial initiatives. The prospects for further economic expansion into space seem full of promise with plans to send human exploration missions beyond Earth orbit to open new frontiers.
To enable this process we start by asking a few fundamental questions: Why should we try to stimulate this economic expansion? What are the benefits to society? What steps can best facilitate it?
By drawing on parallels from history, we argue that enabling in-space infrastructure will stimulate economic expansion and generate significant benefits to people on Earth. In-space infrastructure would consist of the systems and services operating in Earth’s neighborhood to facilitate commerce, exploration, and scientific discovery. We postulate that there is an immediate need for at least a “critical mass” of in-space infrastructure to be planned, funded, and implemented to expedite broader, efficient, and easy access to cislunar space for all interested stakeholders/participants, and lay the foundation of a vibrant space-based economy.
Since a fully developed space economy will have worldwide significance and impact, we further suggest that a global advocacy for development of an in-space infrastructure should be initiated
Statement of attribution:
This paper was written in 2018, submitted to AIAA for review in January 2020, and approved by the AIAA Public Policy Committee in January 2020. The AIAA Space Exploration Integration Committee (SEIC) members are nationally and internationally renowned aerospace professionals with expertise in one or more space exploration-related disciplines. The SEIC also recruits students and young professionals who desire to serve the aerospace community at large and to become valuable assets to the community. This statement reflects the views and opinions of SEIC members and is not necessarily a position of AIAA at large.
Synthetic asteroid under development for future in-space test.
US executive order signed that promotes utilization of space resources
NASA Lunar Flashlight to peer into lunar PSRs.
NASA accepting PRISM Request for Information (RFI) for future lunar missions.
** Nicole Shumaker – Research Synergy for Lunar Construction Methods at Texas A&M – CSP S02E30
Nicole Shumaker, Research Specialist at Texas A&M, is in a unique role focusing on identifying opportunities for and developing synthesis in lunar construction methods. What gaps are there in the field between research, institutions, business and government? That’s the key question Nicole is continuously answering, bringing people together in lunar construction efforts who may otherwise have not known the other existed. Resulting from her effort is acceleration of research and technology development in lunar construction. Nicole meets with host Jason Kanigan on the Cold Star Project to discuss her work and developments in lunar construction methods. Center for Lunar and Asteroid Surface Science (CLASS) website–see Programs and Seminars tab for recorded and upcoming lectures: https://sciences.ucf.edu/class/ NASA ISRU page: https://www.nasa.gov/isru
… Developing a habitat on another celestial body is no simple task. With the challenges posed by long-duration space travel, the construction of habitats able to withstand extreme environments, and the physiological effects of living in a low gravity environment being of particular concern, the destination must be well worth the investment and struggles of the pioneering astronauts. Living within the influence of Jupiter has its own set of unique challenges stemming mostly from the intense radiation belts that result from the extreme magnetic field output by the gas giant. However, humans are adaptive and willing to take on challenges if nothing else. Instead of allowing these risks to turn us off to the idea of establishing permanent settlements on these moons, the unique features of Io, Ganymede, and Callisto should be analyzed through the lens of viability for inhabitation and their individual challenges viewed as exciting engineering problems to overcome.
** Daniel Faber – On The Way To A New Economy: Gas Stations In Space – Cold Star Project S02E36
Past Deep Space Industries CEO Daniel Faber today runs a company called OrbitFab. As a pioneer of space mining and resources development, what is Dan doing now? Kickstarting the next massive new space economy by creating “Gas stations in space”, that’s what!
** SpaceX Starships could enable space settlement in a shorter time than even many space enthusiasts thought possible. By far, the greatest hurdle to the expansion of humanity into the solar system is the extremely high cost of launching people and materials from the Earth’s surface into orbit. If the Starship/Super Heavy Booster vehicles fulfill the goals of SpaceX, this hurdle will finally be surmounted:
Starship + Super Heavy propellant mass is 4800 tons (78% O2 & 22% CH4). I think we can get propellant cost down to ~$100/ton in volume, so ~$500k/flight. With high flight rate, probably below $1.5M fully burdened cost for 150 tons to orbit or ~$10/kg.
See the recent Space Transport Roundup that describes NASA’s selection of SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Dynetics to carry out studies of human lunar lander systems. SpaceX’s entry is based on a Starship customized for lunar operations.
** Joel Sercel – Mini Bee Prototype for Asteroid Mining – Cold Star Project S02E09 –
The Mini Bee asteroid mining craft prototype is the topic of this episode of the Cold Star Project, and Dr. Joel Sercel is our guest. Momentus Space and TransAstra are teaming up with a NASA NIAC grant and other investors to prove the concept of this new asteroid mining technology. Dr. Sercel has considerable experience in the space field, having designed JPL’s space project process. We cover:
– tradeoffs in vehicle design of the Mini Bee -process for Mini Bee proof of concept
– “process maturity” concept for Air Force projects he lead -biggest surprise in his JPL experience
NASA has funded TransAstra to find a way to make a lunar outpost. Our system can evolve into a tourist destination and then grow into a city. The problem we had to overcome is that with today’s rocket technology launching just a single gallon of water to the Moon could cost upwards of $10M. Lunar outposts will need thousands of tons of water every year to drink, as a source of oxygen for air, and most importantly for rocket propellant. The best rocket propellant is made by breaking water into oxygen and hydrogen and liquifying the resulting gases at ultra low temperatures. Getting the water and turning it into rocket propellant will require megawatts of electric power. Solar arrays are not an option because the permanently shadowed regions that are expected to be loaded with ice haven’t seen the light of the Sun for billions of years.
Our new patent pending invention, the Sun Flower™ solves that problem. Sun Flower flies to the Moon as a single modular spacecraft and soft lands itself on the icy surface. With its landing legs stabilized on the icy lunar surface the tower grows vertically out of a modest package until the top of the tower is in the sun.
The overall payload is called Package for Resource Observation and in-Situ Prospecting for Exploration, Commercial exploitation and Transportation, or PROSPECT. A drill called ProSEED will extract samples, expected to contain water ice and other chemicals that can become trapped at the extremely low temperatures expected; typically -150 °C beneath the surface to lower than -200 °C in some areas.
Samples taken by the drill will then be passed to the ProSPA chemical laboratory, being developed by an Open University team. These samples will then be heated to extract these cold-trapped volatiles and enable follow-up analysis.
Dr. Christopher Dreyer is the Associate Director of Engineering and co-creator of the Center for Space Resources at Colorado School of Mines. The School offers an exciting Space Resources Program and Dr. Dreyer has played an integral role in developing it. Chris meets with Cold Star Project host Jason Kanigan to discuss the Program. We cover:
– how Chris got involved with the idea of asteroid mining
– the way one creates a curriculum for something that hasn’t existed before
– why the School decided to go with an online program format instead of in-class
– exactly what is taught in a course Dr. Dreyer developed for the program, such as Space Resources Fundamentals
– what if any relevance Earth-based capabilities and experience the Colorado School of Mines developed has for asteroid mining
– technologies available and being developed to prospect for and process resources in space
– how close or far away Dr. Dreyer believes we are to actual asteroid mining.
One of the first things I noticed on Dr. Dreyer’s LinkedIn profile was a recommendation from Dr. Joel Sercel, also a guest on this show. Dr. Sercel’s Momentus firm and Dr. Dreyer’s School do have a relationship and we discuss that in this episode. Dr. Sercel’s appearance is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ce9Rr…
** Elon Musk aims for a fleet of a 1000 Starships to transport thousands of people and thousands of tons of cargo every two years to Mars to build and maintain a permanent settlement until it can become self-sustaining.
Musk tweeted in January that the goal of his Starship transportation system to Mars will be to launch each of SpaceX’s reusable Starship rockets about three times per day, on average, while carrying a 100-ton payload on each flight. with roughly 1,000 flights per year carrying more than 100 tons of cargo on each flight. At that rate, Musk theorizes, each Starship rocket would make roughly 1,000 flights per year, launching a total of 100,000 tons of cargo into orbit.
“So, every 10 ships yield 1 megaton per year to orbit,” Musk also tweeted in January.
And 1,000 Starships could send “maybe around 100k people per Earth-Mars orbital sync,” Musk added on Twitter, referring to the period, every 26 months, when Earth’s and Mars’ orbits are best aligned for an interplanetary journey. “That’s the goal.”
** Bloomberg posted a series of videos last fall on various aspects of large scale space development such as space factories and living in space. The full series will play out if you start with this one:
January 29, 2020, Seattle, Washington – Xplore Inc., a commercial space company providing Space As A Service™ today announced a partnership in which Nanoracks will provide commercial deep space flight opportunities for its customers and serve as a customer interface for payload design, preparation and integration on Xplore missions to the Moon, Mars, Venus, Lagrange Points and near-Earth asteroids.
Nanoracks has dramatically expanded the commercialization of space in low-Earth orbit by launching cubesats and microsatellites from the International Space Station, and launching hundreds of microgravity experiments, for customers since 2009. Xplore founder Lisa Rich said,
“Xplore and Nanoracks have joined forces to create higher-cadence, low-cost flight opportunities to the inner solar system via the Xplore Xcraft™.” She continued: “Xplore’s multi-mission spacecraft has a large payload bay, ample power, electric propulsion and precision pointing capability to perform advanced planetary science, heliophysics, astrophysics, planetary defense and national security missions for our customers. Scientists need more flight opportunities to the Moon, Mars, Venus and other interplanetary destinations. Together, Xplore and Nanoracks will deliver this access and enable scientists to focus on the science, not the spacecraft.”
Nanoracks CEO Jeffrey Manber said,
“Commercial space no longer stops at low-Earth orbit. Xplore paves the way for commercial utilization and services to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. We are truly excited at Nanoracks to be working with Xplore to bring our commercial knowledge from low-Earth orbit into deep space exploration.”
Xplore will advance commercialization of deep space by promoting science, accelerating innovation and growing programmatic-level efforts with established and emerging space agencies around the world. Xplore’s Xcraft™ is a highly-capable ESPA-class spacecraft that can carry 30kg – 70kg of payload in 50U volume and provide customers with the opportunity to fly scheduled or custom orbital missions. Beginning with Moon Xpeditions™ targeted for late 2021, customers can fly instruments including optical instruments, space weather instruments, hyperspectral imagers, deployable cubesats, life science experiments, technology demonstrations and more from the Moon to Ceres. Lisa Rich said, “Nanoracks’ ability to prepare and integrate our customers’ instruments onto Xplore’s spacecraft platform allows Xplore to launch payloads faster and accelerate access to space.”
About Xplore: Established in 2017, Xplore is a Seattle-based commercial deep space company offering Space As A Service™. Xplore provides hosted payloads, communication relay services and exclusive datasets to its customers via a fleet of networked multi-mission spacecraft.
The mission of Xplore is to expand robotic
exploration beyond Earth via commercial missions to the Moon, Mars,
Venus, Lagrange Points and near-Earth asteroids in the inner solar
system. Xplore provides hosted payload services for scientific
instruments and technology demonstrations for national space
agencies, national security agencies, sovereign space agencies and
universities. Visit: https://www.xplore.com
About Nanoracks: Established in 2009, Nanoracks is the world’s first commercial space station company with an existing customer base. The company offers low-cost, high-quality solutions to the most pressing needs for satellite deployment, basic and educational research and both at home and in 30 nations world-wide for those new to the industry and aerospace veterans. Since 2009, Texas-based Nanoracks has truly created new markets, and ushered in a new era of in space-services.
February 2018, over 600 payloads have been launched to the
International Space Station via Nanoracks services, and our customer
base includes the European Space Agency (ESA) the German Space Agency
(DLR,) the American space agency (NASA,) US Government Agencies,
Planet Labs, Millennium Space Systems, Space Florida, NCESSE, Virgin
Galactic, pharmaceutical companies, and organizations in Vietnam, UK,
Romania and Israel. Visit: http://nanoracks.com
Seattle – Nov. 5, 2019 — Spaceflight, the leading satellite rideshare and mission management provider, today announced it has arranged for Tokyo-based ALE to launch its entertainment and science satellite on Rocket Lab’s next Electron launch. The mission, called “Running Out of Fingers” by Rocket Lab to signify its tenth mission, represents Spaceflight’s third launch with Rocket Lab this year. It follows the launch of seven spacecraft on its inaugural “Make it Rain” mission in June and three on the “Look Ma No Hands” mission in August.
Like the previous missions, Spaceflight managed the launch capacity procurement, integration, and mission management services for the rideshare spacecraft. The Electron, carrying the ALE satellite, will lift-off from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 at the southern tip of Mahia Peninsula, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. The launch window opens on 25th November NZDT.
“Our experience offering end-to-end launch services across multiple launch vehicles continues to be highly valued by organizations — regardless if they’re a newer customer like ALE, or an experienced constellation developer,” said Curt Blake, CEO and president of Spaceflight. “Our expertise and long-standing relationships provide reliability, flexibility, and the confidence that we’ll get customers to space as efficiently as possible. We’re really looking forward to taking ALE on our third Electron launch this year.”
ALE’s Sky Canvas, the world’s first man-made shooting star project, will deploy to a 400km circular Sun Synchronous orbit, which is beneath the International Space Station. The company’s satellite will create man-made shooting stars by safely releasing particles, precisely controlling the reentry location, date, and timing. When the particles re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, they fully burn up, creating the appearance of shooting stars on the ground.
In addition to the entertainment factor, the Sky Canvas project will also study the path and mechanics of shooting star particles during re-entry from the upper atmosphere. The data collected in the mesosphere will be helpful in the aerospace industry to help predict the path of satellites and artificial objects as well as contributing to scientific understanding in several technology fields including meteorology and the study of climate change.
“This launch gets us much closer to realizing the world’s first man-made shooting star,” said Lena Okajima, CEO of ALE. “We really appreciate Spaceflight`s support and attention to our mission and we’re honored to take this big step with them.”
Following this launch, Spaceflight will have launched 11 spacecraft on the Electron and has plans to continue partnering with the launch vehicle provider in 2020. Spaceflight has completed five missions already this year, with another five planned in 2019. Other noteworthy missions from the last year include Spaceflight’s GTO-1, which deployed the first commercial lunar lander aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9, and SSO-A, the company’s historic dedicated rideshare mission, successfully launched 64 unique smallsats, making it the single largest deployment of satellites from a U.S.-based launch vehicle.
About Spaceflight: Spaceflight is revolutionizing the business of spaceflight by delivering a new model for accessing space. A comprehensive launch services and mission management provider, the company provides a straightforward and cost-effective suite of products and services including state-of-the-art satellite infrastructure and rideshare launch offerings that enable commercial and government entities to achieve their mission goals on time and on budget. A service offering of Spaceflight Industries in Seattle, Wash., Spaceflight provides its services through a global network of partners and launch vehicle providers. For more information, visit http://www.spaceflight.com.
This mission took years of analysis and rigorous review. Josh Rodenbaugh, ALE’s launch campaign manager, worked closely with the Spaceflight team as a mission of this type had never been done before. ALE had already worked through the Japanese Space Agency who had conducted a rigorous review for the launch of ALE-1 earlier this year. ALE also met with other countries’ space agencies and even astronomers to work through any concerns around this unique mission. Spaceflight helped the company get the necessary permits through the New Zealand Space Agency, and worked with Rocket Lab to ensure a smooth integration process (which will begin in the next week or so). We are always happy to advocate for our customers and support new uses for satellites – opening up access to space for new business models is part of our corporate mission.