Category Archives: Future space

Proposals, speculation, etc regarding the future of space and humanity’s place in it.

Spaceflight roundup – Jan.2.2019

A sampling of items about the state of space development in the past year and in the coming year(s):

** Bob Zimmerman reviews the global rocket launch pace in 2018 and discusses the outlook for the new year: The 2018 global launch race plus predictions for 2019 | Behind The Black.

The most significant achievement in 2018 is clearly China’s rise as a space power. That nation had predicted it would complete 40 launches in 2018. That prediction turned out to be largely accurate. China completed 38 successful rocket launches, almost doubling its previous yearly launch record. It also fixed the issues with their biggest rocket, the Long March 5, laying the groundwork for the launch of their own space station. In addition, they launched Chang’e-4 to the Moon, aimed at being the first spacecraft to land softly on the Moon’s far side. While this is not their first lunar lander/rover, it likely initiates a much more aggressive and fast-paced planetary program for the coming years.

** Indian has set a goal of putting three astronauts into orbit by 2022: India is Going to be Sending Three People to Space in Three Years – Universe Today

During a cabinet-level meeting that took place on Friday, Dec. 25th, the government of India announced that the Indian Space Research Organization‘s (ISRO) first crewed mission to space will consist of a three-astronaut team being sent to orbit. The government also announced that they had a approved a budget of $1.4 billion to fund the development of the requisite technology and infrastructure for the program.

The decisions to send astronauts to space was first announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 15th, during India’s Independence Day celebrations. At that time, Modi directed the ISRO to conduct a crewed mission to orbit by 2022, which would coincide with the 75th anniversary of India gaining its independence.

More about the Indian human spaceflight program:

** Tim “The Everyday Astronaut” Dodd reviews the space highlights of 2018:

** A review of the past year at 2018 Cosmic Wrapup – Orbit 11.50 – TMRO

** Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society, “takes us on a tour of the spacecraft currently exploring from within our solar system. All planets and spacecraft locations are shown at their location for January 1st, 2019.”

** Virgin Orbit, one of many companies around the world developing small rockets to orbit small satellites,  highlights developments in 2018 that will lead to their first orbital flights in 2019:

** Writer Michael Belfiore‘s TEDx talk addresses the question, “Why Space Matters?”



Telescopes and Binoculars at Amazon</p

Frontier space settlements in equatorial orbit

Gigantic in-space habitats proposed by the late Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill as sites for permanent settlements have inspired many space enthusiasts over the years. Jeff Bezos, for example, plans to spend a big chunk of his Amazon holdings to try to make it possible for millions of people one day to live off-earth and for heavy industry to be moved into space to reduce environmental stress on the Earth.

“A Human Community in Space – Island One is sized for supporting a population of 10,000 in a state of relative independence.” Credits: Space Studies Institute

For most people, however, there is always an obvious sense of incredulity about how such giant structures far from earth can come to be. How do we get from here to there:

The huge structures would rotate to provide 1g artificial gravity along the inside. The outer shell of material would provide shielding from solar flares and cosmic rays.

Studies of the O’Neill habitats in the 1970s assumed that the Space Shuttles would drastically lower the cost of getting people and cargo to space. The Moon would also provide the bulk of the material for the habitats, which would reside in deep space at points where the gravitational pulls of the Earth and Moon are balanced and objects reside there indefinitely.

The Shuttles, however, failed to lower space transport costs. Today, we are finally seeing viable reusable, fast turnaround vehicles coming on line from SpaceX and Blue Origin. These will provide major reductions in transport cost. However, they still won’t enable O’Neill habitats on their own.

Most every city on earth started from a small structure or two and expanded over time. Something like that will have to happen for in-space settlements to become feasible. NASA Ames engineer Al Globus has been working on one such approach involving rotating habitats of modest size in low earth orbit.  A collection of technical papers by Globus and his collaborators can be found here.

Globus and Tom Marotta have now written the book – The High Frontier: An Easier Way – for a general audience. Globus says the book describes

how new scientific discoveries, new advances in launch technology, and new social trends are making space settlement much, much easier to contemplate.

The High Frontier: An Easier Way by Tom Marotta and AL Globus

The two key discoveries relate to radiation shielding and rotation adaptation. Specifically, it turns out that equatorial low earth orbit is a very low radiation environment (by space standards) so people there will need very little dedicated radiation shielding, perhaps none at all. This reduces settlement mass by one to two orders of magnitude.

Secondly, an extensive literature search suggests that people can adapt to rotation much faster than commonly thought. By spinning fast, the minimum size settlement is about an order of magnitude smaller than previous designs.

When taken together, along with advances in the launch industry, these developments mean that free space settlements can be built much closer, simpler, and cheaper than previously thought. Perhaps cheap enough to sell condos in space at a profit. We detail these findings and more in a fast-paced, fun book full of interesting anecdotes about space-related personalities.

Perhaps Bezos or other space mogul will take up the challenge of making such settlements happen sooner rather than later.

The book is available in both e-book format and paperback as well at Amazon.

See also:


Videos: Leading edge space technologies presented at the 2018 NIAC Symposium

Check out the latest leading edge technology ideas presented this week by winners of NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program grants at the 2018 NIAC Symposium underway in Boston till Thursday. The agenda (pdf) lists the talks and you can watch the presentations at the NIAC 2018 Livestream.

Below are videos of three of the sessions on Tuesday. The presenters included, for example, Ryan Weed of Positron Dynamics on antimatter catalyzed fusion propulsion, Stephanie Thomas of Princeton Satellite Systems on a plasma magnetic fusion propulsion design, and James Woodward of the Space Studies Institute on a Mach Effect drive.

This video from Princeton Satellite Systems describes their fusion propulsion design:




SpaceX to present plan to fly paying passenger around the Moon

Tonight Sept. 17, 2018,  at 6:00 pm PDT (9:00 pm EDT), SpaceX will hold an event to lay out the company’s plan to fly a private passenger around the Moon on the next-generation, fully-reusable Big “Falcon” Rocket or BFR. According to  SpaceX on Twitter:

“SpaceX has signed the world’s first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard our BFR launch vehicle—an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space. Find out who’s flying and why on Monday, September 17.”

You can watch the webcast here – SpaceX on Twitter:

Meet BFR’s first private passenger tomorrow [Monday Sept.19.2018] at 6:00 p.m. PDT →

A couple of artist’s views of the BFR in flight (click for larger versions):


Videos: TMRO Orbit 11.12 – “Humanity amongst the starts with Isaac Arthur” + TMRO Science: Bionic Future

Here is the latest episode of the weekly Space program: Humanity amongst the stars with Isaac Arthur – Orbit 11.12 – TMRO:

Futurist Isaac Arthur joins the cast of TMRO to talk about humanities future amongst the stars as well as living in a simulation, faster than light communication and galactic intelligence.

Updates on launches and space news:


Falcon 9 Launches SES-12
Long March 3A Launches Fengyun -2H
Soyuz Launches new Space Station Crew

Space News:

Curiosity Confirms Complex Organics on Mars
Northrop Grumman completes Orbital ATK acquisition
Pluto Has Sand Dunes, But They’re Made of Methane

TMRO is viewer supported:

TMRO shows are crowd funded. If you like this episode consider contributing to help us to continue to improve. Head over to for funding levels, goals and all of our different rewards!


And here is the latest Science program: Our bionic future – Discovery 1.06 – TMRO

Lisa, Jade and Athena discuss the past and future of prosthetic enhancements to the human body. How advanced have they become? Should we be upgrading ourselves past normal human limits? Leave your comments below and continue the conversation!


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