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Thread: The space economy

  1. #1
    Moderator Dr Mordrid's Avatar
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    Default The space economy

    Long post, buckle up...

    Morgan Stanley has predicted the "space economy" will be worth over $1 trillion by 2040, and some analysts think their estimate is way too low because do much is going on...

    The world's fleet of spacecraft, suborbital and orbital, will be growing by leaps and bounds within a few years. There are also national and commercial space stations in the way; China, Axiom Space, etc. I wouldn't be surprised if Sierra Nevada Corp teams with Axiom Space to use their LIFE* inflatable habitat. Russia wants a sovereign station, but can they afford one? The ISS consortium seems hell bent on building the Lunar Gateway station.

    * Large Inflatable Fabric Environment

    While decried as "joyrides" by some, suborbital vehicles like those from Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are piling up contracts for microgravity experiments from DoD, NASA and universities. Key is a human can go along to operate and otherwise tend to the experiment. This isn't trivial.

    Orbital vehicles;

    Russia will be replacing Soyuz with their more capable Oryel, a high-side wall capsule, similar to Dragon. Formerly called Federation, it'll carry 4-6 passengers.

    China will be replacing Shenzhou with something similar to Oryel, but with a 7 passenger capacity. It flew a suborbital trajectory in May 2020. They're also developing their Tengyun spaceplane, which would launch from a mother ship aircraft.

    The US already has Cargo Cygnus, Crew and Cargo Dragon, with Crew Starliner in tests. The Cargo Dream Chaser spaceplane should fly cargo to the ISS in 2022, with a Crew Dream Chaser still in development for Commercial Crew Round 2. SpaceX's multi-purpose Starship is the 800 lb gorilla among orbital vehicles, while the NASA Orion capsule is in development hell.

    And I'm sure other orbital vehicles will come from Blue Origin and others, some overseas as other countries take advantage of lowering launch prices. Even the UAE has NASA training astronauts.

    Suborbital point-to-point transportation (P2P), both for cargo and passengers. NASA and the FAA recently signed an agreement which included sharing data & setting standards for P2P.

    The proposed vehicles for P2P range from a 19 passenger Mach 3-4 waverider design from Virgin Galactic (engines: Rolls Royce) to the SpaceX Starship flying at near orbital velocity.

    Starship P2P would fly with or without a booster, with the latter having a range of 10,000 km in ~30 minutes. With a booster, anywhere. Changes to Starship start with using 7-9 sea level Raptors instead of 3 sea level + 3 vacuum. Now add life support, seats, and the cargo version's elevator.

    There is already high interest in Starship P2P from the US DoD, SpaceX signing a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with the US Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) which would include a demonstration flight.

    Some interesting NASA commercial info in this Twitter thread; there will be a new Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) board, new rounds of Commercial Crew, Cargo and...Destinations (!) starting in the mid-2020's.

    New capabilities, lower costs, phasing down ISS (hinting at commercial space stations), developing free-flying platforms, etc.

    Twitter thread (first post below, click to read)
    https://twitter.com/genejm29/status/1349419794370617346
    Last edited by Dr Mordrid; 17th January 2021 at 22:46.
    Dr. Mordrid
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  2. #2
    Administrator Dilitante1's Avatar
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    Default

    Many choices to hit orbit and beyond. My concern is space trash, and the little efforts to develop scaleable solutions and soon, as much stuff is floating around up there. Hopefully something will produce fruit and we can clean the skies.

  3. #3
    Moderator Dr Mordrid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dilitante1 View Post
    Many choices to hit orbit and beyond. My concern is space trash, and the little efforts to develop scaleable solutions and soon, as much stuff is floating around up there. Hopefully something will produce fruit and we can clean the skies.
    Space junk has degrees of severity, mostly based on the altitude of its orbit.

    Very Low Earth Orbit (VLEO) object are up to 450 km and come down passively due to drag from the thermosphere, the lower ones within months. StarLink deployment hardware & satellites insert to 340 km and fall into this group. Further, StarLinks have ion propulsion which can further speed the process.

    Low Earth Orbit (LEO) is up to 1,000 km. Passive re-entry can take several years, which can be accelerated by a satellite using its propulsion. Iridium satellites are up there and 100% of their first-gen birds were brought down quickly. High StarLinks are at 550 km, and their ion propulsion can bring them down in weeks.

    Then there are the upper stages which got them there. Some companies & nations are better than others.

    SpaceX and most US companies do a disposal burn to bring their upper stages down, burning up in the atmosphere. SpaceX also avoids using pyrotechnics (explosive bolts) to prevent small debris. Overseas it's a mix of good and terrible practices.

    The real problems are in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO, up to 2,000 km), Geostationary Orbit (GEO, 35,786 km) and the even higher graveyard orbit for retired satellites. Atmospheric drag is so low passive re-entry is impractical, and 60 years of not using propulsion to bring down or send satellites & upper stages to a graveyard has created a mess.

    A MAJOR problem is that even space debris, dead stages and retired satellites are still the sovereign property of the launching nation, so if SpaceX decided to send up a huge Starship to remove dead satellites someone could raise hell over it.
    Last edited by Dr Mordrid; 18th January 2021 at 00:46.
    Dr. Mordrid
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    An elephant is a mouse built to government specifications.

    I carry a gun because I can't throw a rock 1,250 fps

  4. #4
    Super MURCer UtwigMU's Avatar
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    If you're into space trash and haven't yet, watch Planetes.
    It takes place in time when space trash became a problem (show tagline).

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