Here’s part II of Greg Autry‘s series on cislunar activity.
From the article: “Orbital real estate is extremely limited and – in the absence of any coordination or law preventing occupation of those desirable orbits – the rules of First Mover Advantage must apply.”
In particular, Earth-Moon Lagrange points 1 and 2 are going to be in high demand. NASA’s Lunar Gateway architecture will stake a not-so-subtle claim on L2.
I’ve already written the scenes in my next book that involve lunar landing. But, I have to say, the idea of a space elevator from L1 to near the Moon’s south pole is almost too good to ignore. I might have to revisit those scenes.
Lunar Orbital Congestion II: Economic and Strategic Drivers
The 2nd in a series, this article considers economic forces driving lunar orbital congestion and competition over locations strategic locations in the Earth-Moon system.
Greg Autry is writing a series of articles for Forbes on the coming era of cislunar activity. Here’s the first.
From the article:
“Walking the floor of the International Astronautical Conference in Paris last fall, I couldn’t help but feel that the Moon will soon be a very busy and very international destination. 2019 saw a lunar landing attempt by a private Israeli team and Japan’s ispace tried it last month. Both nations promise to return to the Moon soon. Meanwhile, China’s governmental program has had a series of lunar successes including placing a lander and rover on far side of the Moon. There will be landers, rovers, hoppers, and human habitats scattered across the lunar surface by the end of the decade. This activity will require a lot of orbital infrastructure.”
Particularly interesting is the discussion of the Moon’s gravitational anomalies due to its uneven density. This makes most low lunar orbits (LLO) unstable.
Ever wondered why rockets have multiple stages? Or why some missions have long coast phases and multiple burns? Tory Bruno, CEO of United Launch Alliance has the answers!
From the article: “There is no single, best rocket. Different rockets do different things. As it turns out, the design of a rocket flows directly from the mission the rocket is intended to do, and there are many different missions.”
Fail often, fail hard, learn.
SpaceX launched a fullstack Starship/Super Heavy this morning, and it exploded 3:59 into the flight. This was a resounding success.
“Why? Because one could sit in meetings for ages and discuss everything that could go wrong with a rocket like this, with an unprecedented number of first stage engines and its colossal size. The alternative is simply to get the rocket into a “good enough” configuration and go fly. Flying is the ultimate test, providing the best data. There is no more worrying about theoretical failures. The company’s engineers actually get to identify what is wrong and then go and fix it. But you have to accept some failure.” (Eric Berger, link below)
So congratulations to SpaceX on a successful failure of a launch!
I was sitting at my oldest kid’s soccer practice yesterday, typing away on a scene for the next book, when I looked up and saw this. My first thought was “that looks like a rocket”: not a common sight in Tucson, Arizona. I checked my Next Spaceflight app and, sure enough, SpaceX had just launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base, 590 miles northeast of where I was sitting. After taking a few pics (if you look carefully, you can see the first stage as it falls away), I brought up the live feed on YouTube and watched both at the same time. What a magical time we live in.
“This is the space age, and we are here to go.”
-William S. Burroughs
This is a long read, but worthwhile. It is not hyperbole to say that Starship will change everything. And it will happen faster than the current space industry is prepared to adapt.
From the article:
“There are still major risks on the critical path between now and a fully reusable Starship, but no miracles are required to solve them.
Starship will change the way we do business in space, and now is the time to start preparing.
Annual capacity to LEO climbs from its current average of 500 T for the whole of our civilization to perhaps 500 T per week. Eventually, it could exceed 1,000,000 T/year. At the same time, launch costs drop as low as $50/kg, roughly 100x lower than the present. For the same budget in launch, supply will have increased by roughly 100x. How can the space industry saturate this increased launch supply?
Prior to Starship, heavy machinery for building a Moon base could only come from NASA, because only NASA has the expertise to build a rocket propelled titanium Moon tractor for a billion dollars per unit. After Starship, Caterpillar or Deere or Kamaz can space qualify their existing commodity products with very minimal changes and operate them in space.
Even if the space industry fully understood Starship, I think it would be very difficult for them to plan and adapt rapidly enough to match the coming explosion in launch capacity.”
Casey Handmer's blog
This image of Elon Musk inspecting the wreckage really brings home the size of Starship.
(image: SPadre on Twitter)
In about two hours, if the weather allows, SpaceX will be launching two astronauts in a Crew Dragon capsule to the ISS for the first time. This is a big deal.
Nine years ago, I watched the last shuttle launch with my kids. The oldest was three years old, and the other was one, so they have no recollection of this. Since then, they have grown to awareness in a world in which the US is incapable of launching its own astronauts into space.
This launch means that will now change. But this launch goes beyond just returning human-launch capability to US soil. That’s cool and all, but focusing on it is a bit short-sighted. This launch marks a turning point in humankind’s relation to space.
SpaceX, with its rapid development of Cargo Dragon, Falcon 9, and Falcon Heavy, has managed to decrease the cost of getting things to space by orders of magnitude. When it is possible to launch lots of stuff cheaply, we’ll launch lots of stuff. Now, with Crew Dragon, SpaceX is going to do that for humans. And when it becomes possible to launch lots of humans cheaply, we’ll launch lots of humans.
Lots of humans and lots of stuff in space means, well, it could mean anything. But mostly, it’s a critical step toward becoming a space-faring civilization. And that’s why this is a big deal.