Science fiction has long been talked about as predictor of science fact, and this may be another case. I learned today that SpaceX has signed a contract with Axiom Space to provide launches for space tourists to the International Space Station using their Crew Dragon capsule, perhaps as early as a year from now. These will be private citizens flying a private company's spacecraft, a world's first. The first flight of Crew Dragon carrying NASA astronauts to the ISS for the agency is still looking to be No Earlier Than early May. This comes less than three weeks after SpaceX and another company, Space Adventures, revealed tentative plans to launch space tourists on a record-breaking Crew Dragon flight, using the Crew Dragon to take tourists to orbital heights only surpassed by a small number of flights in the Gemini and Apollo programs.
Then I learned that Axiom has been talking about creating a private space station for years - that article is dated 2017. Their plans aren't a completely independent station the size of the ISS, that would mean raising billions of dollars, but a module that could become part of the ISS, and that would be leased to anyone who had work they need that can best be done in space.
Rendering of the first Axiom Space module (lower right, wrapped in body-mounted solar panels) docked to the International Space Station (ISS). This module would use one port when docked to the ISS but will provide three additional ports. (Image: © Axiom Space)
It's worth noting that the ISS is only planned to be in service through 2024 and there are already plans to decommission and deorbit the $100 Billion dollar habitat. NASA officials are hoping to maintain funding through 2028; that would be 30 years after the first modules were placed on orbit. That pretty much guarantees that the annual maintenance costs for the ISS are going up (I have a 40 year old house - DAMHIK). Axiom is trying to get into that mix somewhere.
A private space station "is likely an idea whose time has come," said Dylan Taylor, a leading angel investor of private space endeavors.I'm pretty sure I've said here before that in the Apollo years, I thought the drive would continue and that by Y2K we'd have permanent colonies on the moon, perhaps extending to Mars. It was a widely held belief. It's starting to look as though the critical mass of people who want to see it has been reached and there are enough people with ideas meeting enough people with capital so that we just may see humanity as a space-faring population. Why? For the same reason that people take boats far from shore, or climb that mountain. Because it's there.
"There are several revenue streams that are near and present that could support a private space station," Taylor said, "including in-space manufacturing, microgravity research and tourism — for both individuals and sovereign nation astronauts — and in-space supply logistics."
"If international governments do not vote to extend the life of the ISS, then a commercial substitute will be needed," said Derek Webber, author of the newly released book "No Bucks, No Buck Rogers: Creating the Business of Commercial Space" (Curtis Books, 2017).
Still waiting for Bigelow Aerospace to finally lift one or more of their inflatable modules up into orbit. Hotel, manufacturing, whatever. Just still waiting.ReplyDelete
Back in the Apollo/Saturn days, there were wacko plans to make a ring station out of 6 or more Saturn IV-B upper stages in a ring formation and a center IV-B to serve as the hub, with, of course, smaller spokes.
That would be at least 7 SkyLab sized stations linked together.
Now that would have been a space station!
The Space.com link ( https://www.space.com/35488-private-space-station-2020-axiom-space.html ) has a link to one of their stories about six different companies working on "private deep space habitats"; Bigelow is one. The others are the same old big guys, like Lock Mart, Orbital ATK, Boeing and a couple of others I don't know.Delete
Bigelow has orbited 2 separate inflatable satellites, and one inflatable habitat module on the ISS.Delete
I'm betting on Bigelow. Just wish NASA would, too.
IIRC, somebody was trying to buy or lease the Mir before it came down.ReplyDelete
if a guy would find a high nickel/iron asteroid of about two million tons or even one of the lighter metals and move it into a medium earth orbit, you would see a lot of activity in orbital space station building and private financing thereof. government is involved in spaceflight because of the risk levels. you can't sue the government unless it agrees to be sued and there would be lawyers involved which for many investors would be a turnoff. lawyers can smell loose money from upwind.ReplyDelete
While I am the biggest booster of commercial space, I would be extremely opposed to anyone, commercial or otherwise, attempting to move an asteroid into Earth orbit. The risk is too high.Delete
Leave the asteroid where it is and turn it into a city. Let Elon get rich providing transportation. Keep the damn things away from our only planet, when one minor screwup can turn us into dinosaurs.
John Ringo, in his "Troy Rising" series, speculates on the use of space-based mirrors to reflect light to other mirrors in order to put a whole heck of a lot of sunlight on a specific target, much like a laser.Delete
One of the uses is to inflate a large asteroid into a large bubble, with only 1.5km thick walls and an interior space of 6km diameter emptiness. Kazap, instant really big space habitat, with lots of mass to soak up radiation.
And then the makers attached an Orion drive to it.
That, that right there would be totally cool.
risk to high to move an asteroid into a medium high earth orbit? concerns about risk are nonsense when it comes to an asteroid in orbit. you would be more concerned about the junk in orbit already falling on your head if you were only aware of just how much BIG pieces are up there capable of surviving atmospheric entry. what do you think, walking down the street and have an toilet from a dead space station land on your head. is that a risk your willing to take. your going to die any way, why not die famously?Delete
If your not happy with an asteroid orbiting at 2500Km how about at a LaGrange point? it only increases the cost of getting there. elon would like that. no one ever explains their method of inflating a lump of molten rock and metals filled with gasses into a uniform shape. I believe the most practical method is to start with a large enough lump and put mining machines to work tunneling throughout the thing. it is why your there, kill two problem in one blow. mine the goodies and build out the habitat.
but, don't let your snowflake melt, it would cost way more then the buyer would be willing to pay.
DAMHIK? WTF? I think I'm going to start a new campaign to eliminate acronyms from the Internet. What should I call it? 'Spell Free or Die'?ReplyDelete
Sorry, Chuck. It's Don't Ask Me How I Know. When an acronym is important to what I'm saying, like ISS, I usually spell it out the first time, give the acronym, and then use that.Delete
For lame jokes like this, it doesn't seem worth the typing.
There was "product placement" in the film 2001, which is not a bad thing.ReplyDelete
I'm thinking that we need to build "Elysium" just like in the film, but if we do that, we waste Matt Damon early in the film, or the dummy probation officer sends him back to the joint and the habitat lives on, in elitist splendor.
It's interesting and even fun to imagine and dream about such things as space stations being common and space travel being an ordinary and routine event for normal people...perhaps only the 'upwardly mobile' but still ordinary. It's aReplyDelete
pleasant break from reality. And that reality is that the ONLY way we get ANYTHING in to space is on top of giant collection of explosive chemicals in a vessel that is 90% propellant and only 10% payload. And that journey to orbit...JUST ORBIT and not further, costs as much as $10K per POUND of payload. Even if private enterprise could slash that cost by 90% it would still cost close to $200K to put a typical human into orbit. Not counting ANY of the supplies said person needs to survive. So until science/technology finds a solution to climbing out of this gravity well that is a HELLUVA lot more efficient mankind, with the rare exception of a handful of specialists, is sentenced to existence on this rock.
Elon Musk thinks he can get the cost of putting a Starship into LEO for approximately $2 million (fuel and amortized cost) in the not too distant future. The Starship could potentially carry 100 people and therefore it would not be much over $20,000 per person to ride to and return from LEO. If you approach it from cargo weight and say the average person is 250 pounds (person, flight suit and luggage) you still have 175,000 pounds of cargo capability. That would mean the cost to orbit per person is under $5,000. If you want to take a few day "space vacation", the cost might be about $10,000. That is affordable by quite a few.Delete
Musk has teased the idea of using the Starship for global travel. How much would businesses pay for a seat to be anywhere on earth in less than an hour?Delete
That may be where the most money could be made for Starship. It could well become the future. I could imagine costs being not that much more than business class, depending on the how they work it. I've been sent on a biz trip almost halfway around the world and the company paid thousands for it. I had to spend a day in airports and airplanes both going there and coming back. I can see CEOs saying they're too important for that, so send them on a Starship and let them do it all in one day.
New York to Shanghai in 39 minutes.
That article on the verge was skeptical of landing Starships as reliably as airplanes, but that was when SpaceX had only landed 16 boosters, not 50. ;-)
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.ReplyDelete
Technological challenges to the side, as the practicality of a private station in low Earth orbit (LEO) approaches, governments will become ever more hostile to the idea. LEO is the ultimate "high ground" over Earth-based conflicts, and every spacefaring government will want a monopoly over it. They will not want private parties to have free access to it. The argument will (of course) be about "national security." Remember that you read it here first.ReplyDelete
It is a national security issue as private space stations risk endangering everyone.Delete
Of course if we were as concerned about national security as we should be, there would be better border controls and extreme controls on the many of the life sciences to make sure some nut job doesn't cook a doomsday plague that makes COVID 19 look like the sniffles.
We are way behind the 8 ball on that.
And no, government is especially trustworthy on that issue. Its just there isn't anyone else to do it.
Yet another government worshipper. Yawn.Delete
There is an adult (maybe R-rated at times) graphic novel called "Escape from Terra". The first escapees are a group that has been contracted with to decommission the ISS. Instead they put a more powerful engine system on it and leave Earth-Moon space for I think the Asteroid Belt. Just sayin'; who knows what will happen.ReplyDelete
The USA of the 1960's was at least somewhat moral as were many of the Wests elite. Now? Nope.ReplyDelete
A private space station would be Elysium with more pedophiles and a mass driver or Moonraker germ warfare capsules to keep the rest of us in check or cull the masses, i.e you and me.
I'd rather they rot down here with the rest of us than flit off to avoid the consequences of running our societies into the ground.
All that aside, space living is also stupid for a myriad of reasons. If space enthusiasts want to help humanity they'd be working to early detection and an asteroid shield instead of this nonsense.
When it's time to decommission the ISS they should part it out. That's a lot of mass already in orbit, and it's worth a lot.ReplyDelete
Remember a couple of months ago when two private satellites docked for orbital servicing? I could see a booster/service module hooking up with a module off the ISS and then making off with it. That's a cheap private space station.