Jeff Bezos talks about the need for humanity to go to space and how his company Blue Origin will accomplish this goal. He also discusses the unique culture and motto of Blue Origin. This talk was given at the 2016 Pathfinder Awards at Seattle’s Museum of Flight. Bezos is interviewed by Steve Taylor, chief pilot for Boeing Flight Services
Blue Origin has launched a reusable rocket ship called New Shepard on uncrewed suborbital test flights. But Bezos has much bigger ambitions, for an orbital launch system called New Glenn and a super-rocket called New Armstrong.
During last weekend’s Pathfinder Awards banquet at Seattle’s Museum of Flight, Bezos referred to his long-term goal of having millions of people living and working in space, as well as his enabling goal of creating the “heavy lifting infrastructure” to make that happen.
In Bezos’ view, dramatically reducing the cost of access to space is a key step toward those goals.
“Then we get to see Gerard O’Neill’s ideas start to come to life, and many of the other ideas from science fiction,” Bezos said. “The dreamers come first. It’s always the science-fiction guys: They think of everything first, and then the builders come along and they make it happen. But it takes time.”
Babylon 5 is a fictional space station and the primary setting in the television series Babylon 5. Its design is a variation of an O’Neill cylinder.
The O’Neill cylinder (also called an O’Neill colony) is a space settlement design proposed by American physicist Gerard K. O’Neill in his 1976 book The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space. O’Neill proposed the colonization of space for the 21st century, using materials extracted from the Moon and later from asteroids.
An O’Neill cylinder would consist of two counter-rotating cylinders. The cylinders would rotate in opposite directions in order to cancel out any gyroscopic effects that would otherwise make it difficult to keep them aimed toward the Sun. Each would be 5 miles (8.0 km) in diameter and 20 miles (32 km) long, connected at each end by a rod via a bearing system. They would rotate so as to provide artificial gravity via centrifugal force on their inner surfaces
Some might say the limits to growth will force civilization into a static condition, but Bezos sees space industry as the frontier for continued growth.
“I predict that in the next few hundred years, all heavy industry will move off planet. It will be just way more convenient to do it in space, where you have better access to resources, better access to 24/7 solar power,” he said last weekend. “Solar power on Earth is not that great, because the planet shades us half the time. In space, you get solar power all the time. So there’ll be a lot of advantages to doing heavy manufacturing there, and Earth will end up zoned residential and light industry.”
Bezos sees a different imperative at work: humanity’s growing need for energy.
“We need to go into space if we want to continue growing civilization,” he explained. “If you take baseline energy usage on Earth and compound it at just 3 percent per year for less than 500 years, you have to cover the entire surface of the Earth in solar cells. That’s just not going to happen.”
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos would like to see a fully colonized solar system. Bezos also has a rocket company Blue Origin and he has helped fund General Fusion, Canadian nuclear fusion company. Blue Origin moves toward its goal of having “millions of people living and working in space,” the company has launched and landed the same rocket four times in a row, an unprecedented feat aimed at ultimately lowering the cost of space travel. By 2018, it plans to soon fly tourists on short jaunts past the edge of space in capsules designed with large windows.
“I wish there were a trillion humans in the solar system. Think how cool that would be. You’d have a thousand Einsteins at any given moment—and more. There would be so much dynamism with all of that human intelligence. But you can’t do that with the resources on Earth or the energy on earth. So if you really want to see that kind of dynamic civilization as we expand through the solar system, you have to figure out how to safely move around and use resources that you get in space.”
“I think NASA should work on a space-rated nuclear reactor. If you had a nuclear reactor in space– especially if you want to go anywhere beyond Mars, you really need nuclear power. Solar power just gets progressively difficult as you get further way from the sun. And that’s a completely doable thing to have a safe, space-qualified nuclear reactor.”
New Glenn will have 17 million Newtons of thrust from seven engines, about half the lifting power of the Saturn V.
Bezos says he plans to launch the New Glenn rocket by the end of the decade, and hinted at an even bigger rocket to come, called New Armstrong.
The 52 year old Bezos the world’s third-richest man with a net worth of around $67 billion. Bezos is over 5 times richer than Elon Musk ($11.7 billion net worth). Elon Musk also wants millions of people in space. Although Elon wants more people in cities in Mars than in orbit.
Bigelow expandable space stations and larger reusable rockets would enable large scale space colonization
Bigelow Aerospace has designed 2100 cubic meter expandable space station modules which might be launchable by a slightly refined Spacex Heavy. Bigelow now has a expanded room on the International Space Station.
The larger planned Interplanetary Transport System would be able to launch modules that are ten times larger.
Fuel could be launched and stored at fuel depots in orbit. This would enable more cargo to be moved to Mars with refueling in orbit and other locations in space.
Spacex could launch 100 Bigelow 2100 cubic meter modules for about $1 billion using two reusable Spacex Heavies over as little as one year (one launch per week). Blue Origin might also be able to make larger reusable rockets.
This would be 200,000 cubic meters of volume. This would be enough for 2000 people with the same facilities per person as the Hercules resupply depot design.
Spacex could launch 1000 Bigelow 6000 cubic meter modules in one year.
This would be 600,000 cubic meters of volume. This would be enough for 6000 people with the same facilities per person as the Hercules resupply depot design.
Reaching 1 million people in orbit would be 170 of the one thousand expandable modules. 6000 people is a bit more than the number of people in a large aircraft carrier. The Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas has 3309 rooms and suites.
1 million people would be like 170 large light weight versions of cruise ships, hotels or air craft carrier structures in orbit.
Robotic and additive manufacturing could enable massive frames and massive solar power arrays
Tethers Unlimited is currently developing a revolutionary suite of technologies called “SpiderFab” to enable on-orbit fabrication of large spacecraft components such as antennas, solar panels, trusses, and other multifunctional structures. SpiderFab provides order-of-magnitude packing- and mass- efficiency improvements over current deployable structures and enables construction of kilometer-scale apertures within current launch vehicle capabilities, providing higher-resolution data at lower life-cycle cost.
They have received a $500,000 phase 2 NASA NIAC contract, which follows a $100,000 phase 1 contract to develop the technology.
In 2016, Firmamentum, a division of Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI), announced that it had signed a contract with Space Systems Loral (SSL), a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, to prepare a flight demonstration of in-space manufacture of a component on a communications satellite. Firmamentum’s in-space manufacturing hardware is intended to fly as part of SSL’s “Dragonfly” program, which will demonstrate in-space robotic assembly of geostationary (GEO) communications satellites, enabling dramatic improvements in GEO satellite performance and mission flexibility. The Dragonfly program is funded under NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate’s (STMD) Tipping Point initiative to work with industry to advance the goals for robotic and human exploration of the solar system through the development of critical space technologies.
Firmamentum’s demonstration will validate a technology for on-orbit additive manufacturing of carbon-fiber composite structures. This technology, called the “Trusselator”, enables space systems to fabricate large, lightweight, and high-performance truss structures to support antennas, sensors, solar arrays, and other key components.
100 of the 2100 cubic meter stations would be about $50 billion without any volume discount.
100 of the 6000 cubic meter station might be about $100 billion.
Launching with reusable rockets would be about $1 billion.
Say $10-20 billion for Spiderfab constructed solar power dish arrays and structure.
There would need to be $10-20 billion for operations.
It would be less than the cost of the international space station.
Spiderfab, Expandable stations and Reusable rockets could make affordable large scale orbital colonization
A ten thousand person colonization space ship design is proposed with a focus on how the community and living spaces should be designed. People are assigned area with the density of the city of Seattle and standard mixed use living areas. Everyone has 50 square meters of living space. There is agricultural and other green areas.
The International space station was built with 160 modules and dozens of launches over fifteen years. It weighs 450 tons. It has about 850 cubic meters of pressurized volume and has a crew of 6.
The cost is $150 billion including 36 shuttle flights at $1.4 billion each, Russia’s $12 billion ISS budget, Europe’s $5 billion, Japan’s $5 billion, and Canada’s $2 billion. Assuming 20,000 person-days of use from 2000 to 2015 by two to six-person crews, each person-day would cost $7.5 million, less than half the inflation adjusted $19.6 million ($5.5 million before inflation) per person-day of Skylab.
Henson Bootstrapping plan for planet wide energy replacement
Space based solar power satellites could replace fossil fuels. This would require both lower cost and higher volume than SpaceX could deliver. The cost to GEO can’t go to over $200 per kilogram and the required traffic level is 15 million tons per year to LEO. (12 million to GEO.)
The main advantage of orbital space based solar is you get 5 times as much sun as the best deserts and 15 times for places like Japan and the UK.
Henson’s space based solar plans solve energy concerns without subsidies and make a lot of money. Low energy cost makes everyone better off.
Initial target cost is 3 cents per kWh to undercut coal, 2 cents or less to replace oil.
Henson uses a method of designing to cost. Design to cost is a management strategy and supporting methodologies to achieve an affordable product by treating target cost as an independent design parameter that needs to be achieved during the development of a product
Synthetic Oil from electricity. Hydrogen in a barrel of oil takes ~20 MWh. At two cents, $40 per bbl.
Capital $10 per bbl based on this plant below
How much can we spend on space based power satellites?
For low maintenance and zero fuel cost, the levelized Cost of Electricity is capital cost of 80,000
That is $2400 per kW for the target of three cents per kWh
$2400 per kW is split
$200 per kW for the rectenna,
$900 per kw for the power satellite parts.
That leaves $1300 per kw for transport.
At 6.5kg per kW, that’s $200 per kg about a 100 to 1 reduction over current cost to haul comm sats to GEO.
You cannot build in LEO and fly a power satellite out to GEO on it’s own power, there is too much space junk and takes too long. (Boeing, 1970s, hit 40 times)
Hensons plan is to use Skylon space planes for launching to LEO
Then use arcjets to boost to 2,000 kilometers (above almost all of the space junk)
Designs for these propulsion power satellites use concentrated PV and large radiators to get rid of the waste heat from the 40% efficient cells. Where clouds are rare, (like in space) CPV works better than regular PV
At 2000 km, the stack unfolds to make a propulsion power satellite.
Musk Mars plans and hyperloop on Mars
For Musk, the prime driver behind settling people on Mars is to provide a backup plan for humanity in the event of a planetwide catastrophe – an asteroid strike, for example, or environmental ruin, or a species-killing pandemic.
Elon’s Vision of the Mars Colony
Initially, glass panes with carbon fiber frames to build geodesic domes on the surface, plus a lot of miner/tunneling droids. With the latter, you can build out a huge amount of pressurized space for industrial operations and leave the glass domes for green living space.
Babylon 5 TV show referred to a Mars city with a big dome and tube transport. Tube transport similar to Musk vision of Hyperloop
Real Mars and Spacex Plans
The current Mars plan is:
- Send Dragon scouting missions, initially just to make sure we know how to land without adding a crater and then to figure out the best way to get water for the CH4/O2 Sabatier Reaction.
- Heart of Gold spaceship flies to Mars loaded only with equipment to build the propellant plant.
- First crewed mission with equipment to build rudimentary base and complete the propellant plant.
- Try to double the number of flights with each Earth-Mars orbital rendezvous, which is every 26 months, until the city can grow by itself.
The Flight Tank for the Interstellar Transport was the most important part of the announcement
The flight tank will actually be slightly longer than the development tank shown, but the same diameter.
That was built with latest and greatest carbon fiber prepreg. In theory, it should hold cryogenic propellant without leaking and without a sealing linker. Early tests are promising.
Will take it up to 2/3 of burst pressure on an ocean barge in the coming weeks.
The spaceship would be limited to around 5 g’s nominal, but able to take peak loads 2 to 3 times higher without breaking up.
Booster would be nominal of 20 and maybe 30 to 40 without breaking up.
Spacex has built a full sized carbon composite fuel tank.
The Interplanetary Transport system can launch 550 tons to low earth orbit which is nearly four times as much as the Saturn V. It would be over four times as powerful as the SLS in the final version of the SLS
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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