Every other Space Agency in the world knows that SpaceX has won with reusable rockets. All of the existing non-reusable rockets cannot compete. The Japanese, Chinese, Europeans and Russians know that SpaceX is going to take all of the commercial space launch. SpaceX already has over half of the commercial space launch.
The US just needs to kill Space Launch System (SLS) and put the $4 billion per year into incentivizing more flights of SpaceX rockets.
The US could redirect the SLS money to just purchase SpaceX BFR flights and put up thousands of people into space, build a gigawatt of space-based solar power and establish lunar bases and space mining. This would give the US a lead in space that could be sustained until 2100.
In the meantime, SpaceX has proved out first-stage rocket reuse. SpaceX is developing systems to recover the fairings and the second stage. SpaceX should have the 150-ton capacity fully reusable BFR ready in 4 to 5 years.
Now if the US helped purchase the first 12 launches of each SpaceX BFR the costs per kilogram would drop below $200 per kilogram. $200 million worth of SpaceX BFR launches for each new BFR would probably be enough. $4 billion per year worth of Space Launch System budget would support about 20 new SpaceX BFR’s per year. A fleet of 100 SpaceX BFRs would come from $20 billion. This is five years of Space Launch System. Space Launch will not even have its first three tests flights after spending another $20 billion.
Right now the space industry is launching about 500-700 tons per year.
The US spends $60 billion per year on NASA, military and intelligence space programs. This means over $1.8 trillion over 30 years is what would be the expected budget. There is also the commercial space industry and international space efforts.
Putting the $4 billion per year that is being wasted on Space Launch System towards building a gigawatt of Space Based Solar power and the first large space station.
The International Space station cost over $100 billion. The cumulative budget put into the space shuttle program was over $200 billion.
The proposed worldship had 40 modules that were 120 meters by 155 meters. Two Bigelow BA2100 modules that are already designed could be used and provide more space than the space station.
Bigelow has 2100 cubic meter modules designed that are 18 meters by 12 meters. Cruise ship rooms are about 60 cubic meters. A Bigelow BA2100 module could have 15 rooms each. Half the space used for hallway and other purposes. 100 BA2100 modules could comfortably hotel about 1,500 people. Less room is needed for temporary stays than for long-term colonization. The first megabase would be for a more crude hotel and to house people to work on industrializing space.
A SpaceX BFR could launch two BA 2100 modules at a time. The bigelow modules are built on the ground and would only need to be attached to a rotating frame.
About 8 SpaceX BFR launches could be sufficient for an initial 150 person rotating station.
Ten SpaceX launches would provide a 150 person station with one gravity from rotation. Those could be the subsidized launches to get the flight rate up to support lower cost. Three such stations could be built per year including supporting the cost of Bigelow modules.
Priorities would be to establish better in space construction and in space assembly.
The SpaceX BFR seems like it might be ready by 2023. This will likely be ahead of proven large-scale space construction is established.
The beams and materials for construction can thus be brought up with SpaceX BFR cargo delivery.
Moon landings over 50 years ahead of other nations
The moon landings were over 50 years ahead of other nations. Matching Skylab took over 45 years for China to match. If SpaceX succeeds with the BFR it will take 15-40 years for other nations to match it. China is working on a plan that with no schedule slippage would match the BFR in 2040.
If the US presses the BFR advantage to leap ahead with a gigawatt of space-based solar power and the first 1000 people in space colonies and space hotels before 2030, then it would be past 2050 for countries to catch up to that point. Constantly pushing ahead and the US can ride this lead until 2100. This is like the multi-decade dominance of commercial aviation the US had with Boeing and the other aviation companies.
The US had the latter half of the 20th century as its own for space and this was from what was done from 1960-1975. The US then coasted and squandered the lead. The US has another chance and not just lead but fully open space and get more out of it than what was contributed by commercial aviation. It not just leading by being the tallest midget or the fastest turtle.
Boeing 747 and B52s
Over 1500 Boeing 747s were built.
The US also had a sixty year lead with the B52 bomber. China’s newest heavy bombers cannot match the range and payload of the B52. The US did not just build one or two. The US built 744 of B52s. B52s were also built by Boeing.
Hundreds of SpaceX BFR (civilian and military) could follow what the Boeing 747 and Boeing B52 were.
The US has had a twenty-year lead fall into its lap with SpaceX and the BFR. Now just use it to build.
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.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.