What are the next levels for space activities?
1000 or more times the flight and material in space
New and vastly larger and more profitable business
Industrialization and use of space resources
Nextbigfuture would say that what is needed for advancement to the next level is:
much lower costs to go to space
much lower costs to build in space
more infrastructure for energy in space
more key proven technology
The key parts are being able to use the various earth orbits, the moon and Cis-lunar area.
Lower costs to space
Much lower costs should have a major breakthrough prior to 2030 with the SpaceX BFR. This could be ensured by canceling the Space Launch System, Orion and the Lunar Gateway. This would free up $100 billion to actually advance space capabilities in a major way.
A fleet of ten fully reusable SpaceX BFR each flying twice a week would be able to take 100,000 tons into space every year. This would be 1,000 launches per year. In 2017 there were less than 100 launches with about 257 tons of payload. The ten SpaceX BFR could be built in one year. There should be 100 SpaceX BFR by 2030. There will also be the small 3D printed rockets from Rocket lab which could also have high flight rates. Blue Origin should also be flying. SpaceX even has the goal of multiple flights per day with the SpaceX BFR.
30,000 launches per year by 2030 with 3 million tons per year into space is possible. The cost could be below $100 per pound. This would be about the level of the commercial aviation in the 1950s.
Using energy and materials available in space can lower costs by another factor of ten.
Having facilities in cycling orbits can also increase efficiency.
The vastly more profitable business would be global internet provision. Thousands of satellites in low earth orbit or a smaller number in higher orbits beam forming to communicate directly with smartphones could be a $30 billion to trillion dollar per year business.
Micrometer accurate GPS and space imaging can also enable robots and drones to have more function on earth.
Space systems can boost the efficiency and productivity of existing earth industries and create new industries. Generating trillions of dollars in new value will provide the private funds to build fast solar system travel, laser-pushed systems and nuclear buildout and massive space colonization.
Large and light at least 100 meter sized structures and then kilometer sized structures would enable huge space telescopes but also giant solar power arrays. The future of next level space business would be helped more with giant solar power arrays producing tens of megawatts or a gigawatt of power. Giant structures in space would also enable giant habitats and industrial facilities.
1. Space bubbles
2. Self-assembled modular
3. Spider-fab in space construction
Devin Crowe gave an update on the NASA NIAC study on one-kilometer space bubble structures which can be used for giant solar power or solar sails.
The plan is bring liquid and gas and blow a large spherical bubble and then shine a wavelength to solify the material. They would spray part of the bubble with a very thin metal layer to make a reflective telescope or a mirror for space solar power.
A cubesat would be able to hold the bubble liquid and gas to inflate a 2-meter diameter metalized sphere.
They would want to create a 30-meter space bubble telescope and then a 100-meter and then a 1000-meter space telescope.
Self-assembly of large modular structures
Cornell University has a NASA NIAC study for a fully modular self-assembled massive space telescope. They are taking mirrors segments based on the current James Webb space telescope mirror segments and then adding in some adjustments so that each piece can function in any random location. They also add solar sails and velcro attachments so that the modules with solar sails can come in contact and stick together. After the object settle then they use magnets to creep into the exactly the correct position to fit together for a larger telescope mirror. The solar sail would be detached and tethered as a sunshade.
800 some modules could form a 30-meter space telescope. Such a telescope would be able to image the surface of an exoplanet and differentiate between a world with a supercontinent or with other continent distributions.
8000 some modules would form a 100-meter space telescope. 80,000 modules could form a 1000-meter space telescope.
They have determined the best orbit to assemble the modules. It is an orbit with some complexity but with the benefit that modules would bump into each other at low speeds.
• SpiderFab architecture combines robotic assembly with additive manufacturing techniques adapted for space
• On orbit fabrication enables order.of.magnitude improvements in packing efficiency and launch mass for large systems. Higher Power, Resolution, Sensitivity and Bandwidth
• On.orbit fabrication with SpiderFab will enable NASA to accomplish 10X more science.per.dollar
• NIAC and SBIR work has validated feasibility of the key processes for SpiderFab
• They are preparing technology for flight demonstrations
• Affordable pathfinder demo can create new mission capability
Rudranarayan Mukherjee, NASA JPL gave an update on progress to Robotic Assembly of Space Assets: Architectures and Technologies. This is the path to making 100 meter and even multi-kilometer diameter space telescopes and starshades in space.
The presentation was at the Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group Presentations at the FISO telecon.
They are able to assemble 3-meter truss modules in the lab with robotic systems in 26 minutes
They have looked at sending robotic assembly systems to the space station and to have modular telescopes built in space.