Entrepreneurial Space Revolution

How big a deal was the success of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy? In 2010, NASA and the Augustine commission determined that it would cost $36 billion and 12 years to develop a heavy-lift vehicle. This meant that the Bush moon program was deemed to be too costly and not practical. SpaceX created a heavy-lift vehicle in six years for less than a billion dollars and it is over 75% reusable.

Entrepreneurial space companies are now completing development in one-third the time for one-tenth the cost.

This seems to demonstrate that reusable rocket technology development previously failed not for technical reasons but for institutional reasons.

Rocket Labs was started by an engineer who raised $300 million. This has reached orbit in New Zealand. New Zealand does not have a space program.

For thousands of years, the oceans and rivers have generated huge wealth from low wealth transport. This has shaped where cities are built and provided a large portion of the world’s economy and shapes global trade.

Now we can have zero-drag space access with point-to-point travel with reusable rockets.

Zubrin observes the new entrepreneurial approach has caused an entrepreneurial surge in nuclear fusion development. Nuclear fusion rockets can be more impactful and useful than nuclear fusion for energy. Nuclear fusion for energy is displacing alternatives for energy using solar, wind, coal etc… Nuclear for energy has to achieve lower cost to develop major new energy advantages. Nuclear fusion for rockets can enable entirely new capabilities like travel up to 10% of light speed.

22 thoughts on “Entrepreneurial Space Revolution”

  1. I am less optimistic about General Fusion than I am about the other two, though. But maybe the rivalry between the two could motivate Musk to look towards fusion as well.

  2. Energy is a huge market that probably is usually ready for disruption at some point.

    Fusion isn’t even a market yet and already has dozens of disruption projects attempting to make breakthroughs.

  3. Besides they will need it, hopefully realizing it before the first global martian sandstorm takes the sunlight away for months, and some people die.

  4. “And until SpaceX has a proven record”

    You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means.

  5. Energy just went through a disruption with fracking which is why gas and oil prices are pretty low despite craziness in the middle-east.

    Energy is a HUGE market. It is always ripe for disruption. Here’s hoping that some plucky alt-fusion company makes things work out 😉

  6. The basics for making a water cooled, graphite moderated reactor from natural Uranium aren’t that difficult. And if you make a mess on Mars people probably won’t care too much.

  7. I think Musk should take a look at Helion (his friend Peter Thiel is already investing in them) and ZAP Energy Inc. The latter could be particularly interesting for him due to the small size of the device.

  8. His friend Peter Thiel is already investing in Helion Energy. So who knows? Maybe Musk will follow suit once it becomes apparent that they can make it work?
    That said, Musk might also want to look at ZAP, which probably has more aerospace applications due to it’s smaller size. Thought I believe that Helion’s reactor would have better economics.

  9. I’d guess that a major part of Musk’s success comes from selecting the fields that are ripe for disruption. Not just choosing a field where we would like to see disruption and somehow making it happen.

  10. ”Nuclear fusion for energy is displacing alternatives for energy using solar, wind, coal etc.”. Come on – that is absurd. Nuclear fusion for energy is literally nonexistent, with no serious prospects on anything shorter than a decadal timescale. I get that you like to be a conduit for peoples’ ideas, but please exercise at least a little critical view.

  11. True, but they will probably need to order the reactor from Russia or China due to environmentalists.

  12. But NASA assistance was very valuable. NASA has been very supportive of American private rocketry. And until SpaceX has a proven record, they will go with the government contractor that does, or the other thing.
    Because National Security.

  13. I’d agree if Tokamaks were the only game in town – Tokamak Energy is just Elon’s type of approach to cracking commercialization – but there are multiple horses in the race right now, Fusion is not an entrenched market needing disruption, and Frankly, I’m not sure how much anyone could accelerate the race to break-even beyond what we’re already seeing. It’s exciting times for fusion.

    Personally, I’d love to see him get involved in next-gen developments of enhanced geothermal, and tech( I.E. Hypersciences) that can get to even greater depths. THAT could really change things up.

  14. I just wish we could get Elon Musk and a startup company he would setup, involved in fusion energy. If it would be like his other companies we would get fusion reactors fast. If he did not go public and let the government slow him down that is.

  15. The nice thing is that a generation or two down that road, the people in those orbits won’t have to ask Earth for permission to build rockets capable of constant long-term acceleration.

  16. We will need nuclear rockets of any kind to go beyond Mars and probably the asteroids.

    People can’t spend 2-3 or more years in microgravity to get to Jupiter or Saturn, even if the mighty Starship can actually do the trip. The health effects of radiation and weightlessness would be unacceptable.

    Also we’ll need them for sending probes to near interstellar space and eventually to the Solar gravity lens focus, a very interesting place needing a lot of fast missions that get there in less than a decade and remain precisely controllable after that.

    Crewed Jupiter and Saturn missions can wait for later in the century, though. We will have a handful with the upcoming blooming of LEO, MEO, GSO and cislunar activities with Mars included to care much about that in the short term.

    But probes can certainly use nuclear rockets now.

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