A Hyper-Connected World With 25 Times Faster Travel Will Triple the World Economy

Nextbigfuture has looked at the likely future of SpaceX up to 2030 and now recaps the view to 2030 and extends the view to 2050.

The Mars aspect of SpaceX future impact will be less important than how 25X the speed of sound travel transforms our world and has huge economic impacts.

Geoffrey West and the Sante Fe Institute performed a study of cities and found that if the size of a city doubles, then, on average, wages, wealth, the number of patents, and the number of educational and research institutions all increase by approximately the same degree, about 15 percent. They refer to this systematic phenomenon as “superlinear scaling”: produces, and consumes, whether it’s goods, resources, or ideas. Reusable rockets could create a global city of 9-10 billion people by 2050. This would be a “city” with ten-doublings over a ten million person city. This would be a 150% boost in per-person income.

The future history of SpaceX will be as follows:
* SpaceX capture over 60% of the commercial launch market. This has happened.
* SpaceX launches and starts operating Starlink mega constellation. 120 production Starlink satellites are already launched and the initial service will start in mid-2020. There should be 1400 Starlink satellites in orbit by the end of 2020.
* SpaceX flies Starship to orbit in 2021. In 2022 or 2023, SpaceX rolls out its ultra-rapid delivery package service.
* SpaceX annual revenue surpasses NASA’s budget by 2025
* Around 2027, SpaceX is operating over 1000 flights per day for 1 to 6-hour international deliveries.
* Around 2030, SpaceX proves the safety of rockets after millions of flights for human one-hour anywhere passenger service. There would already be over one-hundred Spaceports and thousands of Starships.

There will be mostly single-stage Starships for moving packages and then people around the earth. There will be fewer Super Heavy Booster stages.

Superior Economics for SpaceX Rapidly Fully Reusable Rockets Than Commercial Jets

The Starships will provide mach 20 to mach 25 travel around the planet. Mass-produced SpaceX Starships will be lower cost than the Falcon 9. They will usually have fewer engines and the steel structure will be less expensive. SpaceX Starships could cost about $15-30 million each.

There are almost 30,000 commercial passenger jets in the world today. Those passenger jets cost about $100-300 million each. They can only be flown once or twice a day for long-haul flights because it takes them 8-14 hours to fly the long trips.

The Starships will be able to fly those routes in one hour. Full rapid reusability will mean ten to fifteen flights per day per vehicle. Those full reusable and safe rockets would have superior economics to commercial jets.

By 2035, international travel should increase to about two to three billion international passengers per year.

SpaceX has discussed putting one thousand passengers in each Starship and reducing the cost of each ticket. This could increase the demand for international travel. Travel would be faster, more convenient and could be in the $300-500 per ticket price range.

This could mean about 5-10 billion international passengers per year by 2040.

Thousands of Starships flying packages and people would mean trillions of dollars for SpaceX each year. There would be hundreds of SpaceX Super Heavy Starships building up the cis-lunar construction and industries.

China and other countries will develop fully reusable rockets as well. It was a necessity for countries to develop commercial passenger jets. The US-dominated global travel with the Boeing planes and the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 for decades. It was not until Airbus that there was a major competitor making the vehicles. There were international airlines that bought and owned the US planes. Countries will buy their own fleets of SpaceX Starships.

The renderings of SpaceX moon bases and orbital hotels will be tiny relative to the size of space industries by 2040 and 2050.

The dominant rocket enabled industries of 2020-2050 will be:
Communications, Digital TV and Information : Growing from $250 billion today to a trillion-dollar industry
Passenger Travel : $500 billion to trillion dollar per year
Space Based Solar Power : $200+ billion per year
Package Delivery : $200+ billion per year
Space Hotels : $100+ billion
Space Mining : $100+ billion

For passengers:
By 2040, the world will have high-speed self-driving future cars moving through tunnels at 150-200mph mainly for travel up to 200 mile range.
There will be high-speed rail in low pressure or vacuum tubes and hyperloop for travel at 500 mph to 2000 mph mainly for travel up to 1500 mile range.
Reusable rockets would provide the travel for ranges beyond 1500 miles.

Package Delivery:
Cross country deliveries will be with self-driving electric trucks. They will cross 3000 miles in one-day.
There will also be one to two-hour delivery with rockets around the world.

Regions will connect into megacities because of high-speed travel.

By 2050 about 9 billion of the 10 billion people in the world will be part of a two-hour global giga-region. There is a 15% increase in per capita income when cities population doubles.

Going from 10 million and 20 million person megacities today to fully connected 9 billion people would be about ten doublings in population. This would be a 150% per capita boost in per capita income.

New multiple trillion-dollar industries and faster commerce and a boost from hyper-connectivity will provide an extra tripling to the world economy.

The main value and economic impact for the world would be the hyper-connection and turning the planet into one big super-city. The high-speed travel would support the fleets of rockets. The rockets would then make industrializing space, space tourism, space mining and space-based solar energy trivial.

Space-based solar energy at scale could make hyper-abundant clean energy, which would also boost the world economy.

SOURCES- SpaceX, Analysis by Brian Wang of Nextbigfuture, IATA, BTS
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com

54 thoughts on “A Hyper-Connected World With 25 Times Faster Travel Will Triple the World Economy”

  1. Before such a S-D-M-G city can get built, most of the need for global transport (other than tourism) will have vanished due to automation (no cheaper labor) and near perfect recycling of elemental resources and fossil fuels replaced by either nuclear or space solar power.

    But cultural differences will likely still remain strong – so there would more likely be many SDM cities scattered around the planet.

    That’ll be where the poor live, perhaps with a decent UBI to keep them pacified but with no assets or means to obtain them; or perhaps in a favala-like environment where nearly every one has to hustle hard to get by, so they have no time or energy to rebel. (The rich can live there if they wish, because they can live anywhere.)

  2. ⊕1 buddy…

    You could abstract that a few degrees, and with fairly high confidence assert “most air travel comports people around to visit relatives, take vacations, and engage in an entirely ‘electable’ trip-and-return”.  

    Which then begs, “do we need to go that much faster, given the potential downsides from space-based-free-fall transportation”?

    Wife and I took a 3.8 hour flight from SFO to Austin Texas a couple of weeks back. Had to arrive at the airport 1.5 hours before, and paid the “luggage-underbelly-time-suck” of about 40 minutes.  And of course the 1.2 hours to the airport, and away from it at the other end.  

    1.2 hr car 
    ⊕ 1.5 hr airport 
    ⊕ 3.8 hr flight 
    ⊕ 0.3 hr taxiing
    ⊕ 0.6 hr luggage wait
    ⊕ 0.3 hr LYFT wait
    ⊕ 1.2 hr ride to destination
    8.9 hours

    Home-to-Relatives in Texas. (as measured!)
    AND 8.9 hours in reverse going home. 

    How much could/would that be reduced by hypersonic ballistic missile transport?

    1.2 hr car (different spaceport! Same distance time)
    ⊕ 1.5 hr spaceport check-in
    ⊕ 0.1 hr launch … 1,200 km phase
    ⊕ 0.05 hr drift
    ⊕ 0.1 hr landing … 1,200 km phase
    ⊕ 0.6 hr luggage wait
    ⊕ 0.2 hr LYFT wait
    ⊕ 1.2 hr ride to destination
    5.0 hours

    This is assuming no need for fancy space suits, all that. Really NOT MUCH of a savings. It would be bigger for longer distance flights. But … would it REALLY matter?

    Just Saying,
    -= GoatGuy ✓ =-

  3. Actually, the physics “take-away” is is that “it all depends on the wavelength and baseline distance of the beam, transmitting the power from A→B”. And the divergence-coherence of the beam.  

    For a perfect mirror (or for that matter, a perfectly filled synthetic aperture phased-array), the absolute minimum diameters of both the transmitting and the receiving stations are fit by this formula:

    D⋅d > b × 1.22 λ ;

    Which in English is, “the product of the receiving station diameter ‘d’, and the transmitting phased-array (or mirror) diameter ‘D’ must be greater than the baseline ‘b’ times factor 1.22, times the wavelength of the beam ‘λ’.  

    ALL IN METERS, including wavelength.  

    For example, a baseline of 1.5 million kilometers = 1.5×10⁹ m. Using λ = (1.0 µm = 10⁻⁶ m) in the near infrared band as an efficient transmission choice, we get:

    Dd > 1.5×10⁹ × 1.22 × 10⁻⁶;
    Dd > 1.8×10³;
    Dd > 1800;

    OK, now we have “a factor” for the system in question. (1800)

    Dd > 1800 … and rearranging algebraically:
    D > 1800 / d or
    d > 1800 / D

    Now choosing ‘d’ being, oh, 100 meters:

    D > 1800 / d
    D > 1800 ÷ 100
    D > 18 m

    Showing that the transmitter needs to be AT LEAST 18 meters across. For the PERFECT phased array or parabolic reflector. With a perfectly collimated high-energy beam. 

    So, stuff to remember.
    Just Saying,
    -= GoatGuy ✓ =-

  4. Which means, assuming 1.5 half-life … lemme see … hmmm … 

    1.5 years × 365 = 547 days. 
    (0.5) raised to ¹⁄₅₄₇ power = 0.99874 dilution factor per day
    1 – 0.99874 = 0.00126 removal/day
    ¹⁄ 0.00126 = 790 days for asymptotic add-removal balance.

    … at constant rate of injection. 
    … it also equals the standing overburden load multiplier. 
    Cool, that.

    790 × 132,000,000 = 104,000,000,000 metric tons of stratospheric load, asymptotically approached, of course.  Where the daily injection is equal to the daily wash-out with a 547 day half-life. 

    Ain’t Math Fun?

    Just Saying,
    -= GoatGuy ✓ =-

  5. Thanks for reply.

    I doubt that any country — or consortium of nations — can “get it up” to the degree necessary for the transcontinental evacuated tube transportation system to happen.  

    Just “in city” alone is a challenge: conventional transportation in subsurface viaducts is satisfactory for most people.  At vexingly slow speed, but just sufficient to keep riots from happening.  

    Yes, I tend a bit toward “being a curmudgeon”, I admit. But the curmudgeon in me also recognizes that SO MUCH of the high-fanfare rah-rah-rah futurist malarky is just that. Malarky. Balderdash. Bbb-bb-b-bûllsnot. 

    Just Saying,
    -= GoatGuy ✓ =-

  6. See my post in the other thread about Starship CO2. Supposedly, the stratosphere cycles at about 1.5 year (half) period. Source link in that other post.

  7. The physics is … immutable. To get to 7.8+ km/s, the ‘contents’ needs to be accelerated to that speed. From 0.  

    Moreover, bucking gravity is a real energy-suck. So, the accelerations need to be substantially higher than G₀. And can’t be higher than the passengers’ tolerance to hi-G allow. So, between 1.1 G (takeoff) to 3.0 G (mid flight). Throttled to that until sub-orbital ballistic flight achieved.  

    You know I “do the math”. I’ve sussed out (PERL program) the second-by-second kinetics, and just about the only way to get to 7.8 km/s is by the above acceleration profile.  And shoot for about 100 km altitude, mid-ballistic.  

    2.5 G = 24 m/s². 
    7,800 ÷ 24 =320 sec launch trip. … and 320 sec de-launch.  
    640 sec ÷ 60 = 10.7 minutes of trip.  

    Ballistic drift … depends on distance. 7,800 m/s = 15,000 knots

    … 15,000 nautical miles per hour. Just got to figure the rhumb-line distance over the co-rotating globe between points. That’s all. Oh, and remove ( 2( d = ½at² ) = 2,500 km ) for both ends. For the drift part. 

    -= GoatGuy ✓ =-

  8. Sure, but the tunnels are another matter.

    I’m all for Evacuated Tube Transport. Even written here before about combining it with cable-free elevators and PRT ideas to get a fast, global, door-to-door transportation network. But getting ‘er built, globally, by 2050… I don’t know. Maybe China can pull it off, with their Next Big Belt-and-Road project.

  9. One doesn’t need them at L₁, the reflectors. It’d be fine to construct them as platforms at sea, in a equatorial course. Big, big platforms. Also, paving deserts works, too. Plastic corner-reflectors under glass.  Now, cleaning them, ah that’s a different problem. Robotic dusters tho’ would do the job. Robotic, solar-powered dusters.  Millions of them per km². 

    Corner-reflectors are key… to sending insolation back out efficiently. It’d work well, and not require much technology. Glass, plastic, frames. Solar dusters.  

    There is a LOT of desert on Planet Dirt. 

    And that’d be the boon.  

    10% of desert, solar power farms.
    60% of desert, solar reflectors. Albedo increasers. 
    30% of desert, remaining desert.  
    For the critters. 

    Just Saying,
    -= GoatGuy ✓ =-

  10. I am NOT with Bezos on this. While “space is big” and “space is a super-clean vacuum” are outstanding ideas and concept-validators, there are similar problems “up there” as well as more that aren’t as easily voiced.  That are critical. And that compound-upon-each-other, just like problems in the gravity-well (i.e. Earthside, Dirt, Here…)

    Getting millions of people to orbit isn’t really the energy-problem. It is fairly finite with envisioned rocketry transport realities. Regardless of who makes ’em, it takes somewhere between 30× and 70× the mass of the payload in fuel-and-oxidizer to loft anything, be it potatoes, microchips, dental floss, people or gamma ray spectrum analyzers to space.  Just the nature of the physics involved.  

    But 1,000,000 people • (75 kg × 3 for their stuff) × 50 kg/kg of propellant and oxidizer (being neither optimistic nor pessimistic), yields what … 11 BILLION kilograms of FuelOx. Per million. Or so.  

    One (in the present-Sci-Fi atmosphere sense) assumes not-much-from-Dirtside is necessary to support the millions when they’re all up there humming in unison.  

    Until then… many more kg/person of stuff — fuel, oxidizer (ahem, O₂), food, dental floss … 

    Just Saying,
    -= GoatGuy ✓ =-

  11. Since ALMOST NO ONE who works in cities actually needs to be anywhere near the particular rural surroundings … for anything … except possibly fish … (with modern rapid transportation by trucking and train) 

    THEN it goes to reason that ALL people of Planet Earth could quite readily migrate to a super-duper-mega-giga city.  Where having gut-wrenching space transport isn’t the solution, but a very, very well interconnected network of subterranean evacuated-tube transports.  Smallish pods, seating 2 to 12 people (say), all utilizing the same vacuum-tube system.  All synchronized to millimeters-per-second (differntial) speed, so pods could be injected to long-haul lines with only meters-of-spacing between them.  

    Lord help mechanical failure pile-ups, of course. 

    But, except for that, it’d be golden.  

    In this age of gigahertz clocked, 64 bit, $3 or less ARM multicore chips, having sufficient computing power on-board each pod, to accurately attain this kind of precision … is possible TODAY.  Cheaply. 5× redundancy. Less than $1,000 a pod.

    Just Saying,
    -= GoatGuy ✓ =-

  12. Thanks… To those just reading, “Hey! If we had ham, we could have ham and eggs! … if we had eggs …” 

    -= GoatGuy ✓ =-

  13. And I didn’t talk about …


    Zero-G has its barfing problems. What about the 3+ G’s of chugging-up-to-speed? Can’t be mitigated! Who’d be allowed to book a ticket?


    Lots of it above the atmosphere, you know. Not good stuff, but cosmic rays, gammas, x-rays, the gamut. Hazard pay for crew and pilots?

    [10] INSURANCE

    Kind of says it all, doesn’t it? Value of a life, of 500 … 1000 of them. Risk to cover. Costs, per person … wow.


    Well, US Space Force … are training competent astronauts by the gross, is it? 
    I guess this will emerge as a career opportunity.


    Remember – if “heavy” is contraindicated for normal aircraft, “heavy and comfy” is even more so for spacecraft. Barfworthy seating.


    If it turns out that a bit-o-the-barf ends up jetting all over the cabin and its occupants, there’s going to be some seriously good cleanup required. Let’s conservatively say … every trip.  Without exception. Robots? This is an interesting operational gotcha.

    But hey, other than those 13, its a sure thing, right?

    Just Saying,
    -= GoatGuy ✓ =-

  14. HERE, again … cut-and-pasted from a prior posting (because it STILL makes sense)…


    Substantially as powerful as the Saturn V of Apollo days, going off every few minutes at a rocket-port near a big city?  This’d make the crazy-noisy Concorde look like a hummingbird by comparison.  

    (This, partially mitigated by having spaceports 30+ km from cities…)

    [2] SAFETY

    There is no “plan B” you know: At least 10 obvious failure modes, none of which have reasonable ‘survival’ plans.  


    It’ll be ‘landing’ by rocket-braking. Less of it. That’s the vision, unless ‘they’ clamp big wings on it.  (30 km from cities…)


    So… there aren’t any LIQUID methane depots at the hundred-odd popular big-city sites which might want a rocket port. This is ONLY an investment problem, right?

    [5] BARFING

    Turns out most-everyone gets sick at zero-G.  Much of the ballistic flight is at zero G. How’s that going to work out with 500+ people (the only ‘economically viable’ load size) chucking up their hasticly ill-conceived breakfasts?


    A sudden-vacuum event would be almost assuredly lethal. Not good. If the pilots are wearing space suits, why not the passengers? Or… is this just 2001 Space Odyssey…


    Then there’s the problem that they’re NOT airplanes. Hard to avoid interception by errant … things. Neo-Luddites…

    Just Saying,
    -= GoatGuy ✓ =- (see Part 2, attached)

  15. LOL … let’s see.  
    Purely synthetic methane from CO₂ and water, right?  

    Like anyone, I googled … and found exactly ZERO tons of synthetic methane commercially made, anywhere, today.  Wonder why not… mmm… because we’re awash with the nature-made stuff. Fracking. 

    Lest ANYONE forget, 1,000 starship flights a day – whether they’re using CH₄ (methane) as touted, or H₂ (liquid hydrogen), which has no CO₂ output at all, either way, they’re going to be injecting thousands of tons of CO₂/H₂O into, and above the stratosphere. Millions, a year. 

    1,000 flights × 33% × 400 (Mg=) metric ton of H₂O/CO₂ = 132,000 Mg/day
    132,000 × 365 = 48,000,000 Mg/year

    Wow. Pretty substantial, in absolute numbers. (33% is from amount injected to both stratosphere and mesosphere).  But doing the math on the stratosphere shows it to have a mass of 800,000,000,000 Mg or so. So, in reality, perhaps my fear-of-stratosphere destruction isn’t warranted.

    Just Saying,
    -= GoatGuy ✓ =-

  16. “Europe” (if you count everything west of the Urals) – nope. It already has the megacities it has (London, Istanbul, Moscow etc). There is no general movement of populations flocking to cities. Just look at population rates in 2nd tier (eg Berlin, Paris) who all need to double or triple to become “mega”. Same is true to US and Japan. In the US, you get exurbs (same in Japan). POpulation of Tokyo and New York have stagnated the past decade. There is ZERO evidence that “megacities” are on the rise in developed countries.

    For developing there is a trend but not everywhere. Sao Paulo? Shanghai (hint: = 0). Instead, you get a huge sprawl. For instance, the entire Beijing-Shanghai area is basically one urbanized area.

    You are confusing population size with megacity development. There is also a physical limitation to how big most cities can get if you still want decent sq foot/person and everything around it.

  17. There is always a market. I just think it will be small for this purpose. People who don´t like rollercoasters (and there are plenty) will stay away from this.

    I think for a long time people who want to travel to space or/and “zero g” will need some kind of training or checking to see how they react to scary high Gs followed by zero g.

    That’s ok when some hundreds of people are flying to Mars in 6 months trips (do training or similar). Not when you want to take a 30 minute hop to the other side of the world.

  18. Your argument seems reasonable. I can’t see any flaws in it (besides an exaggeration on the every time we get vomiting) .

    But I can’t help but pattern match this to all the predictions saying exactly the same thing about not having a market for aeroplanes in the first place. Or cars. Or trains.

  19. I am aware of the respective orders of magnitudes and they are addressed correctly in my original comment.

    if we ‘only’ have 10 billion people living at European or N. American energy use it is not an issue

    the missing word is “today’s” as in “European and American today’s energy use”, but what the article contemplates is people and goods routinely travelling distances that are 10 times what they are travelling today. I expect this to decrease GDP/Primary Energy consumption ratio tremendously. If one triples real GDP per capita and use lower EROI energy sources on top of that, the “negligible” 1/40th ratio between greenhouse gases forcing and waste heat forcing computed by David Mackay may become a non negligible 1…

  20. See the calculation at the bottom of the linked page. Yes, if we increase our energy use by a few orders of magnitude we get problems, though if we ‘only’ have 10 billion people living at European or N. American energy use it is not an issue. If we really wanted ridiculously high energy use we might want to put reflectors at the L1 point to reduce the amount of sunlight hitting the earth.

  21. The decoupling of wages from economic productivity that started in 1973 has not abated, so what we can expect from _any_ increase in productivity will go into the pockets of rentiers, leaving vast populations in shanty-towns. This may be stable in places outside the West but the West has a very deep, genetically ingrained, predisposition toward individualism hence a tendency to rebel when power gets too centralized. So a plausible if not probable outcome will be the West will implode while the rest of the world continues toward a Borgcity with vast sterile worker populations replaced by corporate incubators.

    This Borgcity is the end-point of the only _real_ threat from “unfriendly AI” and it is, and has been for decades, already operating in incipient form as the euphemism: “The Global Economy” turning humans into Mechanical Turks.

    Network effect capture is the fentanyl of the Western elites.

  22. Europe has over 700 million. Even if its population will be cut in half, it’ll still have more than enough people for at least a few megacities (esp if defined as only “over 10 mil people”). But even that will take a while. It hasn’t even reached peak population yet.

    US has half as many people, but it’s still growing twice as fast. China is growing almost as fast as the US, but has several times more people. It has twice the population of Europe, in about the same area. Also enough for a few megacities. However, all of these depend on how those people will be distributed.

    Russia and Japan aren’t looking as good. But Japan still has 3 megacities at the moment, and Russia has one (plus at least one other large city, though it doesn’t qualify as a megacity).

    But I agree on the transportation angle.

  23. There is an almost instantaneous way to get from here to there. Its call a telephone. We need to reduce our need to meet face to face since it is wasteful.

  24. This is not about absolute numbers (and the last total primary energy supply estimated by the IEA is already 17000 GW, by the way). The earth thermal balance is delicate. It receives 340W/m2 but a 1.5 W/m2 Radiative forcing from new greenhouse gases (IPCC 2007) isenough to trigger climate change. Waste heat forcing is estimated about 0.028 W/m2, a 50 factor from greenhouse gases (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waste_heat#Anthropogenic_heat) . It seems little, but first, it is not globally well distributed, leading to urban heat effect on mega cities,second, clean energy, from the viewpoint of greenhouse gases, can alter the balance in unexpected ways (solar can decrease earth albedo, nuclear generates a lot of waste heat, etc)

  25. SDCs and faster trains will surely come. The other part of this rests on the assumption that rockets will get as-cheap-as-airflight price per kg.

    That depends on them getting as reliable and reusable as airplanes, which is a tall order from where they are now.

    For my part, I’d be happy if we end up just having nice rockets that can be reused a reasonable amount of times, for sending tens of thousands of tons to space per rocket/year.

    That alone would change things in space for humankind.

  26. Traditional rocket launches, even at SpaceX prices, are still too steep to create an ultra ‘next hour’ shipping service that would be affordable. Now Virgin Galactic, could move people about in a cheaper manner, still the number of takers would be minimal even at their prices.

  27. Everytime an airplane goes through some turbulence, we get some people vomiting. Those “zero g” airplanes (that also do double g in the bottom half of the parables, are known as VOMIT COMETS.

    Does anyone really thinks that millions of people will be able to deal with 2-3 Gs during launch of a Starship, then zero G for 30 minutes?

    I am VERY skeptical of the use of rockets for human transport around the planet. Tourists don´t need such hurry.

    And business will have too small market of specialists that need to get around so fast and at the same time can get USED to zero G….

  28. The *current* problem is that the C captures the solar heat whether we use the energy or not, a far greater amount than we would use. And you are correct about Bezos/long term.

  29. * Around 2027, SpaceX is operating over 1000 flights per day for 1 to 6-hour international deliveries.

    * Around 2030, SpaceX proves the safety of rockets after millions of flights for human one-hour anywhere passenger service. There would already be over one-hundred Spaceports and thousands of Starships.

    Seriously ..?
    I only say: Sonic boom …
    If that prediction come true .. then it will be pretty dystopian

  30. Those researchers have been smoking rope. The global population will peak before 2100. Pray tell which “megacities” in a depopulated China, Europe, Russia, Japan and U.S?

    Is there to be a hyperloop that connects Lagos (80m by 2100) to Kinshasa (80m)? Get on board a Spacex rocket in Mumbai (70m) to get to Nairobi (50m)?

    Why is it that idiotic researchers come to believe their reality is the center of the universe? Bias confirmation? Reading too many sci-fi novels? Bored? Flunked math?

    Draw an arc on a map from Dhaka to Lagos. THAT is the “corridor” of the future megacities. Now, come again, what rockets? Interconnected? in 20 years?

  31. Eventually all the energy we produce becomes waste heat. But some of it takes a while.

    A portion does some useful work along the way, but much of that work is moving things. That becomes mechanical energy, which eventually dissipates as heat via friction. Some energy is used for heating stuff, which becomes heat directly. Some is used for cooling, but that’s just moving heat elsewhere. Meanwhile, the heat pump is just more mechanical stuff (gases and gears etc) dissipating energy as heat.

    Some energy is stored in chemicals or batteries. But electricity is eventually used, so it suffers the same fate. The chemical energy is also eventually released as heat. From fuels and food in particular, but other products too. Some stays in our landfills for a long time, but that too eventually decays, releasing stored energy as heat.

  32. I’d much rather have faster intracity travel using PRT and Skytran, or a combination of Skytran’s maglev for longer intercity travel on straigher “highways” (all “road” in a PRT is actually highway as there are no intersections with traffic lights) plus powered rubber wheels for slower tigher turning sections on track.


    I’m currenlty living in London and large parts of the city would take longer to get to than a 50 minute train ride to Brighton!

    Turning London in one true city where every person can interact with every other person without too much time penalty (the whole point of crowding into towns and cities inthe first place) could have a huge economic impact, and it is doable with today’s technology (some goverment has just got to back the correct form of PRT – hanging pods).

  33. It is indeed a question of scale (and time). As long as the amount that’s beamed to Earth is relatively small, there’s no problem. 10 TW still counts as relatively small. But energy use tends to grow over time in line with GDP, and that growth is exponential. So far, it’s a few percent per year, compound, but that can accelerate with future developments.

    At some point, we’ll reach a scale where the waste heat becomes significant. Since the growth is exponential, that can happen a lot sooner than most people (who bother thinking about this at all) assume. The same can happen with nuclear power on Earth, since nuclear produces surplus energy that isn’t being brought in by the sun. (Fossil fuels would have that problem too, but they have other scaling issues.)

    But I think that by the time we reach such scale, much of our industry will be in space anyway. This is even more likely with space solar, since it’s easier to use near the solar panels than beam it to Earth. And the beaming gets more tricky the more you want to beam.

  34. It’s a minute amount of energy. Let’s assume that we add 10 000 GW (about four times the global total today from all energy sources) of electricity by space solar power. That’s ~10^13 Watts. The solar power irradiated onto the earth surface is about 3*10^17 Watts. So, space solar power would – at worst – increase the energy to earth by a factor of ~0.0033%. Do you really think this is something to worry about?

  35. Solar collection at L1 could intercept light destined to illuminate the Earth. This refined light energy would become an energy product with neutral heating potential. Shielding could also reduce or reapportion solar energy across the Earth’s surface.

  36. Good point. It made me think. Even if the energy was losslessly injected into the Earth’s power systems, the use of it would still give off waste heat. Kind of like a magnifying glass.

  37. The amount of energy implied by the vision articulated above is too much for planet Earth. The fact that it is clean energy improves situation at the margin only. We are only one to two orders of magnitude away of a global warming induced not by greenhouse gases radiative effect, but by waste heat alone. For instance, Space based solar power means concentrating light power that otherwise would be lost in space and transforming it into a microwave beam directed at the planet… There is no technological fix for this because it is the second law of thermodynamics.
    It is the same problem than in microprocessors, the faster they go, the hotter they become.

    I am with Jeff Bezos with this : the only way out is to put factories, and eventually people, in space. But then, distance will matter again, and instead we’ll see emergence of productive clusters, exchanging only high value products. To push the microprocessor analogy further, at some point, thermal management forces to go multi-cores rather than speeding the clock.

  38. I think the next revolutionary thing in rocketry will be a fuel tank inside a fuel tank. One the oxidizer the other the go juice. Possibly one smaller sphere tank inside a larger sphere tank.

  39. Since neither plants nor the animals that eat them can speak (or type), I’ll stand up for them & welcome the massive influx of a primary plant food ingredient (CO2) into the biosphere with thousands of SpaceX launches. A warmer Earth & more CO2 are a big win for the entire food chain!

  40. It’s important if SpaceX is going to quickly ramp up past 1000 Starship flights per day that they start working toward making Starship propellant zero net carbon. A good start to this would be LOX made with renewable energy like Wind Turbines for the sea based Spaceports. Starship uses a lot more LOX than methane by weight. Then eventually purely synthetic methane made from water and extracted CO2.

    Then as Starship replaces long distance airliners, it also contributes less carbon.

  41. Another ham and eggs article.

    Hey Brian, how about you cover some real next big future stuff like nuscale getting phase 4 approval or lithium silicon batteries. You know stuff that might happen. Just saying

  42. The bottom picture isn’t a good illustration. It gives the impression of most of the surface being urbanized. The trend is that most of the population will be urbanized.

    10 billion people at 10000 per km^2 (same as NYC) would be 1 million km^2 of urban area. That is only 0.66% of the land area. More realistically, at an average density of 1000 per km^2 (accounting for less than 100% urban population and less dense urban areas), that’s still less than 7% of the land area. Reality will likely be somewhere in between.

    The result is sparsely dispersed but densely populated urban areas, supposedly (per this article) connected by a fast transportation network – fast enough to get a “global city” effect. But I remain skeptical of the point-to-point rocketry.

  43. “The Mars aspect of SpaceX future impact will be less important”
    “Space-based solar energy at scale could make hyper-abundant clean energy, which would also boost the world economy.”
    I could not agree more.

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