Hypeworthy Technology

Gartner Hype Cycle is misapplied because really nothing should get past the starting point if it does not have significant funding, a first product and then a first sale.

The hype cycle is misapplied and most successful technologies do not go through the hype cycle. An analysis of Gartner Hype Cycles since 2000 shows that few technologies actually travel through an identifiable hype cycle, and that in practice most of the important technologies adopted since 2000 were not identified early in their adoption cycles.

Gartner says a technology (or related service and discipline innovation) passes through several stages on its path to productivity:

Innovation Trigger: The Hype Cycle starts when a breakthrough, public demonstration, product launch or other event generates press and industry interest in technology innovation.

Needs to have first significant funding and reach first product and some sales before leaving this phase.

There was a list of space and energy technology placed onto a Gartner Hype cycle in 2012 by a published researcher. However, there are technologies that does not have the funding to get to a prototype and many that do not have funding to prove technical or economic feasibility.

The concept of a space elevator is reasonable and there were some ultra-tiny experiments. However, this is nowhere near something that could get a first commercial product.

This means that things like the Traveling Wave reactor have not reached the point of an innovation trigger. Terrapower has received about $120 million of DOE funding and as of October 2020, can get matching grants from $400 million to $4 billion. It has some support from Bill Gates but they do not have firm commitment of funding to build a full working prototype.

Peak of Inflated Expectations: A wave of “buzz” builds and the expectations for this innovation rise above the current reality of its capabilities. In some cases, an investment bubble forms, as happened with the web and social media.

Media hype and customers beyond early adopters.

Trough of Disillusionment: Inevitably, impatience for results begins to replace the original excitement about potential value. Problems with performance, slower-than-expected adoption or a failure to deliver financial returns in the time anticipated all lead to missed expectations, and disillusionment sets in.

Slope of Enlightenment: Some early adopters overcome the initial hurdles, begin to experience benefits and recommit efforts to move forward. Organizations draw on the experience of the early adopters. Their understanding grows about where and how the innovation can be used to good effect and, just as importantly, where it brings little or no value.

Plateau of Productivity: With the real-world benefits of the innovation demonstrated and accepted, growing numbers of organizations feel comfortable with the now greatly reduced levels of risk. A sharp rise in adoption begins (resembling a hockey stick when shown graphically), and penetration accelerates rapidly as a result of productive and useful value.

What has reached first product level? Quantum computers and quantum communication have reached first products where people will pay for them. However, they are not yet superior to other solutions. These are early adopters who want to explore this new area in anticipation of true benefits later.

Solar sails have been deployed in space. There is now a series of products being made and deployed. The US and Japan and other countries are creating and deploying systems.

I would not classify nuclear thermal rockets as something that has reached an innovation trigger. There have been multiple funded efforts. However, the funding is not enough to get to something that could actually be launched. Ten ground experiment systems of different size have been built but nothing has flown and no attempt has been made to make something that could actually fly.

Small-medium size and modular nuclear reactors have sufficient funding for first commercial products. There have been some first systems like the 200 MWe twin pebble bed reactor in China.

Fully and rapidly reusable rockets have sufficient funding and effort to reach a commercial product and there are over 100 flights (including the space shuttle) of partially reusable rockets and rocket systems.

There is now nearly $3 billion in funding for fully reusable large human-rated lunar lander. This is the recent NASA support for the SpaceX Starship lunar lander.

There is sufficient funding for full self-driving cars with multiple companies and countries. There are self-driving systems but no level 5 autonomy yet.

Each of the six levels of self-driving autonomy is defined below.

Level 0 – No automation. Pertains to your everyday, traditional car with no automated or active safety features and full driver involvement.
Level 1 – Driver assistance. Consists of radars and cameras for distancing, automatic braking, lane assistance, and adaptive cruise control.
Level 2 – Partial automation. The car has the ability to accelerate, brake, and even steer under certain circumstances. Still needs driver involvement for the majority of tasks.
Level 3 – Conditional automation. The car is able to drive itself but only under the right conditions and with certain limitations. Driver involvement is still ideal as automation can be halted at any time.
Level 4 – High automation. Vehicles can drive themselves without driver interaction, but can still stop under certain circumstances. Regulations and legal obstacles are heavily involved here.

Waymo has level 4 autonomy with some systems in Arizona.

Level 5 – Full automation. A true driverless car that can operate on any road and under any conditions with no driver involvement needed.

Hype worthy and Impactful Emerging Technology and Capability

SpaceX has been funded for orbital refueling as part of the Lunar Starship. This means that instead of tiny engines and vehicles for the third stage of rocket, there can be a fully refueled Starship or even a fully refueled Super Heavy Starship.

Refueling is space is a far more powerful and useful capability than most people realize. It is even possible to push it to reach 30 day one way human missions to Mars.

There was an analysis of fast Mars missions.

Refueling can enable fast transfer to Mars using non-Hohmann orbits. Getting to about 120 days one-way trips is relatively easy with a big fully refueled SpaceX Starship.

Timing (choosing the best close approach from Mars) and proper braking is needed to get to 80 days or less.

If there were fuel tanks placed in cycling orbits between Mars and Earth, then with multiple refuelings it is possible to achieve 30-38 day one-way missions to Mars. This is described at the Marspedia. These short manned trip times do not need new nuclear propulsion systems.

Using a combination of electric and chemical propulsion it is possible to send people in a rocket from Earth to Mars in 30 days. The electric portion of the system would accelerate nine refueling depots to prepositioning orbits. The chemical rocket with a human crew would rendezvous with each of the nine refueling depots, adding about 3056 m/sec in each of ten burns. The nine refueling depots would be in nine independent orbits. The first would pass Earth at 3,056 m/sec, the second at 6,112 m/sec, the third at 9,168 m/sec and so on.

A spaceship for a 30-day voyage could be smaller than one intended for a 180-day voyage because not as much air, food and water would need to be carried. Provision for refueling would add some mass and there would need to be a substantial heat shield for slowing down at Mars. The 30-day mission to Mars may be limited to a fly-by unless other refuelings are scheduled near Mars to cut down the velocity of the spacecraft some before it begins atmospheric braking at Mars. There is a limit to the peak deceleration loading that it is reasonable for humans to endure. The refuelings near Mars and the atmospheric braking in excess of human tolerance could both be done away with if one is willing to settle for a 38 day transfer when Earth and Mars are closest. This uses a modified transfer trajectory with only seven refuelings.

SOURCES -SpaceX, Wikipedia, NASA, MArspedia, ProjectRho
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com

15 thoughts on “Hypeworthy Technology”

  1. To put it slightly more technically, angular momentum is transferred from the spinning Earth to the Space Elevator via tension in the elevator itself. If the elevator is just slightly non-vertical, the tension serves to accelerate the elevator to the side.

    Vertical elevator → launch payload → slight slowing of elevator → now slightly non-vertical → tension in elevator slows down earth and speeds up elevator until vertical again

    Now, eventually, the Earth slows down too much and the elevator falls. But eventually is long time in this case.

  2. "since 2000 shows that few technologies actually travel through an
    identifiable hype cycle, and that in practice most of the important
    technologies adopted since 2000 were not identified early in their
    adoption cycles."

    Well this is certainly encouraging news. Funding has been a hurdle. Lucasengines dot com

  3. I see two main problems with this article.

    1. On the hype chart there is a "Through of Disillusionment". That's not a thing. You're showing a ditch in the scale. This would be a TROUGH of Disillusionment, not a Through. A trough is a ditch or valley. There's no such thing as a Through.

    2. As I keep saying repeatedly, the Space Elevator is doomed to failure. There's no free energy. You can't launch payloads to orbit because these launches will drain the elevator of angular momentum until it fails. Now you will need rockets to replenish the energy lost, and that's just silly. You might as well just stick to rockets in the first place.

  4. Agreed. Send stuff on the slow boat to Mars. Ideally, send it before the astronauts get there, so it can be waiting, and possibly even assembled by robots and ready for them.
    The only stuff that should go fast would be life essentials, and new tech that is so important that it can't wait.

  5. Yes. At the price targeted by SpaceX of 5-10 million USD per Starship, it makes more sense to send it in expendable mode and full for taking as much cargo to the Moon as it can. Except those that will take and return people or samples.

    It will be so until they have LOX ISRU, then they can take it to the Moon also full but still able to return.

    But with the expendable mode cargo capability, setting up a LOX production operation on the Moon would be far less hard than previously imagined.

  6. Quite interesting. Apparently the Starship makes sense as an expendable vehicle if your main interest is hauling cargo to the Moon as cheaply as possible.

    Considering that the majority of the expense is in the engines, and perhaps some of the avionics, it might make sense to run a mission every ten flights or so to salvage those and return them for reuse.

  7. Indeed. Playing with different types of orbits (LEO, GTO, LLO), number of refuelings and other fuel production or saving schemes (ISRU, Solar Electric Propulsion) can change the data of possible cargo and transit times, and hence the possible missions a lot.

    Space refueling is a constructive, generative approach with many possible combinations, only requiring some extra planning and slightly more delta-V awareness.

    The most efficient schemes in cost/benefit and simplest remain those already imagined by SpaceX, but a few of the most exotic ones can be tried due to being interesting for other missions.

    Like fast transit missions to Mars every year, or for faster outer solar system missions.

    refs: https://caseyhandmer.wordpress.com/2021/03/26/lunar-starship-and-unnecessary-operational-complexity/

  8. Refueling allows one to linearize the exponential rocket equation. Mars missions can really benefit from refueling up to a Gateway in L2 before they make a deep space burn. From L2 you only need 0.75 km Delta-V to reach Mars on a Hohmann (+aerocap). This implies that you can put your 1kms delta-V refueling stations within Earth's influence and that is where they have most immediate economical benefit as the market, at least for now, is in Cislunar space. You preposition depots and depot refueling tugs with slow ion propulsion and the crewed mission which needs rapid transit is the customer doing 1kms D-V burns(or less) from depot to depot. I tried to explain this to a boardroom in a satellite business incubator in 2018 but they just blinked. Which was very, very frustrating because every space engineer and his nephew over the last 8 decades has written at least one paper about the commercial advantages of refueling. The other advantage of refueling in L2 (in combination with non-hohmann trajectories) is that you can fly crewed/uncrewed to Mars in each calendar year (and not only in each 24-26 month window) with a 25% prop reduction below the typical one way mission and with 120-160 day arrival time . The calendar year periodicity is crucial as it allows for operations that fit within normal business operation reporting and expenditure cycles, which would immediately allow many commercial players to partake in commercial activities on Mars and see revenue intra-annually.

  9. "Stuff" can go the slow, efficient way. There is a lot of value in a shorter trip for human psychological endurance.

  10. Ideally the first manned mission would consist of two starships, traveling together. As I've described, they can travel bolo style, at Martian gravity, to acclimate along the way. That way you've got immediate help in case of emergencies.

    Instead of a storm shelter in the middle of cargo that's only used during bad "weather", you'd stack pod style hotel rooms, like at Japanese airports, in there, so that people asleep would already be in shelter, and it would be set up for sheltering there conveniently. So I don't think radiation is a big problem.

  11. Yeah, but I see this happening in the longer term, when they have a growing settlement where regular people can pay to emigrate or go for work.

    The first missions will most likely use the shorter trajectories they can afford. To reduce any criticism of unnecessary radiation and weightlessness exposure, specially so with the media darling professional astronauts, who will be the first to go.

    But later, when they want to bring as many passengers as they can per trip to reduce costs and maximize gain, then they will look for cutting corners with trajectories and living facilities (more cramped, for starters).

    In the end they will all be going precisely to live in space, either for a while of forever, and exposure to fractional g's, radiation and space itself will become their ever present existential threat, wherever they are.

    But they will have some advantages too: they will have really easy access to space on Mars, simply by taking one of the many ships that carried them there, they could travel across the planet or return to orbit, and be on Phobos or Deimos in a short time. I imagine the moons and a lot of orbital facilities becoming very popular places for those looking for a bit of variety, or just to live the spacer dream.

    But by then, Earth will be probably further ahead, with p2p rockets becoming common and orbital trips also very common.

  12. I continue to believe that colonists would never spring for significantly faster than Hohmann transfer. (Obviously, unless everybody can launch at the ideal moment, most of the ships would not be exactly on Hohmann trajectories.)

    Colonists are in it for the long haul, and are not anticipating a return trip. They would prioritize being able to afford additional payload to improve their prospects, over a shorter trip time. A bit of food and time is a cheap price to pay for arriving with twice the equipment, and non-Hohmann trajectories are really hard on payload capacity.

    They might find application for emergencies, such as moderately urgent medical treatment, or replacement parts, where time really is enormously valuable.

    A possible exception, once the colony is far enough along to have considerable fuel manufacture capacity, and less urgent need for already processed metals, would be returning essentially empty Starships to Earth rapidly, so that instead of coming to Mars once per synodic period, they could manage two trips.

  13. 30 days trips could be possible with more refueling, but why stretch an already stretched and dangerous mission?

    My hunch is they will go for the simplest missions allowed by the basic architecture (with refueling on Earth's orbit and aerobraking on Mars) that is, 90-120 days to Mars would be the kind of trips they will eventually do.

    ~90 days for crewed ones to diminish exposure to space and its hazards, the longer times can be used for maximizing cargo. Gee, they could even go for Hohmann transfer orbits. Most cargo usually can wait a few extra months on a trip, in exchange of sending more. But it really depends on whatever fits their plans.

    Concerning the topic: not all innovations result in products, because some of them don't provide enough ROI or simple results on the first trials, as per the investor expectations and current environment. Nerva and other nuclear rockets weren't advantageous enough to justify continued investment. Fairly better Isp but far worse catastrophic scenarios and political downfall from using them. So not worth continuing the investment. At that moment.

    The situation may change as society and world changes, of course. If we start seeing more people, companies and governments needing to move bigger masses faster in deep space, Nerva et al may return.


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