Space 2022

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Space Economy

The Space Economy is activities and the use of resources that create value and benefits for human beings in the course of exploring, researching, understanding, managing, and utilizing space. [1]

Figure 1. AR, VR, and MR [2]

Reusability And What it Enables

Reusability currently enables massively reduced costs and increased launch frequency in the airline industry, and it may provide the same benefits to the space industry in the near future.

According to Boeing's current list prices, a brand-new 747 costs $418.4 million [3] and is capable of holding between 416 and 524 passengers. Meaning if planes were not reusable, the cost of a one-way ticket on a Boeing 747 may be between $800,000 and $1,000,000. Using current ticket prices we can approximate that reusability makes flights between 800-20,000 times cheaper for passengers in the airline industry. In addition to being more expensive, they would also have to be planned much further in advance.

Generally, the use case of airline flights for transport would not work at this price point as the vast majority of today's passengers can not afford this.

The Space Shuttle

Reusable rockets are not a new idea. The Space Shuttle flew its first flight in 1981 and was reusable. However, the boosters and orbiter vehicle had to be refurbished after every mission in a time-consuming and expensive process. 5 Shuttles flew 135 missions with an average launch cost of $1.5 billion. The Space Shuttle program is largely considered a failure as it did not reduce the cost of mass to orbit and it officially came to a close in 2011.

Today's Reusable Rockets

Space X's Falcon 9 rocket is a partially reusable rocket, with no refurbishment required, and is currently operating with the highest use, and cheapest mass to orbit figure.

Reusable Rockets of the Future

Space X's Starship rocket is a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Starship will be the world’s most powerful launch vehicle ever developed, with the ability to carry in excess of 100 metric tonnes to orbit. It is currently being prototyped and tested with its first orbital flight planned for late 2022/ early 2023. The platform has a mission planned for 2023 featuring a fly-by of the moon. SpaceX intends for the rocket to decrease the cost of mass to low earth orbit to around $10/KG.

This cost figure for mass to orbit potentially enables developments in the space economy including:

  • Space Tourism
  • Asteroid Mining
  • Earth-to-Earth Transportation
  • Mars Colonization
  • Space Manufacturing

Space Tourism

It currently costs $450,000 to buy a ticket to space from Virgin Galactic. In the future, this price may be drastically reduced to only a few thousand dollars.

Asteroid Mining

There is an asteroid known as 16 Psyche which is 1.6 astronomical units from the earth at its closest point. it is 226 km wide and made of mostly iron and nickel. At current market prices, the asteroid is worth approximately $1- quintillion which is over 100,000 times the GDP of the earth. With cheaper costs to get mass to orbit, it could become feasible to mine asteroids like 16 Psyche.

Earth-to-Earth Transportation

Most international long-distance trips could be completed in 30 minutes or less, with access to anywhere in the world in an hour or less. Ticket prices could be similar to a plane ticket.

Mars Colonization

It is estimated that 1,000,000 tons of mass on Mars' surface would allow for a self-sustaining colony to exist. Meaning, that if 10,000 SpaceX Starships full of supplies were sent to Mars, that may be enough to start a self-sustaining colony on the red planet.

Space Manufacturing

The space environment, particularly microgravity and vacuum, enables the production of goods that could otherwise not be manufactured on Earth. Examples of items that could be manufactured in space are improved semiconductor wafers and advanced fiber optics. Fiber optic developed in microgravity has minimal flaws and the performance can be orders of magnitude above that of fiber created on earth.

Raptor Engines


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