Not Unsafe At Any Speed

My promised (well, actually, hoped for) rebuttal to Alexander Tabarrok’s mistaken hit piece on the space tourism industry is up at TechCentralStation.

[Update at 10 AM EST]

I have to say that I’m underwhelmed by Professor Tabarrok’s response to my rebuttal. He seems to have read it, or at least glanced at it, since he complains about my use of the (admittedly overused, but appropriate in this case, I believe) word “paradigm.” However, he doesn’t seem to have comprehended it, or if he did, he chose not to provide a substantive response.

He is still apparently unable to discern the distinction between orbital and suborbital, and between reusable and expendable, and why such a distinction is important. He accuses me of relying on “faith,” when in fact I made a very clear and rational case as to why these new vehicles are different than the ones from which he mistakenly draws his misleading statistics.

In this last graf, he displays a fundamental lack of understanding of the economics of the space industry (disappointing–one would hope that as an economics professor, he could get that right, even if he doesn’t understand the technical issues):

What’s so great about space tourism anyway? Even though an increase in rocket safety of a factor of ten is not much when considering the safety of large numbers of people it is very significant when thinking about satellite launches or temporary low-orbit launches. A reduction of risk of this amount means much lower insurance costs that will open up space to new private development.

What’s so great about space tourism is that it is the only market, or at least the only one that doesn’t require some technology breakthrough beyond the development of low-cost vehicles themselves, that is sufficiently large to get us to the scale of operations necessary to reduce costs and improve reliability.

And if he believes that the high cost of launch insurance is the barrier holding back private space development, he understands nothing at all about the current launch industry, either technically or in a business sense.

David Masten isn’t impressed, either.