31 thoughts on “Which Way To Space?”

  1. …the things that make money are things that don’t weigh anything.

    An observation that deserves some follow through. My contention is that not a single gram has to be imported to earth for immense wealth to result. Have we already forgotten that a dollar used to be a silver certificate? That silver could have been anyplace, but the dollar was spent locally.

    For example, Zubrin points out that land was traded (bought and sold) in Kentucky hundreds of years before settlers arrived. Is there some other way to give value to land before it’s possessed which would pay the transportation costs?

    I don’t think so. Not realistically. I believe people are going to have to understand the risks and take them anyway… but not in one big bite. We can do it incrementally.

    The thing to do today is put a small refuelable ship in orbit and lease space on it. Then we lease shakedown cruises around the moon. Income from that can be used partly for the development of the mars lander meeting or exceeding the Mars One lander specifications.

    Then tell Mars One you will take their astronauts to mars for free. They keep the TV rights but everyone going agrees to a settlement charter. Mars One pays for the training and supplies. They agree to pay for commercials to sell mars real estate possessed by the terms of the charter. Everybody wins.

    1. Tell Mars One we aren’t going to wait 26 months between landers either. After the first four land we have several more landers in orbit waiting to go. They might even explore the two moons before joining the colonists already on mars.

    2. Is there some other way to give value to land before it’s possessed which would pay the transportation costs?

      I don’t think so. Not realistically.

      Some stranger is posting under Ken’s name!

      Seriously, this seems to be a seismic shift in your position, Ken. What happened?

      1. Not at all. My position has always been that land, generally speaking, land (or anything else for that matter) doesn’t get value until possessed. My argument has been that vision is required to see that the appreciation of land value will happen faster than most realize if the right conditions are put into place. BTW, I have a new post on the topic.

        Funny. I don’t feel like a pod person? But if I do a Donald Sutherland on ya…

  2. New Space is the opposite of all that. It’s wild. It’s commercial, bootstrapping, imaginative, right up to the point of being (and this is no longer the dreamers talking) delusional.

    It’s like a bug. I’ve spent the past month checking my transient heat transfer code for the design of a completely different engine concept that can handle extremely high heat fluxes with a very low coolant pressure drop (> 400 MW/m^2) using stainless and aluminum, allowing very high chamber pressures, and including a widely variable throat and exit area for higher performance and deep, deep throttling. But the mechanical techniques used to get there are so bizarre that my mechanical engineering partner and myself wonder if what we’re seeing in the numbers and overall concept is crazy, because surely every rocket engine would be built this way if it could work, since it would mean SSME performance would cost less than a car and could be built in your garage. So the concepts are either genius or idiocy, and we don’t know which.

    Delusional might be the future, or it might just be delusional. So on to prototyping, testing a small chamber wall section to see if the geometry can be mechanically built, and if so, hitting it with an oxyacetylene torch for a reality check on the heat transfer figures. If that works, then on to constructing a small thruster, and testing an insane idea about a very cheap way to make a high pressure, high volume pump.

    I think it’s definitely a virus or something.

    1. “handle extremely high heat fluxes with a very low coolant pressure drop (> 400 MW/m^2)”
      I know of some people in fusion reactor research who might be interested in such technology. Any details on the engine and heat exchanger you can share?

      1. With copper clad with Haynes 214 cooled by LOX, I’m pretty sure I can go above 1.2 GW/m^2, but unfortunately the technique also involves a small leak rate, and possibly a very very thin film of coolant, which is undesired (and I’m ignoring that aspect for now).

        *erases three paragraphs that spelled out my thoughts on moving the chamber liner back into the coolant on a duty cycle instead of conducting heat through it, because some things are just too obvious, like my idea for a high pressure pump with no moving parts*

        Given that what I’m designing will inevitably have a very small leakage rate of coolant into the chamber, I’m not sure it could be useful in a fusion design, though I could be wrong. Some of the design issues I’m dealing with are the pressure differentials between the coolant and the chamber and nozzle, which will affect the leakage rate, combustion instabilities whose pressure excursions may exceed the mechanical strength of the required moving parts, and some geometries that have us scratching our heads. On the bright side, you can build it from stuff you buy at a supply house.

        That it would outperform existing engines and drop the cost a thousandfold is why I think I might be delusional. If moving heat by moving the hot metal worked, we could move the heat in a combustion chamber wall at high velocities by simply attaching it to a rocket moving at high speed, since the heat would move along with the metal. Also, my rabbit is drinking my beer and eating my cat’s food. I swear. Emily bunny just did that.

        1. Moving parts, fine tolerances, and thermal expansion would seem to combine to cause trouble if I’m picturing the concept correctly.

          1. I’m not picturing anything at all except…

            the concepts are either genius or idiocy

            …that I understand!

  3. What a stumbling article.

    Not once did he succeed in telling us the difference between NewSpace and “old space”.

    The reader could quite easily come away thinking that any new space company is a NewSpace company.

    I don’t know what’s hard for people to grasp about this: if your goal is to open the space frontier, you’re a NewSpace company.

    The fact that Joel Achenbach seems to have interviewed a dozen people for this article and not gotten that succinct definition shows how fragile this subculture is.. David Valentine needs to work faster before his subject matter evaporates.

    1. if your goal is to open the space frontier, you’re a NewSpace company.

      If that is the primary goal, then it is a dream, not a business. There is a list of failed space companies as long as my arm whose goal was to open the space frontier. Maybe that’s part of why they failed: the type of person who starts a space company is a True Believer almost by definition.

      The primary goal of any business has to be to make money. A company will not last if it is breaking even – Murphy’s Law won’t let it last very long.

      Levi Strauss wasn’t looking to open up California.

      1. The primary goal of any business has to be to make money.

        Yes but (will some day just be one word) if people were only motivated by what produces the maximum return we’d still be in the stone age.

        Lot’s of failure is the best way to success. Sucks if you’re one of the failures, but that’s history.

  4. I found this to be a wonderfully balanced and factual article without the usual chest thumping or posturing that taints some analysis of commercial space. Highly recommended.

  5. I think this article does new space a disservice. It paints them as wild and reckless to an extent but that’s not their defining characteristic. In fact I’d say it’s pragmatism married to risk taking which defines new space. Old space is safe, they don’t actujally have that much experience designing rockets. The article is wrong, nobody working today sent a man to the moon.

    If the author had more experience with software development or different development styles he might understand what makes new space unique. Old space is “big design upfront”, which almost requires taking no risks in the design to succeed. New space is more iterative. More like the barn stormers in aviation’s early years. New space companies build hardware where old space would build view graphs and reports. Nobody in old space would build sub-orbital versions of rockets, or work their way up to a full scale rocket by acquiring expertise from building smaller rockets, but that’s what new space has been doing. SpaceX, XCOR, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, all have built demonstrater vehicles, all have built smaller versions of the larger sized rockets that are their eventual goal.

    By the time it will have been 10 years after SpaceX’s first launch attempt of its first rocket they will have developed at least 2 sub-orbital test vehicles, perhaps 6 different rocket engines in 4 different families using 3 different fuels, 2 pressurized spacecraft, and at least 5 different orbital launch vehicles. They’re able to move so fast and bring so many new designs and ideas to fruition because they iterate and they test.

    Old space doesn’t have test launches any more. They are settled into comfortable operational territory, they don’t want risk so they don’t take risk.

    And old space isn’t afraid of new space, yet, though they should be. New space is moving too fast, if old space decides to try to play catch up only when new space is directly in their rear view mirror it will already be far too late.

    1. The article is wrong, nobody working today sent a man to the moon.

      I know several people at various NASA centers who are still working and were apart of the Apollo program. A large number, certainly not, but there are still a few remaining.

      1. Fair enough. Nevertheless, it’s woefully incorrect to say that “old space” of today sent men to the moon. Maybe, if they’re lucky, someone at Boeing or LockMart has a paperweight that was used by someone who put men on the moon, but beyond that the connections get rather tenuous.

  6. “I don’t know what’s hard for people to grasp about this: if your goal is to open the space frontier, you’re a NewSpace company.”

    Because some people know the facts, Trent. “New Space” is an organization whose leaders claim they are personally responsible for every company that’s opening the space frontier, but that doesn’t make it true.

    The X-Prize Foundation and SpaceShip One did more to open the space frontier than “New Space” ever did — but both were *banned* from the New Space Conference for many years. Prior to 2004, no one was even allowed to *mention* the X-Prize at a New Space conference, because the people who ran “New Space” couldn’t get along with Peter Diamandis. That didn’t change until 2004 when it became obvious that the X-Prize was going to be won and “New Space” would look pretty foolish if they continued to boycott it.

    If you look at the few companies that “New Space” leaders started and ran, rather than just claiming credit for) you won’t see lot of successful management. The closest they came to success was MirCorp — and that one resulted in their largest donor going to jail for tax evasion.

      1. You’re out of the loop. SFF created the term “New Space,” which they’ve been using as a trade name or DBA name for several years now. “New Space” is used instead of the old “Space Frontier” brand for the their conference, business plan competition, etc. Their lawyer and former board chairman, Berin Szoka, has stated that the name is their intellectual property and they will sue any other nonprofit that infringes on it.

          1. Because it’s impossible to distinguish between “New Space” and “new space” in spoken conversation (and hard even in writing).

            If I told people that I support “new space,” they would likely assume I support the policies they hear about at the New Space Conference.

            It’s like calling yourself a “democrat.” 99% of all people who hear it will assume you are a member of the Democratic Party, voted for Obama, etc. It’s much easier to avoid confusion by using different words.

          2. If the Space Frontier Foundation has made a play to jump in front of the marching band with their rebranding we might have to come up with a different term than ‘new space’ to distinguish between them.

            ‘Companies not on the dole?’

            ‘Innovative companies?’

            ‘No cost plus contracts?’

            ‘Not in bed with Boeing?’

            None of the above has quite the same ring to it.

  7. If he wanted to discuss the fragility of things, a discussion of Armadillo,
    Unreasonable, Beal, SSI, Rocketplane and others would be in line.

  8. “New Space” is an organization whose leaders claim they are personally responsible for every company that’s opening the space frontier

    Got a home page?

    I thought new means they are trying new ways? I thought it was about independent entrepreneurship?

    1. “Got a home page?”

      Try newspace.spacefrontier.org.

      “I thought new means they are trying new ways? I thought it was about independent entrepreneurship?”

      That’s why I generally put “New Space” in quotes. Whether something is approved by “New Space” has little to do with how new it is.

      In 2009, for example, I tried to convince “New Space” to recognize the fifth anniversary of SpaceShip One. At least put out a press release. I was writing most of their press releases at the time, so this would have involved almost no work on their part. All they needed to do was approve it. They wouldn’t even do that much. They were “too busy” planning their big annual banquet to honor the 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11. Apollo was “New Space” — SpaceShip One wasn’t!

      BVSE/Constellation was not a new way of doing things. It was Apollo Redux, but “New Space” couldn’t jump on that bandwagon fast enough. ISS wasn’t a new way of doing things, but “New Space” is infatuated with ISS as well. For 18 years, they’ve been telling people how ISS is going to evolve into “AlphaTown.”

      Contrast that to all the new policies which “New Space” won’t support. Prizes. Tax incentives. Space property rights. Regulatory and liability reform. Their own members have asked for these things, repeatedly, but their leaders won’t listen. For more than a decade, they’ve been adamant that COTS/CCDev is the only Politically Correct way to promote commercial space.

      1. Now I see. Somebody decided to brand themselves and take over a phrase other people use for a different purpose. I thought doing something like that is exactly how you lose a brand to generic?

    1. Perhaps I am, and perhaps Ed Wright is too. However, “old coot” is not synonymous with “incorrect”.

      Now, you kids get off my lawn.

      1. Never mind. That’s what passes for “intelligent argument” in Trent-land. 🙂

        The irony: Trent was so smitten the cool kids he met at New Space that he failed to notice their leaders are all Social Security age, or close to it.

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