29 thoughts on “An Inland Spaceport”

          1. True. But if there is “fallout,” the spaceport and its launch providers better hope the casualties are gimme-hat-wearing white guys like those Ice Road Truckers and not Inuits.

  1. How is it in terms of the weather?

    What would best location in the world in terms of best general conditions for launching rockets?

    1. Winter in No. MI, especially in my native U.P., is snowy and often blowy so achieving year-round operation would be a challenge. But then I suppose the same is true of Kodiak.

      I wish these folks well – Stratolaunch’s Roc landing at the erstwhile K.I. Sawyer AFB would be quite a sight and even a Vector launch would be cool – but they’ve got an uphill pull ahead of them.

      1. The UP gets a lot of snow, but Alpena would be manageable. Kodiak is actually fairly mild, being on the coast. It’s actually similar to the rest of the Pacific Northwest. Fairbanks, on the other hand. The advantage of Kodiak is that the bears provide good perimeter security.

        1. I’m sure the new spaceport, if built in the U.P., could find all the perimeter security it wants from the ranks of out-of-season deer hunters.

  2. This, to me, sounds like a boondoggle in the making.

    First, what, precisely, is the advantage of Michigan over launch sites with oceanic downranges?

    Secondly, how are these advantages worth the risk to inhabited areas – because if you look at range exclusion areas for Vandy or anywhere else in the US doing polar launches, and overlay them on any map of the Michigan area, you;ve got areas with high enough risk to close to sea traffic, and a lot of them would be over inhabited land no matter where in Michigan you put the launch site and no matter what northbound polar azimuth you’re firing into. There’s also the little detail that Canada might not be enthused to have spent stages dropping on their heads.

    Thirdly, especially in light of the above, are there even any plausible chances of getting the needed government permissions (State, Federal, local, and Canadian) to actually do orbital launch from any sites in Michigan?

    Unless those questions can be answered, this is an utter boondoggle.

    1. Maybe. But I’d have to rate it less of a boondoggle than the Camden County, GA spaceport. That one wants to launch over a national wildlife refuge and a bunch of old-money rich folks who live in the middle of it and got the place designated in the first place to keep out the helots. I’m rooting for that one real hard, but I certainly understand it’s a long-shot.

      The Michigan project, in contrast, doesn’t look like it’s going to discommode – if at all – anyone but a few working-class Upes and a handful of comparable natives of Canuckistan to the north.

      They’ve got a shot. Not a great shot, but a shot. I’ll root for them along with Camden for sentimental reasons – always room for more epic weirditude in the U.P.

  3. “What would best location in the world in terms of best general conditions for launching rockets?”

    Woomera would be pretty good. Hardly ever rains, never snows. Gets a bit hot in summer.
    Extremely sparse population for thousands of kilometers around.
    Close military ally of the USA.
    In what is for now a first world country with bribeable politicians who come cheap. The Chicoms bought an Australian Senator for about US$25,000.

    Fun fact – Woomera, the secret rocket range, is in Australian weather forecast Area 51. Young Army helo pilot friend got a kick out of that flying there one day.

  4. How much downrange is required for this type of operation? West side has a couple of possibilities. A bit dated, but good industrial base in Gary. Might be too close to Chicago, but they might need a major city close for infrastructure support. As far as wind and snow, if you can’t handle adverse conditions, are you really ready for long-term living in space? Lakes have the advantage of not being very deep, so salvage operations are less involved than deep oceans.

    1. Salvage would be easier than visiting the Bismarck or the Titanic, but no snap even so. Lake Michigan averages almost 300 ft deep. The deepest spots are over 900 feet deep. For Lake Superior, the comparable figures are almost 500 feet and over 1300 feet.

  5. On a serious note, just how large could a solid rocket booster be built? I’ve heard the shuttle SRBs were limited by transportation bottlenecks, and could be made more capable if not for these limits.
    The reason I ask, is based upon future heavy-lift needs for on-orbit construction of habitat and supply depots. Several hundred tons of structural materials will be needed for each of dozens of points in geo-synchronus orbit. A cluster of large, solid-fueled rockets carrying structural steel to orbit would not need many of the add-ons that so plague manned flight. And an empty booster tube could be a good shelter from debris collisions and a general lifeboat for emergencies.

    1. You would have to cast the solids near the launch site.
      From I understand the procedure is kind of like pouring concrete.
      AFAIK only the French do that kind of procedure. Like with the Ariane 5 solids in Kourou.

      Personally I think a reusable liquid rocket would make a lot more sense.

      1. Reusable liquid rockets are definitely better for out and back trips with people. My idea involves the big dumb booster carrying the heavy building blocks of space infrastructure. These materials are less susceptible to high-g boost and fewer headlines when they don’t work. If sufficiently large bundles can be made, then a single stage of solid boosters with a low-powered second stage could get fuel and building materials to a useful orbit. I was thinking about a shuttle-external-tank sized payload with 4 solid boosters and maybe a raptor for orbital maneuver. Between steel plants in either Detroit or Gary, coupled with a barge for launch, this could open up heavy-lift operations nearer to the supplies of iron ore and other high volume materials we will need. I realize this looks like a step backward from the reusable front, but one-size-fits-all is never a good idea.

        1. Solids have crummy Isp, produce toxic exhaust and their propellants are much more expensive than methalox. Plus, they’re not reusable. The economics don’t work at all. If one wants to haul “mass quantities” to orbit, SH-Starship is the way to go.

          1. While not reusable in practical turn-around time, the story I heard said the SRBs were retrieved, rebuilt, and reflown. Yes, propellant is more expensive, but hardware could be made an order of magnitude cheaper than liquid motors. And machinery can be built more robust with fewer moving parts, and much less expertise needed for storage and use.

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