18 thoughts on “The Gateway Foundation”

  1. Been watching their youtube videos for a while now and was a little surprised to see their recent appearance here and other places.

  2. I’ve thought this plan and design over and over again. I just don’t see how it makes sense. SpaceX is on track to deliver this capability PLUS RETURN well within the same timeframe. Sorry for space tourism this concept is uncompetitive and makes no sense.

    1. Their plan isn’t just for tourists but to get governments, companies, and other institutions to buy or lease space.

      As crazy as something like this looked ten years ago, at least now it is in the realm of possibility.

      1. This makes a modicum of sense. BUT I think the jury is still out finding enough paying governments or NGOs. If there was a pressing need to expand ISS, I could see clearer to the logic here.

    2. SpaceX may, at some point, offer cruises to LEO on Starship, but these trips would be spent entirely in zero-G. Von Braun Station is supposed to offer at least lunar levels of artificial gravity. This would vastly decomplicate the pre-trip training needed for tyro spacefarers.

      I suspect SpaceX’s role anent Von Braun Station will be to haul up all the modules and other major components using Super Heavy and both standard Starship upper stages and custom upper stages based on it.

  3. ” SpaceX is on track to deliver this capability PLUS RETURN well within the same timeframe. Sorry for space tourism this concept is uncompetitive and makes no sense”

    Well a rotating space station would have the option of producing normal earth gravity as needed. A “space tourist” wouldn’t be permanently in zero gravity with all the none deleterious effects. Only experiencing zero-g when he/she wanted to be; this would make longer stays more doable. You can “space walk” in zero gravity when you want even experiencing it indoors in the center of the rotating station. But you would be able to sleep/eat/sex/other bodily functions yourself under normal gravity if you wished.

    1. Having some form of artificial gravity in space can be a boon for tourists, but can they afford the price of a reservation on the Von Braun Station (VBS) for a company that has to recoup its investment in infrastructure? And there is a lot of infrastructure here. Plus, unlike with SpaceX (or Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, etc.) the transportation issue is unaddressed, so that ticket gets priced separately. Plus the major draw of a space vacation besides great views of the Earth IS the zero g experience. But if barfing touristas becomes a problem, SpaceX could for a fraction of the cost of a VBS solve the problem by placing in long term LEO a mass equivalent unoccupied Starlump whose function is to dock nose-to-nose with the passenger Starship extend a cable and allow the two to co-rotate in space. As with most destination vacations, the destination gets old after about a week, I’d suspect that would be your typical stay in orbit time. Another issue is the proposed evacuation scheme of using SNC’s Dream Chasers along the circumference. AFAIK these things require a pilot to bring them back. How does one guarantee that for each evac port? Would not an automated capsule make more sense?

      If there is enough push from governments and/or NGOs to buy modules on the VBS then I could almost see a tourism business piggybacking on that, as part of regular service flights needed to and from anyway.

      1. Dream Chaser requires no pilot. But, in order to evacuate up to 450 people from Von Braun Station, each of the two dozen Dream Chaser “escape pods” is going to have to handle about 20 people. The evacuation will have to be shirt-sleeve and even cattle-car-style airline seating will probably be inadequate. Slanted “bunks” mounted as close together as those on submarines would likely be required.

        1. Packing them in like sardines is fine, but the problem I see is that an expensive, high-end escape vehicle, if ever used, would then have to be restocked by launching all of them back up again. That’s not as big a deal as the evacuation unless the evacuation is caused by a stand down of the primary launch vehicle that’s been handing traffic in both directions and people just need to get home.

          No, the problem is that once all those escape vehicles leave, the station is still spinning, and there’s no way to redock the back end of the space plane with the spinning rim of the station. Okay, so the station has to be spun back down, which will consume an enormous amount of fuel, 22 space planes have to be relaunched and docked, which would probably take a long time by revenue generating standards, and then the station can be spun back up. Then the great cleaning process can begin because all the stuff on the rim wasn’t set up to be floating around in zero G.

          Another issue is that if you have 22 escape vehicles with a limited orbital endurance, you’ll have to rotate them through, just as we do with the Soyuz on the ISS. But they can’t be rotated because they can’t redock with a spinning station, and capsules on the rim would have the same problem.

          So either the escape vehicles need to stay at the axis, or they should turn the inside of the rim into a runway and let the space vehicles land like aircraft. Strangely enough, the latter is probably simpler than docking because they just have to orient, drift into the rotating runway surface, pull against it with electromagnets, and then hit their brakes as they slow to 1G and then taxi to a gate. But spokes could become problematic with such a system.

          1. I had not realized that they planned on 44 Dream Chasers. That is one heck of a lot, enough that the cost of them alone ought to be prohibitive (not just purchase, but maintenance, refurbishment, rotation, etc). Also, as you mention, no way to dock them while the station is rotating.

            IMHO, they either need a cheaper, simpler solution (a bare-bones capsule, designed for very long on-orbit duration but very short manned operations – life support only for a few hours via tanks, for example. Or, a SpaceX starship at the center hub as a lifeboat/escape vehicle, configured for short duration high occupancy (such as the Starship point-to-point transport plan).

        2. There are a couple other problems with using something like Dream Chaser as an emergency escape vehicle. I’ll leave the above mentioned spin-up/spin-down redocking issue as problem #1.

          The second problem is having 44 returning spacecraft (see note 1) trying to make a dead-stick unpiloted landing on the same runway at the same time. None of the craft are going to be able to clear the runway before the next one comes, and that next one might come in a bit hot and long. Just queuing them up for approach might not be possible, since they’re all dead stick.

          Nobody is set up to handle anything remotely like that, so some workarounds are definitely required. The vehicles have to either shoot for forty-four different runways or, if their cross range performance is good enough, make another orbit to give crews ninety minutes to clear the prior craft, which only requires 22 active runways. Having them all land simultaneously in a desert test area might be required, but the number of abort destinations would certainly be highly limited relative to splashing down in the ocean.

          A third problem is that the craft are held nose out, and potentially at one G, and are entered from the back of the spacecraft. I love that idea except in this particular application because it means the passengers will have to enter via a ladder during an emergency, and if anyone falls their boots are going through the Dream Chaser’s front windshield. If it wasn’t a severe emergency before, it certainly would be after that!

          But assuming they don’t have any accidents, they certainly aren’t going to get strapped in because they can’t. The vehicle is nose down at 1 G and nobody is going to manage to strap themselves to a seat that is facing straight down. They might not have to strap in because once the vehicle releases, they can float into their seats, but it’s still an issue that someone might raise, especially regarding the evacuation of one or more injured persons who would have to be lowered into the vehicle and dangle in a gurney till the ship breaks free.

          The crew would even have severe problems checking and maintain the vehicle just because of that wildly inconvenient orientation. Just getting into the cockpit will be difficult, and if they drop a wrench from the rear hatch it will smash into the instrument panel or windshield.

          So I’d rate the concept, as drawn, as a nonstarter because:

          1) The escape craft can’t be redocked without de-spinning the station.
          2) A large number of winged escape vehicles will overburden the potentially small number of available runways.
          3) Long, nose-down vehicles will be difficult to safely enter and maintain.

          And of course this all begs the question of whether the escape vehicles are adding safety or detracting from it. Someone should write a book about that.

          Note 1. I originally thought there were twenty-two total Dream Chasers based on a side view, but a rendering shows that each slot holds a pair of them instead of just one.

  4. I was disappointed in their design; it removes the main attraction of space research; 0 G. (also, four tourists, they would want some access to free fall)

    I like the idea of having artificial G, but not on basically the entirety of the station. A cheaper, simpler setup that would provide this (seeing as they want an elevator anyway) would be essentially a stick; one long column consisting of the modules, access tubes, etc, spinning. The closer you are to the rotation point, the lower the G. So, you’d have lunar G, Mars G, 1G, all the time, for research. You’d also have a zero G module or two. This would be far simpler to construct, as well.

    Also, is Mark Kelly actually right in his book, “Endurance”, that Gateway quoted? If so, a year in zero G is hugely debilitating, enough so to make Mars impossible without artificial G. Anyone know if this is actually true, or hype from Gateway (they were showing photos of massive edema, etc, unrelated to Kelly’s condition).

  5. It might not start out as tourism. Selectable levels of gravity would make family life in space almost routine. Spin one of these next to the asteroid you are mining, and the whole family could move. 8, 10, or 12 hours of zero-g, followed by 16, 14, or 12 hours of normal gravity. Instead of a few months in space without your family, now you can spend years and take them along. Little to no effects of zero-g for long periods of time. That would be worth money to the companies looking for ore in space.

    1. Which could have been 3 tours of paying tourists instead.

      VBS makes far more sense as either an industrial base station for a highly profitable mfg process that requires a space environment to be practical (like zero g) and scalable can be expanded simply by adding modules. The other driver that would make sense for a VBS would be as a habitat to support the construction of space solar powersats that start off in LEO and then get boosted to GEO. We don’t seem to have economic justification for either of these yet. Maybe “climate emergency” panic spending for the latter?

      I can get tourists up and down for a LOT less using just Starships, give them 0g and a return-on-demand option as well.

      I just don’t get this from a money standpoint. I remain “unsold”.

      1. “The other driver that would make sense for a VBS would be as a habitat to support the construction of space solar powersats that start off in LEO and then get boosted to GEO.”

        Yes. What if it turns out that the best mix for long term working/living in space on the aforementioned SPS or the like is a shift working under ZG (8-12hrs say) with recovery sleep/eat/exercise under full gravity in the VBS for the balance of the day? It would allow us to do all kinds of human adaptability studies about how much degradation caused by long term zero-G exposure is mitigated/eliminated by periods under normal gravity.

  6. “. . . proposed evacuation scheme of using SNC’s Dream Chasers along the circumference. AFAIK these things require a pilot to bring them back. How does one guarantee that for each evac port? Would not an automated capsule make more sense?”

    You make a good point, though it’s true the cargo version of Dream Chaser requires no pilot.

    There are a ton of requirements left; we’ve just barely scratched the surface. Kudos to Bercow et al at Gateway Foundation for coming up with any plans and designs at all. Rather than just a station, I think of this as attempting to design a village. It’s complicated.

    I, too, have been watching their videos and interviews for some time now. My general feeling is that while they’re doing a good job of starting the high level design, in financial terms, it’s more like a club than a business. Or, if you prefer, a consortium of businesses plus a couple of anchor tenants with commitments. But anyway you look at it, there needs to be someone routinely offering and making deals in the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars (to start), and I don’t see that. The funding isn’t there.

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