Category Archives: Economics

Space Access

Henry Vanderbilt will be on the show on Friday with a “mystery guest.” Hope this is good news about a resurrection of the conference.

I’ll miss it because I’ll be attending this event in DC. Flying up from Orlando this afternoon.

[Afternoon update, from MCO]

[Friday-afternoon update]

Here’s the official press release:

We are very pleased to announce that there will be a Space Access Conference next spring, April 18th-21st 2019, in California’s Bay Area at the Fremont Marriott Silicon Valley.

Space Access 2019 will be run by a team from the Experimental Rocket Propulsion Society with advice & support from us. The SA2019 Conference Chair will be ERPS’ Michael Wallis, with much relevant experience with both space and conference running. Proceeds (if any) will benefit both ERPS and SAS.

We expect the conference style will evolve – that’s one of the benefits of bringing in a new crew with fresh perspectives. But the essence of Space Access will remain the same: Three intensive days focusing on the technology, business, and politics of radically cheaper space transportation, discussed in depth by a cross-section of the people making it happen.

We will post occasional pointers to updated conference information on the website, but the primary web page for SA2019 information will be Check it out for conference hotel and registration information, and for the conference program as it evolves.

See you all there in six months!

About the same in terms of distance from LA, maybe a little further. But I look forward to it.


1.5 Degrees C

Thoughts on the latest non-news from Judith Curry:

IMO, even with erroneous attribution of extreme weather/climate events and projections using climate models that are running too hot and not fit for purpose of projecting 21st century climate change, the IPCC still has not made a strong case for this massive investment to prevent 1.5C warming.

No kidding.

The Return Of The Space Visionaries

About a year ago, I started writing an essay comparing and contrasting Bezos’s versus Musk’s visions for humanity in space. As is often the case, it expanded into a history of space visions in general, and how we’re finally returning to the old ones, after the tragic detour of Apollo. It’s out in the current issue, but unfortunately, isn’t yet available on line. I expect it will be in a few weeks or less, though.

[Update a few minutes later]

This is sort of a space issue. There is a piece by Bob Zubrin laying out his concept for Moon Direct, bypassing what he calls the space toll booth (Gateway), and another by Micah Meadowcroft on how Mars will disappoint.

Toward A Robust Space Economy

Ian Fichtenbaum has an op-ed at Space News describing the need to make space activities like other activities. I agree with it. A few years ago, I sat on a panel at Space Access discussing the need to “impedance match” launch with LEO operations, and decouple the two. This is the future.

[Update a while later]

Yes, I understand the confusion about my use of those seemingly contradictory terms, but I’m not using them literally. By “impedance match” I mean providing an interface between the launch system and orbital transportation systems (and space assembly), rather than having the launch system do the whole job of delivering an assembled satellite. This also decouples the launch system, in terms of schedule, from the orbital activities.

[Update a few minutes later]

Meanwhile, with regard to activity on the Hill, Keith Cowing comments about the state of NASA.

[Friday-morning update]

Another article on how NASA is changing for the 21st century. I’m a little skeptical about this:

In the next decade, a typical mission could go something like this: NASA astronauts board a SpaceX Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) along with commercial astronauts and a few wealthy tourists. The rocket stops at the new space hotel circling the globe to drop off the visitors and the NASA astronauts spend a few hours there filming an advertisement and lending their endorsement to the privately owned “microgravity resort.”

From there, the commercial astronauts continue on to service the Lockheed-Martin lunar gateway, a space station in orbit around the moon that functions as a sort of truck stop for traffic between Earth and the moon. The NASA astronauts journey on to the lunar surface to continue building the agency’s new outpost there, where both SpaceX and competitor Blue Origin already have permanent landing pads and the latter provides meals prepared by the only off-planet Whole Foods in the galaxy.

I don’t think the Gateway exists in this timeline. And of course, Bill Nye kicks the stuffing out of the usual straw man:

“It is important to keep in mind that all the money spent in space is really spent on Earth,” Bill Nye, celebrity “Science Guy” and CEO of the nonprofit advocacy and outreach group The Planetary Society, said via email.

It’s only important to keep that in mind for idiots who imagine that we are literally shipping currency into space. I’ve never run into such a person. Of course the money is spent on earth. The issue is how effectively it’s spent, and much of NASA’s budget, particularly for human spaceflight, is wasted.


[Late-morning update]

Then there’s this:

So what happens if BFR beats SLS to launch and also winds up being more economical and practical? Will NASA be forced to discard over a decade’s worth of rocket development to go with the commercial alternative?

“The fact that we’ve got hardware in the factory, to me, says a lot,” said Rob Chambers, director of human spaceflight strategy for Lockheed Martin, which isn’t involved with SLS, but is building the new Orion crew capsule for NASA that would fly atop it and has been involved with practically every robotic NASA mission to Mars.

Yes. It says that we’ve wasted a metric buttload of taxpayer money, and will continue to do so until it’s finally canceled.

Japan To The Moon

privately. Yes, it’s ambitious, but I don’t think this is the problem:

The longer-term goals are laudable, but the company seems to seriously underestimate the difficulty of reaching lunar ice, harvesting it under extremely cold conditions, and producing propellant from ice. These are all significant engineering challenges in unprecedented conditions. Moreover, even under optimistic circumstances, NASA’s plans to return to the Moon wouldn’t put a handful of humans—let alone hundreds—on the lunar surface before the late 2020s, and China doesn’t intend for such landings until the early 2030s.

I don’t think that NASA’s or China’s plans are relevant to private lunar plans.