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« Subsidizing Space Transportation | Main | Spiral Development »

How to Subsidize Space Transportation

There are a variety of ways to subsidize space transportation. Rand's idea to implement my proposal is a good one. I chose the $15 billion number not because I thought it was the minimum necessary to kick start the industry, but to beg the question about what we are getting from NASA for the same amount of money. I do not propose to use new spending.

Instead of an auction for launch services, followed by a delivery of cash on completion of the launch there are several other ways to implement a subsidy:

  • Have a box on the launcher's corporate tax return that says payload to orbit
  • Have a box on the customer's corporate tax return that says payload to orbit
  • An application like student aid or a federal housing loan with a fixed subsidy level that is adjusted periodically based on the rate of takeup

Rand's auction is simple and would set the price in advance of flying which would be good.

As for popularity, it will take someone like Eisenhower or Kelly to make this happen. If someone can make the case for California stem cells, the case for space access ought to be possible.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at April 25, 2005 02:22 PM
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To be fair, some of that $15 billion has nothing to do with space transportation. Now that might be a good topic to explore by itself, but you need to look at what percentage of the budget is actually devoted to space launch costs.


Posted by Mazoo at April 25, 2005 06:40 PM

Just for yucks, have either of y'all read Hobbyspace's RLV news today (well, Monday morning?) I quote:

A key proposal in the report is to do the CEV development incrementally. An initial "Block 1" version would only be intended for LEO operations. In one proposal, a 13-15 ton Block 1 capsule would ride a shuttle rocket booster (see above figure) and "a new cryogenic upper stage based on existing rocket engine technology." The reasoning is that this system could be developed more quickly than a CEV on a Delta IV or Atlas V since the SRBs are already "human-rated". A "Block 2" CEV would provide deep space transportation capabilities.

The shuttle itself was never really man-rated, but suddenly shuttle components, by virtue of being used on the shuttle, are considered man-rated even if they're the unreliable bits that helped destroy at least one airframe (spaceframe?).

Part of what's bugging me about Dr. Dinkins' proposal is that it might actually wind up encouraging yet more business as usual, either with current launchers or (to me) dumb extrapolations of current launchers like the one above.

Posted by Phil Fraering at April 25, 2005 08:39 PM

I'm missing how there needs to be a funding increase.

If you're paying a third party _half_ what your current internal price is, you should be able to do what you had already planned to do for less. Even if it disrupts scheduling some.

If the price of the energy in the fuel is less than 3% for any given lift, there should be a lot of room for improvement.

If you stand up and make the promise to pay for a set list of commodities at a set list of orbits for the next five years, and for five years after that at adjusted prices, there should be some takers.

If there are no takers - it just cost the advertising. If 3rd parties lift 100% of the consumables for NASA, then they had better find something useful to carry up on the passenger flights while canceling any pure supply runs.

If 3rd parties lift MORE than 100% of what NASA normally does, then can start running around screaming what a tremendous success this is. (Which would mean you could probably get an increase in the budget for this sort of thing). And plan something more ambitious with the accumulating fuel, water, air etc. Far more ambitious.

Posted by Al at April 25, 2005 10:03 PM

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