Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Photos worth it?

Photos. Or is it time to colonize?

Spending on SpaceX by Govt.

Clearer than my last attempt (with thanks to Paul.)

YearAmountTo Date
2002NoneCompany founded

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Smaller air launched DreamChaser

To have a crew of three.

Stepping stones redux

Joseph makes an astute observation...
Well... It depends on what you're lacking. If delta-V is limited then stepping stones don't make much sense but if mass is limited, they do.
So which is it?

We can assume he's talking about limited fuel mass because you want the ship mass to be low. The premise is you build fuel stations along your route like an interstate. Eventually that must happen but would actually slow progress to a halt if attempted today.

A refuelable ship in orbit is it's own depot. The place you want a depot is at the destination so you can get back. Anywhere else is a very costly detour. A settlement trip is one way. Tourists come back. A business person could certainly build one in LEO or a Lagrange point but that's a business decision, not required infrastructure. You don't run out of fuel in space, you coast forever which is where the interstate analogy breaks down. You don't need more delta V than you need until you have a new destination... so put one in mars orbit to fill a need.

A refuelable ship has unlimited delta V from the point of departure because tankage in space doesn't require much structure. You don't need islands or stepping stones to get anywhere. Building them before a market develops is how ghost towns happen.

Will depots bring down costs? Of course, but leaving from a Lagrange point requires ship and crew to get there first. That's exactly what business people are for... to see a market and fill it.

Look at it another way... is island hopping going to be THE PLAN or will companies do what they always do... focus on their own specialty? One company will provide transportation. Another company will sell them fuel. Or rather many companies will compete to provide transportation and many companies will compete to sell them fuel. That's the real world. But no company is going to start up without customers. Fuel companies require transportation companies first. Transportation companies need customers and cargo to transport. Build it and they will come is a risky business venture.

Monday, September 29, 2014

US spending on SpaceX

I summarize the summary. SpaceX was founded in 2002.

Duplicate entries removed from list. The last date in any year is the final revised number. However, the latest date may not be the highest number, so I use the higher number to err on the side of caution.

About $11 million before 2012. Billions coming only in the last few years. Update: Read Paul's comment before you quote me on this. The way I looked at the data doesn't jive with other representations.

The bump seems to come in 2010. Before that, Paul's listing adds up to $33.9 million. Which is about a tenth of what was privately funded. $25.7m of that 33.9 came in SpaceX's 7th year by which time they had already built two rockets, multiple engines, and had successfully reached orbit twice.

  None (just to be explicit.)

  12-25-2003... $3.50M

  12-29-2004... $3.00M
  02-12-2004... $354.51K

  None (just to be explicit.)

  05-19-2006... $30.00K

  None (just to be explicit.)

  07-17-2008... $4.00M
  05-06-2008... $4.00M

  None (just to be explicit.)

  03-12-2010... $129.91K

  11-09-2011... $499.79K
  11-09-2011... $282.76K
  11-09-2011... $230.44K
  11-09-2011... $174.56K
  11-09-2011... $24.40K
  11-09-2011... $20.00K
  09-28-2011... $328.38K
  08-31-2011... $198.86K
  07-07-2011... $294.92K
  01-12-2011... $104.46K

  12-19-2012... $16.75M
  12-10-2012... $3.83M
  12-03-2012... $16.45M
  11-07-2012... $14.04M
  10-21-2012... $14.04M
  09-23-2012... $11.93M
  08-29-2012... $9.46M
  07-25-2012... $8.20M
  07-17-2012... $7.69M
  05-16-2012... $1.36M
  04-03-2012... $1.36M
  02-14-2012... $822.56K

  12-23-2013... $36.11M
  11-18-2013... $1.47M
  11-07-2013... $35.14M
  10-17-2013... $35.14M
  10-10-2013... $901.63M
  09-27-2013... $3.10M
  09-25-2013... $901.63M
  09-11-2013... $35.14M
  09-04-2013... $23.54M
  08-27-2013... $957.33M
  08-21-2013... $955.10M
  07-30-2013... $23.27M
  03-13-2013... $170.96M
  03-04-2013... $96.90M
  03-04-2013... $4.53M
  03-04-2013... $50.82K...
  01-03-2013... $1.17M

  09-03-2014... $1.23B
  09-23-2014... $129.30M
  09-25-2014... $61.48M
  09-10-2014... $47.56M
  08-07-2014... $2.07M
  07-23-2014... $47.56M
  07-08-2014... $1.22B
  06-05-2014... $47.56M
  04-10-2014... $7.08M
  03-12-2014... $47.16M
  02-17-2014... $4.50M
  02-12-2014... $982.77M
  02-10-2014... $46.85M
  01-29-2014... $36.30M
  01-06-2014... $982.78M

Plus these...

Why, if you are wondering, did I do this?

Take that Blue O!!!

Too bad Bezos...
Blue Origin [is] without a high degree of knowledge and sophistication about the space industry.
Blue Origin has not yet succeeded in creating a reliable suborbital spacecraft, despite spending over 10 years in development.
Key for SpaceX, Rush said, is the provision of U.S. patent law that says the mere description of an invention in the public sphere is enough to block another would-be inventor from patenting it. In other words, Blue Origin’s patent “treads on technology that existed way before Blue Origin filed for the patent application,” and should therefore be struck down.

Bezos wants to take the ball and go home, but it isn't his ball to take.

Discovery competition

This July article got me thinking...

Elon wanted to send a garden to mars which lead to him starting SpaceX. Mars One is betting on a lander from SpaceX on its mission critical path. They are inviting teams from any university around the world to submit a payload... Which might be a garden. Sorry Elon, you're not a university.

If I could submit a proposal it would be a large variety of packets of seeds that produce edible vegetation along with vitamin pills waiting for any human expedition to come along.

I guarantee this would clarify space property law for any moron that would like to argue about it.

Stunning images

Over at Universe Today.

MOM shows us what the first martian colonists will one day see...

Salma hears this good news...

Hey, you're not listening... Orion is both too big (by mass) and too small (by volume.) Mass and volume of the spacecraft, you pervert!

Bigelow says the BA330 is better, but Sundancer actually beats Orion in both categories. Mass is the most important for cost and launch vehicle selection. But volume is more important for it's actual usage. Sundancer actually beats Orion by so much that it would save billions on any mission BEO and would give astronauts magnitudes better facilities for traveling any long duration trip. It's not even close.

Sundancer gives more than three times the volume per crew at less than half the mass compared to Orion.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

I'm no scholar

But Rand is cited by one.

Which is ironic since I've been saying the same thing about space property rights. It's as if people are blind to their own personal cults of personality even if not as blatant as the NDT stuff ...which is why I say ironic. You do not have to be a scholar to understand fundamental principles.

His scholar says you don't need any government blessing and these rights can be self enforcing. Uh... duh! I go further in examining the fundamental moral obligation of it. It seems so obvious to me that it embarrasses me to explain.

People still believe in the divine right of kings even though we are supposed to be beyond that.

Humans are so silly. We need martians to light our path into the solar system. You don't have to agree and I certainly understand those that do not. But that is the type of digression that proves I am no scholar. The thing is...

Once there were people that just wanted to live. They hunted and foraged. Then we crossed over into the agricultural age. Land became property. John Locke would say they mixed their blood and sweat with the land and it became their property. It's much simpler than that but it does agree with this paper in that it was self enforced by the community. It didn't require government blessings, but in time government was forced to give it's blessing. Government has always run to head the parade because they have to in order to maintain the illusion that they are needed for anything other than protecting people from other governments ...and people buy it which is why they still can't release hold on the defunct divine right of governments.

A family or small community can hold property in common but it becomes an evil philosophy that dehumanizes and has killed millions for larger social structures. It is morally abhorrent to deny the wealth of property ownership to individuals. It is in fact denied by government to some degree everywhere on earth by taxes and regulations which should only be handled locally by communities themselves but always with respect for the rights of the property owner.

Am I beating a dead horse? I hope to arrange my thoughts better in a future post.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


The Asteroids act is at least a start at recognizing that property rights benefit humanity. We're a sad lot if we can't figure that out after thousands of years.

The natural rules are pretty simple. First, if nobody owns something you come across you may take possession (claim) it as your own with only one provision, it must be reasonable. This leads to conflict since reasonable is subject of argument including argument by the unreasonable. Further, not making claims is immoral since it denies the wealth that comes from ownership. Tyrants will argue that only a select class may make claims which is utterly false and inherently evil.

Second, if something is owned, others can not take it. Very simple. Too simple for lawyers and politicians (but I'm being redundant.).

Let's hear what others have to say...
the Act purports to create property rights
It can't create that which already exists. That's why natural rights are inalienable. John Locke could have told us that if Jefferson hadn't messed it up. Laws can only make this explicit, not allow or disallow. Well, bad law can disallow natural law but that's like declaring pi equal to three.
the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interest of all countries and shall be the province of mankind
Case in point. The person that wrote this should be whipped within an inch of their life. Let me translate... all these interest should have a say meaning you don't own it ...and pi equals three. To be clear, this violates natural law.
all states shall have free access to all areas of celestial bodies.
Including private property? No, because this formulation denies private property (and therefore is invalid.)
mandates the authorization and continually supervision of non-governmental entities
Ever heard nanny more clearly explained? Shouldn't that be continual?
What this means is that private entities cannot own real property in outer space
It denies natural rights which are superior and inalienable. Both treaties should be laughed out of existence. However keeping governments from making claims that lead to war is still a good idea.
jurisdiction ... include the personnel, component parts, and payload aboard a spacecraft
As long as this does not violate inalienable natural law. I hate that I even have the need to keep drumming this point. This should be common knowledge understood by everybody. Go back and read those first two points.
exclusive safety zones
If you harass someone in the vastness of space, you deserve whatever happens.
A tension exists between the Article IX guarantee of freedom from harmful interference and the Article I guarantee of free access to all areas of celestial bodies.
No kidding. Morons!
nations disagreed
Because the law they wrote has inherent contradictions and violates extremely simple principles in order to propagate irrational platitudes.

Never before...

...has there been such an attack on our constitution.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Architecture revisited

Somehow I missed this comment from Shaun Moss back in July. In this post I will discuss hardware, costs and risk mitigation. My approach is modular and can be scaled up or down. It's not enough to get to mars, we need to give our colonists a chance to survive in style which Jerry Pournelle correctly pointed out in the 70s requires more than survival rates of power and energy. Sending less than a dozen colonists puts them at too much risk (IMHO) of not having essential skills should some die. This also reduces the per colonist cost.

As much as possible we should include existing hardware or modifications of existing hardware. Vaperware on your critical path is not a good thing. Unfortunately, modifications of existing hardware may be more like new hardware rather than just a tweak here and there.

Shaun has a variation of NASA's reference mission. Mine is one way. An ERV is a bonus luxury item that may be included but is not essential. Mars colonization deserves the commitment.

SpaceX has two landers in the works; Dragon 2.x and MCT. MCT could potentially bring costs way down (sending more at a time reduces costs per) but it's too early to plan on using it.

So, working backward, we send enough Dragon v2.x to mars orbit for the crew arriving in orbit to make it to the martian surface. These landers would go on a minimum cost trajectory containing the personal property of two colonists that will ride them to the surface (each gets an allotment of half the lander's 2,500 kg total capacity.) So if a dozen crew go to mars orbit, six landers should be waiting. But we didn't go back far enough, before that happens we send supplies directly to the martian surface by the most economical means. We have existing hardware that could do that but more economical hardware is available once the Dragon v2.x is available (we have to test land them anyway before doing it with humans, this is two birds with one stone.) Each lander costs $150m (to NASA at a bargain basement of a billion each, is that too mean?) to mars (orbit or surface.) Six landers waiting in orbit and another six on the surface totals $1.8 billion. Just one lander on the surface will have enough food for 300 days for the entire crew. One lander will include two tractors (one day assembly for either) for digging trenches to create very large personal mansion and common mall habitats connected by underground shirtsleeve passageways (another reason why less than a dozen crew makes no sense.) The motivation is they own it so why not? Mine is not a marxist world view. The other four supply landers are just because we should. The six landers are positioned to surround the landing ellipses (but if Elon is right about pinpoint helicopter style landing we're just over compensating.)

That leaves getting to mars orbit. We either launch directly or refuel at LEO. Launching directly would be like the MCT option, not here yet. So we launch for mars from LEO but not in battleship galactica.

The ship I propose is launched on the existing Falcon 9, massing less than 13 tons and having a habitat volume of about 180 cubic meters (think Bigelow's Sundancer.) It actually replaces the F9 upper stage. It is a continuously reusable ship that once launched never lands. It does not require more than a little development because it is essential just an F9 upper stage and Sundancer permanently mated (plus fuel bladders for extra delta V and radiation shielding.) No on orbit assembly required (although the bladders may be carried internally to be deployed externally once in orbit.) We configure it with life support for twelve. This provides 15 cubic meters of private (and shared) space for each crew member. It should cost less than $200m dry to orbit. We need one for the first mission and more for subsequent missions (unless MCT does become available in which case we sell them to the used, in space already and ready to be refueled, ship market.) This brings our cost to $2b.

This ship is actually a profit center. Before sending it to mars it will require shakedown cruises around the moon. We rent LEO space to tourists and researchers while making certain it will keep our colonists alive for 500 days. 75% of life support is air and water. 6 kg x 250 days x 12 crew is 18,000 kg. Food (hydrated and freeze dried in palatable proportions) would be 2 kg x 500 days (during free return option) x 12 crew is 12,000 kg. Crew and equipment would be another 3,600 kg. So dry departure mass would be 13k ship + 30k life support + 3.6k crew equal to 46.6k kg. Water for a free return comes from recycling.

To get fuel, crew and supplies to orbit would require about 6 Falcon Heavy launches so total and final cost of our mission is $2.6 billion to get 12 colonists to mars. If our ship is a profit center earning $200m per month (10 or so customers at any given time) that's just over a year to pay for the entire mission. Tell me again... why exactly are we waiting?

Update: $20m profit per customer is too optimistic. $5m profit w/$20m cost is much more reasonable so 4.5 years to pay for the mission (unless we put more ships in orbit. They're cheap.) We don't send you to Russia for six months training either. It's a half hour training film instead. Professional crew will keep you out of trouble on the tour. Over time, the Falcon Heavy could lower the cost per passenger from $20m to $3m meaning a price reduction from $25m to $8m. As costs go down more will take advantage of the opportunity to experience space.

Update 2: One FH should provide fuel for an around the moon tour so... $25m for the basic one month LEO stay. $5m for each additional month. $10m more for the Apollo 8 experience. Visits to the BA330 zero g racquetball court, no extra charge.

Last thought? Another risk mitigation would be to take a four passenger lander with them in case they can't rendezvous with two of the six landers waiting in orbit. They would supply it with the free return supplies.

Stepping stone is earth-centric thinking

Jeff Greason, in a great talk on space settlement that everyone should hear, calls it the island hopping approach but it's the same thing.

Often you do have to take a breather, regroup and marshal your forces before moving on and space does require some of that. The difference is lack of friction. Bodies don't stay in motion on earth as they do in space. Stepping stones in space can make it harder to make progress rather than easier. Not just harder but hinder. When you are absolutely certain about how things should be done, along comes somebody with blitzkrieg to show the fallacy. Jeff knows his history.

Delta V is a big thing in space. Small is better. Stepping stones increase it along with costs, including opportunity cost. My belief is that the opportunity cost to the next century is huge the longer we delay establishing an independent industrial colony on mars and there is really nothing preventing us from doing it now with just private funds (if non-private funds are available it may be foolish not to take advantage.)

If mars were a step too far, that would be an issue, but it's not. There are steps, but we should not add any that are not going to make it cheaper or easier. Many don't while sounding like they may.

There are three ways to get to mars. One step, two steps, or three steps.

MCT is one step approach. Launch direct from earth to the surface of mars.

Two steps would be either going directly to mars orbit then transferring to landers; Or, go from earth orbit directly to the mars surface.

Three steps takes you to earth orbit and refuel, then mars orbit to transfer to landers.

Stepping stones are four or more steps of uncertain duration putting a halt to actually learning how to live on mars. We have wasted enough time and money already. Even Jeff would admit the cost of these islands. Unresolved is the question of if they would save money down the road. I believe there is no question that they will cost us time (especially if I'm correct about opportunity costs.)

Of course, if mars colonization is not an objective, we'd have to revisit this speculation. Island hopping gives me the uncomfortable feeling that it's more about dividing up the pie than accomplishing settlement.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Closed loop life support not required

Is it required to colonize mars? This older article says...
For the International Space Station, the crew and operations resupply requirement is about 10 kg per person per day. The ISS will typically have a crew of four; in 90 days it needs 900 kg per person; 3600 kg for the crew. This is easily within shuttle capabilities, even the capabilities of a crew and cargo vehicle flying on an ELV. There is little motivation to do better.
A Mars proto-settlement of 1,000 people is a lot different. Such a settlement is not feasible with this state of technology. Consider 1000 people, 365 days, at about 10 kg/day. This figures to 3.65 million kg (about 8 million lb) per year. Even at reduced launch cost of $1,000/lb, the delivery cost to Mars is at least $5,000/lb. The annual cost therefore is $40 billion just for life support. No government or consortium of governments will put up with such high cost, and it is out of the question for the private sector. [I propose zero resupply.]
Bioregenerative technology is needed. This technology is also highly applicable to cleaning up our environment here on Earth.
A permanent outpost needs a closed micro-ecology or something close to it. This means full recycling of all life support supplies, including waste and garbage. Periods of "no opportunity" for Mars resupply last almost two years; transit times are six months or more. Not only is the cost infeasible for ISS-level technology, the masses to be transported are outrageous.
I've been using 8 kg per person per day, but let's go with 10 kg. First, that $40 billion is bogus even in their scenario. Nobody today would propose all supplies come from earth. You also have two different scenarios to consider, getting to mars and living on mars.

Getting to mars takes about 250 days or 2,500 kg per person. Not outrageous. It's actually much less since 75% of that is water which we can recycled pretty well. So well, that they may dump most of that water before doing a mars orbit insertion burn. Ok, so let's look at those 1,000 people on mars...

They don't need any life support from earth after an initial bit to get them started. Everything they need other than plant seeds (the perfect low mass space travelers) already exists on mars. So instead of 3.65 million kg they only need enough to get production started. Water production can be started before any colonists even arrive. They aren't going to have 1000 colonists all at once. Perhaps a dozen on the first landing that will prepare for the 3 to 5 dozen arriving two years later. Those will then prepare for the hundreds that follow every 26 months.

So you need freeze dried food for a dozen with emergency backup until local production gets in gear. Say 300 days times 0.62 kg of freeze dried food times 12 colonists. Let's call that 2500 kg (2232) which fits on one $150m lander. We could easily send more if required. $40 billion is a scary number. $150 million, not so much. Let's also not forget the arriving colonists will bring between 2 to 10 weeks of life support with them. Some of that can become emergency reserve.

Even biosphere II was a success when you realize a closed loop is not required.